By Anupama Joshi
October was already one of my favorite months of the year: dressing my son for trick-or-treat, going leaf-peeping, and enjoying all the great foods that are in season — pears, potatoes, pumpkins and more. But now I have another reason to look forward to October: it’s National Farm to School Month!
Congress designated October as National Farm to School Month in 2010 in recognition of the strong role that Farm to School can play in promoting good health and strong economies.
All year round, farmers, teachers, students, parents, administrators, food service directors and advocates across the United States are planting, harvesting, cooking, tasting, teaching, learning, sharing local foods and working to restore the connections between our children, food, community, land and place. During October, we’ll have the opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments during the second annual observance of National Farm to School Month.
Those of us involved in Farm to School see and hear its positive impacts every day when we watch preschoolers enjoy the sweet crunch of a fresh peapod or high-schoolers acting like shy kids when they come face-to-face with a 1,500-pound cow. To celebrate National Farm to School Month this year, we want to help programs across America quantify and communicate some of their accomplishments. The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is launching a campaign called “Farm to School Counts” that will encourage school districts and Farm to School practitioners to track (a) the dollar value of local foods served, and (b) the number of children participating in Farm to School educational activities during October 2012. At the end of the month, NFSN will report the results.
NFSN estimates that there are over 10,000 schools implementing Farm to School in the U.S., but I believe this is just a tiny fraction of what is actually taking place right now. “Farm to School Counts” is not expected to be an accurate count of the actual dollars spent or number of children participating. After all, this isn’t a scientific process, and, if anything, it will be a small fraction of the total numbers. And this isn’t to say that the qualitative or intangible aspects of what we do every day—coaxing children to taste their first radish or watching an inner-city teen get excited about harvesting his or her first potato—aren’t just as important as the numbers. But won’t it be fun to see what we come up with?
Don’t worry – you don’t have to document every pea and pumpkin purchased! All you have to do is figure out what you are going to be able to estimate (dollar value or number of children reached or both), then use our form to pledge what you are going to track during the month. One lucky school, school district or Farm to School program will be randomly chosen to win a cash prize, just for participating.
Let’s create even more reasons to look forward to October each year!
Anupama Joshi, who celebrates the October harvest season in Chicago, is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the National Farm to School Network.