Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey last week welcomed four new Iowa "Farm to School" Chapters to the state program. With that announcement, there are now 15 chapters located across Iowa dedicated to developing and implementing efforts to raise awareness and increase consumption of locally-grown Iowa foods in schools.
The new Farm to School chapters are located in Burlington, West Liberty, Clear Creek Amana and Marshalltown. Chapters are eligible to receive up to $4,000 to support their activities and can request promotional items, brochures and grower directories to find local fruit and vegetable farms in their vicinity.
"The existing chapters have been leaders in developing new and creative ways to increase the amount of fresh, local fruits and vegetables available to students and we are excited to have four new chapters joining them," Northey says. "There are great opportunities to expand the amount of local foods available in our schools and we are excited to partner with these chapters."
Program helps school districts gain access to local food sources
The four new chapters join existing farm-to-school programs operating in Independence, Atlantic, Clear Lake, Amana, Cedar Falls, Oelwein, Decorah, Van Buren, Iowa City, Eldridge and Windsor Heights.
The Farm-to-School Chapter program was implemented to allow communities and individual school districts the opportunity to create a local food procurement program that is personalized to meet the district's individual needs. Chapter funds are to be used for the purposes of nutritional education as well as the purchase of local fruits and vegetables.
Existing chapters have used the funds for locally-grown Iowa food procurement, creating school gardens, field trips to local farms and orchards, purchase of kitchen equipment to better serve needs of students, educational presentations and materials, food fairs and classroom activities. To date, 25,000 students have been served local fruits and vegetables as part of the program.
Iowa "Farm to School" program's goal is to link schools to farmers
The Iowa Farm-to-School Program began in 2007. Its goal is to link elementary, secondary, public and non-public schools with Iowa farmers; provide schools with fresh and minimally processed Iowa-grown food for inclusion in schools meals and snacks, and encourage children to develop healthy eating habits.
Northey has also recently invited Iowa schools to participate in the "Wrap Your Own-Iowa Grown" initiative that is being offered through the Iowa Farm to School Program. The initiative will promote the purchase of locally-grown vegetables and products to create Iowa grown wraps.
More information on all the programs offered through the Farm to School initiative, including information on how to form a Farm to School Chapter, is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship website www.IowaAgriculture.gov; click on the "Farm to School" link under "Hot Topics."