Farm to School Program

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What is the Oklahoma Farm to School Program?

oklahoma farm to school programFarm to School is broadly defined as any program that connects schools and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias; improving student nutrition; providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities; and supporting local and regional farmers. Farm to School programs exist in all 50 states. Farm to School programs are as diverse as the communities they serve.

Farm to School can help grow healthy students and healthy rural economies by matching schools with local farmers and growers to purchase food for the schools’ cafeterias. Purchasing from local producers provides the schools fresh, flavorful food to students and in turn, offers a market to the local farmer or grower.

With the locally grown food movement having expanded significantly during the past decade, all 50 states now have established Farm to School Programs. Oklahoma’s Farm to School Program took root in 2002 with the Oklahoma Food Policy Council. Research and surveys showed a large percent of school food service was interested in purchasing locally grown and produced foods.

A pilot Farm to School Program for Oklahoma was implemented in 2004 and 2005, providing six school districts with locally grown watermelons from a farmer in Hinton, OK and also made available nutrition and educational links. Multiple partners collaborated on the project including the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Oklahoma State  Department of Education, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense and Oklahoma State University.

In 2006, the Oklahoma Farm to School Program Act was introduced and passed in the Oklahoma State legislature through HB 2655. It formally established the Oklahoma Farm to School Program, calling for program development, leadership, workshops and technical assistance for farmers, food service directors, processors and distributors, and emphasized the purchase of locally grown food.

The Oklahoma Farm to School Program provides students with hands-on learning partnerships through school gardens, cooking and tasting demonstrations, lessons in the classroom, indoor learning labs, farm visits and many educational and nutritional resources. Serving fresh foods from local farms and providing hands-on experiences will go a long way toward improving our food choices.

Today more than 70 school districts across Oklahoma participate in the Farm to School Program, serving seedless watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash and sweet potatoes in more than 500 schools, with many schools serving additional items such as beef jerky, pecans, wholewheat flour, beef and whole-wheat pizza dough. The locally grown fruits and vegetables can be part of a hot lunch, breakfast, snack, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable grant program or offered as part of a salad bar. School food service directors can purchase locally grown food with the same federal reimbursement money used to buy all their food items and serve fresh food found at fine dining restaurants.

Farm to school, farm to fork, farm to table — they all are exciting phrases declaring that in Oklahoma, locally grown produce is food which is grown in our state or local products in which the main ingredients have been grown or produced in our state. It offers fresh, healthy and nutritious food while bringing financial benefits to our state’s growers and farmers right in our own communities.

To learn more about or to become a participant in Oklahoma’s Farm to school Program, please contact:

Chris Kirby
Program Administrator
Farm to School Program
Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry
2800 N Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Office: (405) 522-2106
chris.kirby@ag.ok.gov

Or visit the Oklahoma Farm to School Program’s website at www.okfarmtoschool.com.

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