June 18, 2012
While schools were letting out across the state, over 20 teachers, school administrators, and child nutrition staff from Haywood County continued their dedication to the classroom by taking part in training for the Growing Minds Farm to School Program at Jonathan Valley Elementary.
Growing Minds, ASAP’s (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) Farm to School Program, works to connect schools and farms to give children positive experiences with healthy foods. The program includes farm field trips, nutrition education, school gardens and local food in cafeterias. The Community Foundation and its affiliate Fund for Haywood County are supporting the expansion of the program throughout Haywood County through a $22,200 grant. Project collaborators include the N.C. Center for Health and 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. Through this grant, Farm to School will be initiated at Bethel Elementary, Jonathan Valley Elementary, North Canton Elementary, Riverbend Elementary and Hazelwood Elementary.
The goal of the recent training was to connect the locally grown food being served in the cafeteria to educational classroom activities. The day included presentations, a hands-on cooking demonstration and concluded with the group practicing lesson plans in the school’s garden. Each team created action plans they will use in the fall when school resumes. A farm-to-table lunch was provided by their Haywood County neighbor and fellow grantee of the Community Foundation—Kids at Work!
“It was really exciting to see conversations taking place between classroom teachers, school administrators and child nutrition staff around the desire to improve the health of the children at their school through the Farm to School program. Teaching students about local food through curriculum connections, farm field trips, school gardens, classroom cooking, and locally grown fruit and vegetables in the cafeteria will help to guide them towards making better food choices in the years to come,” said Brittany Wager, program coordinator for Growing Minds.
Each team will come back together in September at Bethel Elementary to present their action plans to parents and the public. Local farmers and chefs interested in the program are also invited to join in the event in the fall.
Laurie Stradley, North Carolina’s Farm to School state lead and director of state and community collaboration for the NCCHW said of the day, “The N.C. Center for Health and Wellness is inspired to see so many hard working school leaders, from the cafeteria to the classroom to the administration helping to create a generation of students who demand local, fresh, whole food.”