Farmers have a big impact on child nutrition across the country.  October is National Farm to School Month, and Diane Pratt-Heavner with the School Nutrition Association says farmers have played a big part in nutritious school meals for a long time.


“There have always been very strong ties between the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and our agricultural community.  You know, these programs were directly linked by Congress and the administration to supporting America's farmers.  We've got the USDA Foods Program that provides 15%-20% of the food served with school lunches, and that's all American-grown foods.  And thanks to Buy American requirements, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs have been a great way to support our growers and ranchers throughout the country.”


Pratt-Heavner said the Farm to School movement has really taken off during the last ten years.


“We have seen, particularly over the last decade, a huge expansion in Farm to School efforts, and schools really are working, and we've seen a lot of improvement in recent years in connecting with their local growers and ranchers.  We are seeing more schools partner up with farmers in their communities not only to get more fresh local produce on school menus but to also teach kids about what's being grown or raised in their communities.  We've found that those strong connections can help encourage kids to give new foods a try.”


She noted schools are buying a variety of foods from their local growers.


“It's all over the map. We have heard of schools sourcing the very traditional fruits and vegetables, apples, Florida and California have access to citrus, but we've heard of all kinds of fruits and vegetables being sourced through local growers.  I've heard of schools utilizing locally-raised honey, and we have heard a lot of school meal programs working with local ranchers to bring in locally-raised beef.”


During Farm to School Month, many schools around the country also bring farmers into their classrooms to educate kids about how their food is grown.  For more information visit Farm To School's Website.


If you have a story idea for the PNW Ag Network, call (509) 547-9791, or e-mail 

More From PNW Ag Network