A note about the author: Anna Mullen is the Communications Manager with the National Farm to School Network.
At the National Farm to School Network, we believe that farm to school isn’t just for K-12 students; connecting young children to healthy food and nutrition education in early care and education settings is an essential component of growing a healthier next generation. That’s why for the past several years, we’ve prioritized the goal of engaging more children ages 0-5 in activities and experiences that increase acceptance of healthy foods and support lifelong healthy habits. Through leadership, advocacy, and networking, we aim to help bring farm to early care and education (ECE) to more of our nation’s littlest eaters.
One measure of the farm to ECE movement’s growing prevalence is an uptick in the number of local and national media stories that highlight innovations, successes and impacts of farm to ECE activities. From stories about little ones planting seeds and taste testing new foods, to reading books about vegetables and helping make simple snack time recipes, media stories help spread that word that young children benefit from farm to ECE. Here’s a roundup of recent headlines from coast to coast about some innovative approaches that are paving the way for a generation of healthy eaters:
NEW JERSEY - Preschools, area farm 'produce' a nutritious partnership
Several New Jersey preschools have teamed up with local farms to provide on-site access to fresh fruits and vegetables. As parents pick up their children after school, they have the opportunity to shop for produce to take home.
GEORGIA - "Miss Ladybug" Recognized As PBS KIDS Early Learning Champion
Andrea Zoppo from Little Ones Learning Center in Forest Park, Georgia, was recently recognized as a PBS KIDS Early Learning Champion. "Miss Ladybug" - as she's known by students - has a passion for teaching all things related to nature and the outdoors, and has laid the foundation for the farm to ECE programming at Little Ones.
MICHIGAN - YWCA helps children eat better so they learn better
The YWCA of Kalazmazoo's Children's Center has experienced big changes since implementing new farm to ECE activities. Thanks to the support of serve local food initiatives, the YWCA has developed strong relationships with local farmers and completely overhauled its meal program to serve more fresh, local and seasonal foods. "We see our farm to preschool program as one way to help our kids catch up equitably. Our kids need the freshest foods. Our kids need to know how to source local foods at little to no cost. Our families need to know that.”
IOWA - Learning garden gets thumbs up from young students
In Sioux City, Clark Early Childhood Center's garden is turning little thumbs green - and covered in dirt! "Our learning garden embraces several different types of early childhood curriculum from math to science to nutrition. The kiddos are planting, watering and maintaining the garden. Before too long, they'll be able to sample the radishes, tomatoes and eggplants they're taking care of today."
COLORADO - Program helps teen moms & children bond over fresh food
In Denver, Florence Crittenton Early Childhood Education Center's garden has created opportunities for young mothers and their children to spend more time together at school and helps create a conversation about healthy eating at home. “The kids kind of become educators for the moms."
WASHINGTON - Preschoolers Experience Taste of Washington Day
Preschoolers at Puesta Del Sol learned about locally grown food for Taste of Washington Day in October. Activities included holding different types of potatoes, identifying various types of beans, and guessing which fruit or vegetable was in a box just by using their sense of touch.
Do you have a great farm to ECE story? The National Farm to School Network would love to hear it! Share your farm to ECE story with us here.
As a hub for farm to school information, networking and advocacy, the National Farm to School Network educates early care and education stakeholders at the local, regional and national levels on the opportunities inherent in farm to school for early childhood development. We also train our farm to school partners to be leaders in applying farm to school in early care and education settings, convene national stakeholder groups to increase connectivity among diverse early childhood partners, and advocate for policies that support high quality early care and education and healthy local food systems. Learn more about farm to ECE, get involved in our work, and find resources for supporting your farm to ECE activities at farmtoschool.org/ece.