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Saturday, November 26, 2022

California looks to expand farm to school programs

farm to school programs

California is looking to expand farm to school programs after the state governor's wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, announced Thursday the launch of "Planting the Seed: Farm to School Roadmap for Success."

The purpose of this program is to promote child well-being, equity, economic growth and environmental resilience.

Access to high-quality fresh foods can increase students' consumption of fruits and vegetables and support children's physical health, while hands-on experiential learning opportunities such as gardening and cooking serve to improve educational outcomes and support whole-child development, California's first lady noted.

In addition, he detailed that farm to school programs allow students to learn about the relationships between food systems and the environment.

For his part, Governor Gavin Newsom recalled that last year, California made history as the first state to establish permanent universal school meals. 

So, "through farm to school programs, we go a step further to ensure that children not only have access to free meals at school, but that they are healthy, nutritious and locally grown."

Siebel Newsom noted that schools play a crucial role in feeding California's children and communities, as nearly half of their daily caloric intake comes from school meals.

"Planting the Seed is a roadmap for strengthening the state's school food systems, nourishing children's minds and bodies, and growing a healthier, more equitable and climate-smart California for all," he said.

School meals are a crucial source of nutrition for children and an important tool for improving food access and nutrition security, especially among communities of color. 

During the pandemic, about one in four low-income families in the state relied on school meals to cover food shortages, which is why California is looking to expand farm-to-school programs.

Nationally, people of color are more likely to experience food insecurity, hunger, childhood obesity and diabetes in both rural and urban communities.

"California, which produces more than one-third of the nation's vegetables and two-thirds of the nation's fruits and nuts, is well positioned to improve the health and well-being of children through the expansion of farm-to-school programs," said California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross.

Farm-to-school programs promote economic growth in local communities through local procurement and incentivize regenerative and climate-smart agricultural practices, the state noted in a release.

He further specified that "Planting the Seed" outlines specific recommendations for the entire state, which include:

  • Allocate funds to expand farm to school programs that encourage and prioritize equitable and climate-smart procurement.
  • Invest in school food careers and home cooking infrastructure to ensure that school nutrition teams can prepare delicious, nutritious and locally sourced menus.
  • Develop optional K-12 food education model standards to help students understand how food affects health, culture, biodiversity, and climate.
  • Strengthen relationships between schools and producers to improve the equity of the food system and promote regenerative and climate-smart agricultural practices.
  • Expand and create inclusive access to school food markets for a wide range of California producers, especially small- and medium-scale, indigenous or people of color, and those using regenerative and climate-smart farming practices.
    • Invest in evaluation and research, and develop an annual farm to school census in California.

Thursday's announcement follows the state's investment of nearly $70 million for California's Farm to School Incubator Grant, a program promoted by Siebel Newsom and administered by CDFA, to provide competitive grants to support innovative local and regional farm to school projects. 

The Governor's California Plan proposes an additional $30 million to support the grant program and $450 million to improve school kitchen infrastructure and equipment to incorporate more home-cooked meals and the use of fresh, minimally processed ? and California-grown foods in school meals.

Those interested in learning more about how California is looking to expand farm to school programs, with the "Planting the Seed: Farm to School Roadmap for Success" plan, can find more information at click here.

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