OZARK, Mo. — The Hollister R-V School District and Springfield Catholic Schools are now working together to increase local food procurement for school meal programs and to expand educational activities on agriculture and gardening by participating in a new two-year farm to school grant.
The Taney County Health Department was one of 65 recipients chosen from more than 300 applicants to receive the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Farm to School grant. The program provides support and technical assistance to develop a sustainable farm to school community.
The goal of the USDA Farm to School program is to serve no less than 20 percent local products in school lunch programs and to deliver it within 48 hours of harvest.
Dr. Amy Patillo, a University of Missouri Extension community development specialist, is serving as the coordinator of this farm to school grant program.
“Ensuring that kids have access to healthy and locally produced food helps instill healthy eating habits and agricultural literacy in the next generation, while also supporting the local farming economy,” said Dr. Patillo. “This grant will be used for training and technical assistance, planning, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs in collaboration with community partners.”
Farmers, communities, and children all reap benefits when more schools begin to source more foods locally and teach children about food, farming, and nutrition. The interaction leads to improved public health, economic development, and education.
“Ensuring that kids have access to healthy and locally produced food will help instill healthy eating habits and agricultural literacy in the next generation, while also supporting the local farming economy,” said Dr. Patillo.
Local investments in the farm to school program will provide the needed resources to develop strategies that support local food sourcing at schools and to invest in school kitchen infrastructure. In addition, the grant will be used to increase the purchase and consumption of locally grown fresh food, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. There will also be training for farmers and food service workers in food safety. Also, the grant helps to make the creation of school gardens and manage greenhouses possible along with the implementation of nutrition education and garden-based curriculum in the schools.
“Farm to school programs help provide new marketing opportunities for farmers and develop healthier meals and eating habits for schoolchildren. This is why our collaborative partnership with Farmer’s Market of the Ozarks and Jamesville Farms is indispensable to the success of the project,” said Dr. Patillo.
LOCAL GROWERS NEEDED
The Taney County Health Department’s Farm to School program is currently looking for local growers and community partners who are interested in participating in the Hollister and Springfield Catholic school programs.
For more information contact Dr. Amy Patillo, Farm to School Coordinator, 417-581-3558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Dr. Amy Patillo, University of Missouri Extension
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