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Education and agriculture meet in Iowa Farm to School program

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:16 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:46 a.m. CST
(Ty Rushing/Newton Daily News)
Vegetables grown by students at Marshalltown Community College. Iowa Farm to School Program is a program that wants to help promote Iowa agriculture and expands students’ awareness of local fresh food options.

In 2007, the state of Iowa paired two its most well known industries—education and agriculture—to form the Iowa Farm to School program.

Farm to School Coordinator for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Tammy Stotts shared some information on the program.

“The program was established in 2007 through legislation to link elementary, secondary, public and non-public schools with Iowa farmers,” Stotts said. “And to provide schools with fresh and minimally processed Iowa-grown food for inclusion in school meals and snacks, encourage children to develop healthy eating habits and provide them with hands-on learning activities. 

“The mission is to encourage and promote the purchase of locally produced food in our schools, strengthen the farm economy and offer educational opportunities to improve child nutrition and health,” Stotts said.

Iowa Farm to School has several initiatives that Stott said are used to target specific audiences.

• A is for Apple: This initiative was launched to encourage the purchase of Iowa grown apples. This program is aimed more at the teachers and it provides educational materials and funds to purchase apples for students.

• Iowa Farm to School: The namesake of the overarching program, this program is used to spur community involvement.  “It’s kind of a mini-grant program; we give out up to $4,000,” Stotts said. There are currently 16 chapters in the state, none in Jasper County yet, and these chapters do everything from starting school gardens to taking farm/orchard visits.

• FFA Growing Together: “We gave out reflectometers and self-extractors for FFA chapters that grew an item that would be included in a school meal,” Stotts said. “They received these tools free.”

• A Garden is the Way to Grown: “(This) has been huge in giving kids the opportunity to learn more about where their food comes from and the opportunity to learn how to feed themselves,” Stotts said. “It’s been really positive.” The Lynnville-Sully FFA group participates in Jasper County.

• Wrap Your-Own-Iowa Grown: This program is to encourage healthy eating, promote Iowa growers and spur the state’s economy. Under this program Iowa Food to Farm provides schools with $200 to assist with the purchase of locally grown food to create wraps for school lunches or snacks.

Stotts is a firm believer in this program and all of its initiatives and believes it benefits every citizen in the state, especially children.

“Many students have never experienced the goodness of fresh local produce,” Stotts said.  “Giving students the opportunity to learn about their food and the importance of nutrition on their health is crucial to creating healthy adults.  Giving them the opportunity to try these fresh foods prepared in different ways may create a more conscientious adult consumer.”

Awareness is also a goal of the program Stotts said.

“Adding a local food to a school meal—and not just local, but fresh food—oftentimes kids do not get the opportunity at home to try these different things,” Stotts said.

“The biggest benefit of this, is teaching people nutrition and about where their food comes from.”

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