What is Farm to Early Care and Education?
Farm to early care & education is a collection of strategies for connecting young children to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity. This is an extension of the farm to school movement, focusing on the specific learning styles, needs, and environments that young children learn and grow in. Farm to early care and education has been shown to flourish in a variety of early learning environments with the three core elements;
Hands on learning- educational activities that are facilitated by the educator but led by the child. Each offers the opportunity to connect with healthy food in a new way or experience physical activity. There are several curricula ready to go, but these can also be easily adapted into other lessons and curricula already in use by your program.
Gardening- Gardening offers the opportunity to experience healthy foods from seed to table. Indoor, outdoor, large and small, gardens of all types are popping up in early learning environments across Iowa.
Focus on seasonal, fresh & local food- Early learning environments are in a unique position by serving multiple meals and snacks to young children each day. Sourcing this food seasonally and as local as possible is a triple win strategy for children, farmers, and communities.
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How we do it
In 2016, funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation presented an opportunity for collaboration between Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness and Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children. Out of this partnership, we have focused on the following initiatives to advance farm to early care and education across Iowa.
Iowa Farm to ECE Coalition
In February 2017 the Iowa Farm to ECE Coalition was formed. This group is comprised of over 20 organizations from a variety of sectors that support the early care and education workforce, provider quality, child health, and school readiness through farm to early care and education programming in Iowa. This group meets quarterly to remove systemic barriers to achieving healthy children, families, and communities. For more information, please visit the Iowa Farm to ECE Coalition page.
Regional Learning Groups
In 2017, three Pilot Farm to ECE Learning Groups were formed in 6 counties; Linn, Johnson, Wapello, Shelby, Audubon, Cass. This model was created to offer professional development, facilitate peer to peer learning, distribute mini-grants for activities, and to identify resources and programs within each community to sustain farm to early care and education. For results on last year's work, see below:
Professional Development Offerings by Request
Out of the peer learning model, we have developed a training series that focuses on the three core elements of farm to early care and education. These trainings will soon be available for request by your group. More information coming soon!