What is farm to school?
ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School Program defines farm to school as giving children opportunities to learn about local food and farms in the classroom, cafeteria, and community. While farm to school programs serve K-12 students, farm to preschool serves children in pre-K, childcare centers, and family homes. Farm to school and farm to preschool programs include one or more of the following core activities:
- Edible school gardens
- Farm field trips / farmer visits to the classroom
- Classroom cooking with local food
- Locally grown food served in meals or provided via taste test in the cafeteria.
Why implement farm to school?
At its core, farm to school connects children to local food and farms. Through farm to school, children build community connections and learn about where food comes from and how it grows. Students who participate in farm to school activities gain comfort tasting, cooking with, and growing new fruits and vegetables. Beyond the basics, farm to school offers a holistic, hands-on approach to engaging students in a wide variety of subjects, including science, math, literacy, art, physical activity, nutrition, and more. Edible school gardens in particular can be used to promote social emotional learning, motor skill development, nature-based education, active play, problem solving, and more.
How Growing Minds supports farm to school
In order for farm to school and farm to preschool programs to thrive, educators and food service directors need support and resources. That’s the role that Growing Minds plays. We provide training for teachers, school nutrition staff, parents, community members, and farmers/agriculture professionals, as well as farm to school resources.
The Growing Minds website features lesson plans, recipes, a searchable database of local food and farm children’s literature, and more. We also provides seeds for school gardens, mini-grants, and promotional materials. Here is a full accounting of what Growing Minds offers.
Beyond providing resources and support to educators and food service professionals, Growing Minds utilizes an “upstream” approach to provide farm to school resources and training to future nutrition and early childhood education professionals via two programs: Growing Minds @ University (for Dietetic Interns and Nutrition students) and Growing Minds @ Community College (for Early Childhood Education students).
The Growing Minds team currently co-facilitates the North Carolina Farm to Preschool Network, and serves on both the Farm to School Coalition of North Carolina Steering Committee and the National Farm to School Network Farm to Early Childhood Education work group.
History of Growing Minds
ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School Program was one of the first in the country, getting its start in 2002 at Hazelwood Elementary in Haywood County. Growing Minds now works with schools in 60 Appalachian Grown counties, helping them to provide farm to school experiences to their students. ASAP served as the Southeast Regional Lead for the National Farm to School Network from 2007 to 2016. As the Growing Minds program has grown, so has farm to school grown nationally. There are now farm to school programs operating in all 50 states at more than 42,000* schools!
*Estimated based on data from the USDA Farm to School Census for the 2013-2014 school year.
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