Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT — Once again, Shelburne Farms and NOFA-VT are offering a year-long professional development program supporting selected schools from across the Northeast in design, development, and implementation of effective, school-wide Farm to School programs. Through their Vermont FEED initiative, Shelburne Farms and NOFA-VT’s’ Northeast Farm to School Institute advances food, farm, and nutrition education and expands student access to healthy, local products in school cafeterias.
Twelve schools from across New England and New York state were selected following a competitive application process, which demonstrated to the selection committee the schools’ commitment and readiness to realize a viable Farm to School program by the program’s year end.
The success of the Institute has attracted national attention. FTS leaders from various states are observing the Institute with the goal of adapting this model to their own states’ need, which includes leaders from all six New England states, New York, Mississippi, Georgia, and the USDA. “As an early leader in Farm to School, Vermont has many lessons learned to share with other states. In the past, Vermont’s Farm to School grants program, which was the first in the country, was used as a model as the USDA developed the National Farm to School Grant Program,” said Betsy Rosenbluth, Vermont FEED Project Director. “We’re excited to now share our Institute as a model for whole-school professional development for Farm to School.”
Vermont has long championed Farm to School (FTS) efforts, and as federal nutrition standards are being rolled back, this small state is stepping into the breach, and modelling success for others. The Institute is part of that model. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a leading champion for Farm To School efforts on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said: “Around Vermont, children are eating healthier meals at school because Farm to School connects students to fields, and farmers to classrooms. I’m proud to have been able to take Vermonters’ fresh ideas about the Farm to School movement to Capitol Hill and to turn our state’s experience into action. With the Farm to School Institute, communities from across our region can share in the program’s success and realize the health benefits that come when children enjoy fresh, locally grown food at school.”
During the Institute’s kick-off, three-day intensive , teams of food service staff, educators, administrators, and community partners will meet with peers and experts to expand their understanding and practices of FTS. Teams will develop an action plan for the coming school year in collaboration with an experienced FTS coach and continue working with their coach throughout the 2018-2019 school year to implement their programs and integrate best practices (farm visits, gardening and cooking activities, serving seasonal foods in school cafeterias, and offering food-based, hands-on science, math, and literacy lessons).
Over eight years, the Institute has supported FTS programs at 74 schools and districts, reaching over 54,000 Northeast students. The Institute also plays a major role in achieving the Vermont Farm to School Network’s ambitious statewide goal for growth: By 2025, 75 percent of schools will engage in integrated FTS programing, and 50 percent of school food will be purchased from local or regional sources.
According to the 2016 Vermont School Health Profiles, 92% of Vermont schools now serve some locally grown foods; while three out of four have school gardens and that number continues in an upward trend. These trends hope to chip away at a more sobering statistic: one in four Vermont teens is now obese or overweight. Beyond the classroom, a recent report commissioned by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets found that every dollar spent by schools to purchase local food contributes $1.60 to the local economy.
Shelburne Farms is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to cultivate and inspire learning for a sustainable future. That means learning that links knowledge, inquiry, and action to help students build a healthy future for their communities and the planet. Shelburne Farms’ campus is a 1,400-acre working farm, forest, and National Historic Landmark. For information, please visit shelburnefarms.org.
Vermont FEED is a Farm to School partnership project of Shelburne Farms and Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT). Their “3C Model” catalyzes change through the Cafeteria, Classroom, and Community to improve knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors toward healthy eating, local purchasing, and our food system.