Farm to School in the Nation’s Capital: “Each meal is an educational experience in itself”

October 25, 2011

The HSC team recently spoke with Andrea Northup, manager of the D.C. Farm to School Network. The network recently celebrated their third annual Farm to School Week, a celebration in conjunction with National Farm to School Month.

DC f2s_1The week included more than 80 events in schools in the nation’s capital including chef demonstrations, field trips, and farmer visits. Veggie cheerleaders could be seen in cafeterias across the city motivating students to eat vegetables!

The goal of D.C.’s week-long celebration is to spotlight local foods in school food and engage students in a meaningful connection to the food system.

“Each time a child participates in the school meal program, they’re sort of voting with their forks. The types of growers and the types of producers that the school meal system supports are the types of foods that the students are exposed to,” said Northup. “So each meal is an educational experience in itself.”

Farm to School brings together agriculture and education, Northup said: “in the cafeteria, in the classroom and in the community are all ways that schools can connect with food education.”

She encourages parents, teachers and school leaders to start small and try a Farm to School experience, noting that small efforts make a big impact. 

“Even having a chef come into your classroom one time for a thirty-minute chef demonstration could really get something rolling at your school,” she said. 

She also recommends utilizing community resources and partners to bring the Farm to School experience to students. Field trips and chef demos are great special occasions that provide exciting educational opportunities for kids. 

DC f2s_2

Students meet a chicken as part of Farm to School week in Washington D.C.

“A lot of the students involved have never been on a farm, seen food from the source,” she said. “We are fortunate to have quite a few urban farm resources here. That is a really good thing. Getting the kids out to a real farm is a whole different ball game.” Northup's organization has a farm that students visit on field trips. “When you see the kids getting off the bus, they’re like ‘wow, we’re in nature!’” she said. “Identifying foods that they’ve heard of with the plant that they come from is all the more exciting when the child comes from an urban environment or a food desert.”

Celebrations such as this one highlight the benefits that Farm to School can bring year-round.

“We really want Farm to School Week to be every week, not only here but around the nation,” Northup said. “Farm to School puts together access and education that is necessary for what we all want, which is for kids to get excited about and eat healthier, local foods. That is essentially what we’re working toward, that every child has farm fresh seasonal options in their school meals and food and farm education to excite them about those foods.”

Kudos to Northup and her staff for their amazing work! They’ve captured compelling stories from students, educators, and community members. Check out 50 Voices to see stunning images and quotes from their work.

(Photos courtesy of D.C. Farm to School Blog)

To learn more about D.C. Farm to School Week, check out www.dcfarmtoschoolweek.org. You can head over to the DC Farm to School blog and get a recap of their events.

For more information on Farm to School month, visit farmtoschoolmonth.org.

Plus: How are you celebrating Farm to School month in your community?