After more than two years of work, the efforts of the Farm to School Work Group are beginning to see the idea take root in San Antonio. Since December of 2016, there have been three positive meetings and events with more on the horizon.
On the morning of December 7, 2016, two members of the FPCSA board, along with Doug Melnick, director of the City of San Antonio’s Office of Sustainability, made a presentation about the importance of farm to school to the city’s 16 school district superintendents. If the nodding heads in the room are any indication of what the future holds, FPCSA board member and co-chair of the Farm to School Work Group, Heather Hunter, along with fellow board member and presenter, Mitch Hagney, expect this national movement to begin to take root in San Antonio.
Also in attendance at the superintendent’s meeting was Mayor Ivy Taylor (seated in picture above, at left, and in the picture below, at right), who was very interested in the FPCSA’s message about the need to improve school food, the importance of buying from local farmers and ranchers for the feeding programs and the value of garden-based learning.
After the presentation, the Mayor invited Heather to continue the conversation about school food with her after the new year.
The meeting with the Mayor took place on February 7 and included City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales, of District 5 and others, to explore the possibilities of how the city could be more pro-active in adopting farm to school practices. While several ideas were discussed, it was a consensus that the city needed to hire a Food Policy Coordinator to begin overseeing the the food-related initiatives. Additionally, several pilot programs were discussed and are currently being explored.
A few weeks later on February 22, 2017, the North East ISD hosted a full-day workshop centered on farm to school. As part of a USDA grant awarded in 2015, NEISD Child Nutrition Program welcomed approximately 100 attendees including a mix of school nutrition directors, food service managers, area farmers and ranchers and distributors and wholesalers. This was the city’s first cohesive attempt to generate interest for farm to school and bring the parties together for a day of education and conversation. Speakers included representatives from USDA Farm to School, Texas Department of Agriculture, Region 20, Austin’s Sustainability Food Center, City of San Antonio’s Office of Sustainability and the FPCSA.
Clearly, the city of San Antonio is talking about farm to school, the need to improve the school feeding program and discussing the importance of nutritional meals for our children. Now, let’s hope they come together and make this an integrated, cohesive approach so all students learn where food comes from, how to grow and cook it and the health benefits of eating real food.
Statistically, children who plant seeds and watch them grow into food will eat the food. This statistic is much more powerful than the current reality that one in three San Antonio children are obese and one in five are hungry.
For more information or to be a part of this initiative, please visit the Farm to School Work Group page.