Farm to School

In San Antonio, one in three children are obese and one in five are hungry. Farm to school initiatives are a way to combat these epidemic realities.

Farm to School

Chair

Patrick Brennan: patrickbrennan2@outlook.com

What is Farm to School?

Farm to school is a national movement that supports and encourages schools and districts to adopt up to three program initiatives including: 1.) procuring local ingredients for the school feeding program, 2.) developing school gardens with garden-based learning and 3.) incorporating food and nutrition-related educational opportunities as part of the integrated campus curriculum.

Farm to school empowers students and their families to make educated decisions about the food they eat, as well as strengthens the local economy by supporting and working with local farmers and ranchers. This combination has the power to produce a community of educated and healthy citizens, as well as promote STEM learning opportunities.

Goals

Increase the procurement, use and consumption of fresh, local foods in schools, as well as work to enhance or inspire garden-based learning and nutrition education opportunities.

Accomplishments

Since 2015, the Farm to School Work Group has developed three surveys to evaluate the farm to school landscape in the city. By connecting and communicating with food service directors, parents of school children and food service providers, the group is able to connect the dots and identify areas of need, opportunities to educate and build new relationships to inspire area schools and districts to adopt farm to school practices.

These surveys assessed the current farm to school practices, as well as interest and obstacles in adopting farm to school initiatives in schools and school districts throughout the city.

In December 2016, the Farm to School Work Group applied for a USDA Farm to School Support grant and await the announcement of the grant awardees in June 2017.

Also in December 2016, the Farm to School and FPCSA leadership presented the benefits of farm to school at the monthly school superintendents meeting, where Mayor Ivy Taylor was also in attendance. This led to a subsequent meeting with the Mayor and City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (District 5), along with Doug Melnick of the Office of Sustainability, to explore possible ways the city can support farm to school initiatives and build a sustainable local food system that is accessible to all.

North East ISD Leads the Way

North East ISD (NEISD) was the first district in San Antonio to be awarded USDA Farm to School grant (2015). As part of their federal grant, NEISD hosted a farm to school workshop on February 22, 2017, which brought together 100 child nutrition directors and food service managers, distributors and wholesalers and local farmers and ranchers. To inspire and educate on the best practices, this one-day event featured speakers from the USDA, Texas Department of Agriculture, Austin’s Sustainable Food Center, Region 20, National Center for Applied Technology (NCAT), City of San Antonio’s Office of Sustainability and the Food Policy Council of San Antonio. Contacts were made through this event and the groundwork was laid to continue building a foundation that will allow San Antonio schools and school districts to embrace farm to school initiatives, specifically by procuring local ingredients for the school feeding programs.

A shining star within NEISD is Colonial Hills Elementary, where a school garden has served as the epicenter from which all good things grow. Recognized as a Silver school by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the campus is proud to be free from cupcakes and soda. Instead, the campus chooses healthy talk, healthier foods in the vending machines and fresh produce harvested from the school’s hands-on learning garden. Led by PE teacher, Coach Pitts, the principal and a strong PTA, this school has received numerous grants and awards and strives for good health and wellness each and every day. The story below highlights the success built around a school garden and how this philosophy benefits everyone.

Colonial Hills Elementary: Planting seeds for the future