Beginning in 2011, October will be National Farm to School Month.
The designation, proposed in H. RES. 1655 and introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), was approved last month by the House of Representatives.
The resolution aims to encourage direct farm to school programs nationally, which should in turn bolster local agricultural economies and improve school nutrition, explained Beth Feehan, director of the New Jersey Farm to School Network.
More than 31 million U.S. children in eat at school five days a week, 180 days per year.
“As a representative from the Garden State it should not be a surprise that I support bringing Jersey tomatoes or sweet corn into schools. But this is not just a local resolution,” Holt said in a news release, adding that farm-to-school programs are a priority for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama. “Farm to school programs can help in the fight against childhood obesity and economically support our local farmers.”
Incentives to increase the availability of local produce in school meal programs were also part of the Child Nutrition Act that passed last week by the House.
Highlights of the Farm to School Month program are:
— recognizing Farm to School programs as a proven effective strategy that can provide immediate and long-term benefits to child health, small and medium-sized agricultural producer income, and community economic development
— ensuring that the federal government assists schools and local educational agencies with planning, technical assistance, and implementation of Farm to School programs
— encouraging schools and local education agencies to use local produce in meals throughout the month of October
— raising awareness among schools, farmers and farm groups, local businesses, nonprofit institutions, churches, cities, state governments, and other local groups of Farm to School efforts in their communities.
Marion Kalb, co-director of the National Farm to School Network, noted that Farm to School programs are now active in all 50 states and that the designation of a Farm to School month will help “take one step closer to nourishing the nation one tray at a time.”