U.S. Farm to School programs give students access to fresh food from their local farms, provide farmers access to new markets, include curriculum-based learning about agriculture and food, and often incorporate hands-on learning through school gardens. The national Farm to School network has grown from a few programs in the 1990s to well over 42,000 today and reaches nearly 24 million children. Farm to School (F2S) benefits students through education about agriculture, food and nutrition, it enhances overall K-12 academic achievement, increases school engagement and social and emotional growth.
In 2018, with USDA support, the Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) Food and Nutrition Services partnered with Community FARE to launch its own Farm to School program for FCPS students. In just one year the initiative has received financial support from 3 additional sources, and grown to include 20 organizations, 9 partnerships, and 6 business sponsors, making it truly a community program. What began as a pilot initiative focused on procurement of more locally grown fruits and vegetables for five Title I elementary schools, has expanded to include food education, elementary school gardens, and a growth plan that will eventually reach all FCPS elementary, middle and high schools. We are fortunate to be situated in a bustling agricultural region and in a county with the most farms and farmland acres in Maryland – meaning that there is real potential for ample school/farm partnerships.
This document provides the context for Frederick County’s Farm to School Program and makes recommendations for moving forward to build on what we learned during 2018-19 school year. The viability of the Farm to School program in Frederick County depends on its ability to become an integral part of the FCPS system. The F2S Leadership and Planning Teams have prioritized outreach, education, and communication about FCPS’s Farm to School program in order to galvanize political support, engage FCPS families and to build community partnerships and alliances.
Of course, Farm to School will not succeed without locally farmed food, and for many reasons finding farmers able to provide fruit and vegetables at scale for FCPS has been challenging. We are continuing our discussions with local farmers to find solutions to scaling up that are within their budget and personnel. As key steps forward, Food and Nutrition Services has expressed willingness to buy small quantities of regularly needed fruits or vegetables for a single school near an individual farm, to buy as much locally produced food from the (Keany) distributor as possible, and in other cases processing local produce so that some summer crops can be utilized during the school year. In 2017-18 school year FCPS spent 2% of its food budget on locally sourced fruits and vegetables; F2S has set a target of at least 10% by 2024-25 SY. We will also be watching school lunch purchase numbers fully expecting that as more locally grown food is introduced into school meals and snacks the more FCPS families will want to partake!
The Farm to School Planning Team welcomes suggestions and further engagement from community members as we aim high to positively impact student health, student education and economic growth of the County’s agricultural sector by increasing the availability of locally grown fruits and vegetables in Frederick County Public Schools.
Read the full report here:Frederick County Farm to School Year 1 Report and Action Plan