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FRANKFORT, Ky. - Officials from the Kentucky Department for Public Health Department of Agriculture, Department of Education and the University of Kentucky gathered in northern Kentucky yesterday to unveil a new Farm to School resource guide and curriculum, important developments in the effort to improve nutrition and increase access to healthy, locally grown produce.
The resources will be presented to school food service personnel at the Kentucky School Nutrition Association’s annual conference at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, highlighting the ongoing efforts to expand farm to school programs across the state and improve nutrition standards in Kentucky.
“The success of the Kentucky Farm to School program relies heavily on the support and coordination of all of the organizations represented at this event,” said Dr. Steve Davis, acting DPH commissioner. “This program represents the partnership of public health and our state’s agriculture community to increase access to healthy, locally grown food. It’s a nod to Kentucky’s rich agricultural history and a commitment to building a healthier future.”
The Farm to School resource guide will be a valuable tool, assisting school personnel as well as local farmers as they work to establish farm to school programs in their communities. Members of the media are welcome to attend the event, which is scheduled to last from 9:30 to 9:45 a.m. EDT.
“Fewer than 30 percent of Kentuckians consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables every day,” said Scott Smith, dean of the UK College of Agriculture. “While both direct farm sales of produce and the number of vegetable acres harvested in Kentucky have grown significantly, in many parts of the state supply does not satisfy the demand for fresh, local produce. Helping Kentucky farmers provide nutritious, local food to Kentucky school children creates a win-win situation for all Kentuckians.
Sustainable local agricultural systems can contribute to community economic stability; at the same time improving health and providing a better quality of life for Kentucky.”
The Farm to School program includes input from a cross-section of health and education. Individuals representing public health, the Kentucky Department of Education, the University of Kentucky are involved with expanding the program across the state, while many others assist at the local level.
“As a father of three, I understand the urgent need to encourage our children to choose healthy, local foods as part of their everyday lifestyle,” Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said. “As a farmer, I understand that Farm to School provides Kentucky producers with new markets for their products. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Program is connecting producers with their local schools all over the Commonwealth, and more than 80 school systems are members of the Kentucky Proud marketing program. I’m pleased that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture is a part of this important project.”
The Kentucky Farm to School Taskforce was established to bring together stakeholders in the local food system to look at the opportunities and barriers to promoting local foods in schools.
Taskforce members represent the Kentucky Department for Public Health, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the Kentucky Department of Education, the Community Farm Alliance, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, the UK College of Public Health, Action for Healthy Kids, the Foundation for Healthy Kentucky and several local school food service directors.
Together, this group works on initiatives to help students eat more fruits and vegetables, provide more markets for farmers, and increase the participation of the school lunch program through the promotion of local foods.
Thirteen communities received a Farm to School mini-grant from Public Health via American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant dollars. Each community pulled together local farm to school teams to implement activities in the cafeteria, classroom and communities.
The Farm to School Taskforce provided trainings and technical assistance to the grantees and other interested communities. The projects resulted in local foods in the cafeteria, school gardens, taste testings, field trips to farms, and farmers’ markets hosted on school grounds.
“Farm to School is proving to be a win-win-win for students, school food service, farmers and local economies,” said Elaine Russell, coordinator for Kentucky Obesity Prevention Program and chairperson of the Kentucky Farm to School Taskforce. “We’re excited to unveil both the resource guide and curriculum so more schools and local farmers can get involved with this wonderful program.”
The Kentucky Farm to School Resource Guide is designed to be a practical tool for school food service directors, farmers and community members interested in feeding Kentucky food to Kentucky kids in Kentucky schools. It contains realistic advice from Kentuckians who have already plowed this ground and resources on connecting with farmers and school food service directors, following procurement rules, tested recipes, a produce calculator, funding sources and getting young people to eat their vegetables.
The Kentucky Farm to School Curriculum is a classroom curriculum developed through a partnership between the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. The classroom curriculum helps students:
Recognize the sources of their foods;
Explain the relationship of locally produced food to improved quality and nutrition;
Understand the importance of thriving agricultural businesses to healthy communities;
Identify the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the farming industry;
Increase their consumption of locally produced food and agricultural products; and
Improve their diets.