April 12, 2012
Funding from The Community Foundation and its affiliate Fund for Haywood County is supporting a collaborative Farm to School project designed to address major challenges: concerns about nutrition and health and the disappearance of small farms. The $22,200 grant will fund the Farm to School program at five Haywood County Schools.
The Farm to School program supports farmers by increasing sales and diversifying markets, while providing better nutrition and food awareness for students, teachers and staff at Bethel Elementary, Jonathan Valley Elementary, North Canton Elementary, Riverbend Elementary and Waynesville Middle School. In addition to local healthy food served in cafeterias, the program includes farm field trips, cooking demonstrations, nutrition education and school gardens.
Project collaborators include the N.C. Center for Health & Wellness at UNC Asheville, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Haywood County Schools, Buy Haywood, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the UNC Asheville Foundation. Other funders include the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
The impact of food industrialization has been felt in Haywood County, which experienced significant farm loss between 1987 and 2007. A lack of easy access to local food results in a damaged local economy, increased obesity rates, a disconnect from food production and the emergence of food deserts.
The Farm to School project will serve approximately 3,000 students and staff at the five school sites, comprising nearly 40% of Haywood County Schools’ enrollment. More than half of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch and, on average, 80% of the students eat meals prepared in the schools’ nutrition program. During the 2010-2011 school year, 39% of Haywood County students were classified as obese.
An immediate positive effect will be felt by participating farmers as well as their employees and families. There are more than 700 farms in the county that could potentially participate. With the growth of the program, the number of people impacted could easily rise beyond projections. The success and sustainability of the project is tied to a homegrown and strategic approach that engages stakeholders across the food chain from farmers and buyers to teachers, parents and children.
“Farm to School programs are gaining national attention and it is fitting that we support these efforts in Western North Carolina,” said CFWNC President Elizabeth Brazas. “This program has strong leadership, is deeply collaborative, can be replicated and builds connections between local agriculture, economic development, health and the environment.”
The Community Foundation is a nonprofit serving eighteen counties in Western North Carolina. The Foundation is a permanent regional resource that facilitates more than $8 million in charitable giving annually. CFWNC inspires philanthropy and mobilizes resources to enrich lives and communities in Western North Carolina. Visit www.cfwnc.org for more information.