Over the past few summers, sponsors of USDA’s Summer Meals Programs have been elevating meal quality and encouraging program participation by serving seasonal menus, utilizing high quality ingredients, and providing nutrition education activities. We’ve heard of such farm to summer activities – the embedding of farm to school principles within summer meals programs – from practitioners all around the country. Here in the Northeast, summer 2016 brought a wave of coordinated programming, and National Farm to School Month is the perfect time to celebrate this trend that is supporting healthy kids and communities all year long!
Vermont: Farm to School 12 Months a Year
Last year, VT FEED secured funding from a local philanthropic partner, and embarked upon a mission to extend its robust farm to school training, coordination, and professional development services beyond the school year. The Farm to School 12-Months of the Year project provided local procurement training and guidance for summer sponsors, piloted summer meals sites over the weekend at two farmers markets, and ran food and nutrition-related activities at 10 summer sites. By continuing the strategies that have built robust farm to school programs over many years throughout the summertime, Vermont is creating consistent learning opportunities and year-round access to nutritious foods for kids across the state.
Massachusetts: Farmers Markets as Summer Meals Sites
Farm to summer strategies picked up steam elsewhere in the Northeast, as the Massachusetts Farm to School Project secured funding to support the opening of additional summer meals sites at natural access points for local foods and fun, healthy community activities: farmers markets! With additional planning and support from the Child Nutrition Outreach Program and Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, farmers market sites were piloted in five different communities across Massachusetts. By setting up a new site at the Greenfield, Mass., market, Greenfield Public Schools was able to add local fruits and vegetables to their menu from market producers and serve kids on Saturdays.
Connecticut: Service Members Launch Farm to Summer Programming
Building new elements of programming – like finding and buying local foods, promoting healthy menu items, running taste tests or gardening activities that get kids excited about summer meals – all take additional time and coordination. Partners in Connecticut tapped a school year resource to help sponsors make this programming possible. Fifteen FoodCorps and ten AmeriCorps service members were trained and supported by UCONN Extension, End Hunger CT!, and FoodCorps CT, with help from a USDA Farm to School Grant, and were perfectly positioned to run farm to summer activities at summer meals sites throughout the state. Local blueberry smoothies were a hit at Anna E. Norris Elementary School in East Hartford, and kept kids nourished and refreshed for their outdoor activities.