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Today is Thursday, May 5, 2016

Off the Record: County needs Farm to School project too

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On Tuesday, the USDA announced grants for 71 Farm to School programs all over the country. According to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Farm to School programs teach students where food comes from, while providing healthy foods that are grown locally on farms and ranches across the nation.
The programs, Vilsack said, create new market opportunities for local farmers and ranchers interested in partnering with nearby school districts – and by helping to create an even more diverse and thriving agriculture sector, Farm to School efforts hold potential to create new jobs in rural areas.
This sounds like a win-win for Tipton County.
Across the country, the projects are all different. In Massachusetts, one project will develop a district-wide program that will focus on creating jobs for students and promoting healthy eating, and in Iowa the project will work with local farmers and a newly-established food hub to boost production to meet the needs of local schools (their goal is to boost production by 200 percent).
What happened in our society that made us believe serving our children genetically-modified foods and substances originating in labs was okay? What happened to serving real food?
I’m happy to say changes have been made locally. Children aren’t eating paleo or clean, but huge improvements in school-provided meals have been made.
I think we can take that a step farther, though, and get behind a Farm to School initiative of our own to provide real food for real children. There are plenty of local farmers who, I’m sure, would love to partner with Tipton County Public Schools in developing a project and applying for a grant.
The USDA says its grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally-sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers and distributors. Grants can also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms and cooking classes.
Could you imagine the benefits of our schools having their own gardens? Not that teachers don’t already have enough on their plates – pun not intended – but it would be an amazing sight to see.

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