October is National Farm-to-School Month
Many schools will be celebrating October by offering a variety of locally produced foods.
In 2013 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted the first ever Farm-to-School Census. The Census found that over 38,000 schools with a combined attendance of 21 million students serve locally-sourced foods. This translates to $350 million invested in local farms and food businesses.
Here in Michigan, the Census found that out of the $61 million that schools spent on food, about $10 million is spent on locally produced foods. The most common locally-sourced foods in our state are (in ranking order): apples, milk, tomatoes, carrots and lettuce. Other notable locally-sourced items were: cucumbers, pears, peppers, asparagus and bread products. This list demonstrates the great diversity of our agricultural production, which is a key asset for farm-to-school programs.
Michigan State University Extension believes there will be many activities around our state to celebrate National Farm-to-School Month. For example, Cherry Capital Foods, which is a local food distributor serving many Michigan schools, is organizing an event called “Michigan Apple Crunch.” Schools can participate by registering online and agreeing to provide their students with Michigan apples on October 24, 2014. Cherry Capital will be keeping a count of students participating and will provide apples if needed.
There are many farm-to-school resources for schools and parents alike. The USDA offers a toolkit for planning a farm-to-school program. Michigan State University has partnered with the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan to launch Cultivate Michigan, which is a campaign to increase local food purchasing by K-12 schools, colleges, universities and hospitals. Schools participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program can access the Harvest of the Month resources for teachers on their website. Finally, anyone who is interested in these activities should visit the Michigan Ag Council web site and learn more about locally produced foods.
MSU Extension hopes that your family will celebrate National Farm-to-School Month. MSU Extension offers a variety of programs to food producers and consumers in support of our local economy and a healthy population.