Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) Expands Farm to School Institute Regionally
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Betsy Rosenbluth (Project Director, VT FEED), [email protected], 802.985.0318
Vera Chang (Public Relations and Marketing Director, Shelburne Farms), [email protected], 917.846.1865
June 11, 2015. Shelburne, Vermont – For the first time, Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) is expanding its pioneering Farm to School Institute to school teams across New England and New York. Thirteen teams were selected to participate in the Institute, funded by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School grant. While Congress debates whether schools should increase whole grains and lower sodium, Vermont and other Northeast schools are serving healthy and local foods while engaging students in learning and taking action on food, farms, and nutrition.
The Institute is a year-long learning opportunity that helps schools engage students in food, farm, and nutrition education and serve healthy, local school meals. More than 47 Vermont schools and districts have participated since the Institute’s 2010 launch, developing programs that encourage students to make healthy food choices, expand use of local products in cafeterias, create food and farm curriculum, build school gardens, foster community connections, and more.
”Vermont and the Northeast are national leaders in the farm to school movement, creating changes in the food system by driving connections between education, health and nutrition, and local foods and farms,” said Betsy Rosenbluth, Project Director of VT FEED and Regional Lead for the Northeast Regional Steering Committee of the National Farm to School Network. “We expect the first regional Farm to School Institute to spark critical innovations that will benefit our children and communities and that we can share with other schools across the country.”
The program will take place at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont June 24-26. Teams of teachers, food service staff, administrators, students, and community members will gather for a three-day residential workshop to meet with regional farm to school coaches, learn about new practices, and share challenges and successes. Each team will leave with a Farm to School Action Plan, which they will implement throughout the year with the support of Institute coaches. There is no cost for schools to participate in the program, thanks to USDA and with support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, Serena Foundation, Keurig Green Mountain, and the Farmhouse Group.
According to a recent USDA Farm to School survey, nearly 6,000 Northeast schools are bringing farms to schools, engaging over three million students while keeping $58 million within the local food economy. Strong farm to school programs are linked to increased school meal participation, consumption of vegetables, and understanding of health, nutrition, food, farm, and community issues. Sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Farm to School Act of 2015 calls for expanding federal grant funding from $5 million to $15 million, which would bring these benefits to even more children and schools.
Nationally replicated, Vermont’s innovative “3 Cs” model for farm to school emphasizes strategic ways to connect classrooms, cafeterias, and community. The expansion of the Farm to School Institute represents a critical effort to share this model throughout the Northeast. In addition to helping school teams develop action plans, the Institute will build capacity among statewide leaders to develop stronger local farm to school efforts of their own.
“The Farm to School Institute helped our school build a cohesive connection between our classrooms, cafeteria and community,” said Keenan Haley, a third grade teacher at Sharon Elementary School and 2014 Institute participant. “Students are gaining classroom nutrition education, connecting with local food, and eating a variety of foods that they had never tried. Without the Institute, we would not be where we are today.”
School teams selected for the 2015-2016 Farm to School Institute are: Bradford Elementary in Bradford, VT; Champlain Elementary in Burlington, VT; Essex Town School District in Essex, VT; Falmouth Public Schools in Falmouth, ME; Guilford Central School in Guilford, VT; Hardwick Elementary in Hardwick, VT; Manchester Elementary in Manchester, VT; Milton High School in Milton, VT; Monument Valley Regional Middle School in Great Barrington, MA; Roundout Valley Junior High School in Accord, NY; South Burlington High School in South Burlington, VT; Somersworth Middle School in Somersworth, NH; and Waterville Central School District in Waterville, NY.
Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) is a partnership program of Shelburne Farms and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT). VT FEED’s mission is to work with schools and communities to raise awareness about healthy food, good nutrition, and the role of Vermont farms and farmers. Visit www.vtfeed.org to learn more.