Erin Healy, the Director of the Office of Community Food Systems at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will visit the Lincoln Hancock Elementary School garden on Wednesday October 25th at 1:00 pm to celebrate National Farm to School month. Ms. Healy was named to the national position last year and her visit will spotlight Quincy Public School’s Farm to School vision of deepening student connection to locally grown foods and creating school gardens at every school by 2020.
During Healy’s visit, Lincoln Hancock students and teachers will “Put the Garden to Bed” with the farm educators at Holly Hill Organic Farm. They will also plant garlic to be harvested at the end of the school year. Select students will share essays and artwork about their experience visiting a local farm and working in the school garden.
The Quincy Public Schools was awarded a $72,000 Farm to School Implementation grant from the USDA in 2015 and since that time has sent over 1,400 students to visit a working organic farm, installed four school gardens, trained food services workers to handle fresh foods, conducted local food tastings, implemented garden literacy curriculum, joined with neighboring towns to increase local foods in school lunch and participated in numerous community events, namely the “Picnic in the Park” at the Adams National Park which highlights John and Abigail’s farm.
The USDA’s Farm to School Program was established under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 to improve access to local foods in schools. Since the grant program’s inception in FY 2013, USDA has awarded over $25 million in farm to school grants. Projects have been funded in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to the USDA, fresh, local foods offered through farm to school programs help school meal programs provide healthy, appealing, and diverse offerings. Results of the 2015 Farm to School Census reveal that more than 42,000 schools nationwide have a farm to school program. These schools report reductions in food waste, higher school meal participation rates, and increased willingness of the students to try new foods, notably fruits and vegetables. In the 2013-14 school year alone, these programs invested nearly $800 million back into local economies, helping 23.6 million students develop healthy eating habits and learn where their food comes from.