Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Connecting Farms, Food, and Kids

Well, we’ve had two 50-degree days in a row and I’m thinking spring. And that makes me think of kick-starting the garden and compost piles. We’ll save composting for a later post. For now, let’s talk about growing food and what we do with that food here in the Sakonnet area.

When I think local food, I think local farmers. We have a lot of them. From community supported agriculture (CSA) programs to local farm stands, we’re blessed with bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables for a good chunk of the year. Local farmers are our link to the land, our link to a time when they were literally a lifeline for the communities they farmed in. While that is still true to an extent, local farmers continue to face tough challenges in an ever-more competitive and price sensitive marketplace.

Now, let’s talk about another issue: School lunch programs and their connection to the health of our kids. This topic has been all over the news of late and for good reason. While lunch programs are regulated for content, there’s only so much that you can provide for a certain price point. Look at the Sakonnet Times every week for the school lunch listing. Pizza, hot dogs (foot long, no less), etc. We can do better.

Let’s create a farm-to-school program. This is a national trend whereby local farmers are finding new markets with local schools to provide them with fresh produce for use by their lunch programs. It’s a win-win all around: Farmers grow their markets; our kids get nutritious, wholesome food that sure beats pizza and hot dogs. Kids are learning about where there food comes from, better nutrition, and creating life-long eating habits that put them on the path to health and wellness.

Check out the new report from the National Farm to School Program entitled ”Going Local: Paths to Success for Farm to School Programs”. It’s a wonderful and inspiring read, showcasing examples of successful programs from across the county.

According the Farm to School website, there are no municipal level farm-to-school programs in Rhode Island. Why shouldn’t we be the first and set the bar for the rest of the state? We have farms, we have schools; all we need is the desire for something better.

Are you a parent? An educator? A municipal official? A farmer? Please post a comment or email me if you’re interested in exploring this further. We can make this happen. This could be sustainability in action.

Need some more inspiration? Check out what Alice Waters is doing in California at The Edible Schoolyard; or closer to home in Connecticut with Chef Timothy Cipriano’s effort called Local Food Dude.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Alice Waters is a local hero out here. Check her out on You Tube talking about local produce: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi392ISIc1U