AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

David Burton
Civic Communications Specialist
2400 S. Scenic Ave.
Springfield, MO 65807
417-881-8909
417-881-8058
burtond@missouri.edu

January 19, 2018


Farm to School Programs are a Win for Everybody
Says MU Extension Nutrition Specialist


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Communities, schools, farmers and food producers, public health workers and University of Missouri Extension are all working together in Southwest Missouri to implement Farm to School programs.

"Farm to school programs work to improve the connection communities have to fresh, local food, and local food producers," said Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension. "In the Ozarks, farmers and schools are connecting to provide schools with locally grown food products that are included in school meals and snacks."

Students are also participating in educational learning activities related to agriculture, food, health, and nutrition. In many schools, school gardens offer students hands-on experiences to grow their own food. In recent years, Springfield Public Schools, Hollister schools, and Springfield Catholic Schools have all benefited from USDA Farm to School grants.

"Community partners in Southwest Missouri have joined the effort, with the intention of empowering children and their families to make informed food choices while also strengthening the local economy and helping to build more resilient communities," said Duitsman.

WINNING EXAMPLES

Farm to School programs are a win for everybody. Here are a few examples.

Economic Impacts: Recent research highlights the positive economic impact that Farm to School programs have on local communities. For every job created by school districts purchasing local foods, additional economic activity creates another 1.67 jobs. Each dollar invested in farm to school stimulates an additional $1.40-$2.60 of local economic activity, in one study resulting in $1.4 million overall for the state.

Farmers and Food Producers: The increased purchases from local producers and processors supports jobs and local earnings. "Schools offer a very stable market opportunity for farmers, ranchers, food processors and manufacturers, and can establish long-term revenue streams for individual farmers," said Duitsman.

Student healthy behaviors: Research has shown a significant improvement for healthy behaviors in children from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Kids choose healthier foods; eat more fruits and vegetables; and demonstrate a higher willingness to try new foods. Data also shows that kids consume less unhealthy snack foods, drink fewer sodas, and actually increase their physical activity. Measures of "screen time" also show that kids participating in Farm to School spend less time in front of a screen - whether it be a computer, television, or games console. One study showed a reduction in diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes, especially for high-risk, low-income students.

School Food Service: Schools increase the fruits and vegetables they offer, develop new seasonal recipes, and decrease waste from school lunches. Students are much more likely to participate in schools meals, which generates increased revenues for schools through their meal programs. Food service staff show improved motivation and morale; an increased knowledge and interest in local food preparation; and have more interactions with teachers to strengthen classroom and cafeteria connections.

Student Education: Farm to school programs increase knowledge of agriculture, gardening, healthy eating, nutrition, growing cycles, local food, seasonality, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts and language arts in Children from K-12. Overall academic achievement improves in K-12 settings. "Farm to school also improves opportunities for physical and social activities, and increases engagement in school activities. Life skills, self-esteem, social skills and behavior improve too," said Duitsman.

Adults: The impact of Farm to School programs extends to the educators and parents. Teachers show positive changes in healthy eating and lifestyles. Parents show increased knowledge of local agriculture and of healthier behaviors such as increased fruit and vegetable consumption. "Adults who participated in gardening at a young age are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, try new produce, prepare meals at home, shop for healthy and local foods, and make healthier purchases," said Duitsman.

MORE INFORMATION

For more information on nutrition contact any of these nutrition specialists in southwest Missouri: Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at (417) 881-8909; Lindsey Gordon Stevenson in Barton County at (417) 682-3579; Stephanie Johnson in Howell County at (417) 256-2391 or Mary Sebade in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551. The regional office of the Family Nutrition Education Program is located in Springfield and can be reached at (417) 886-2059. Nutrition information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.


Source: Dr. Pam Duitsman, (417) 881-8909, (417) 874-2957

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