Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools, early childhood education centers, and alternative learning environments.
Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as educational opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons, and farm field trips. Farm to school empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities.
The pillars of farm to school are:
School Gardens: Students engage in hands-on learning through gardening and farming;
Education: Students participate in education activities related to agriculture, food, health, or nutrition; and
Procurement: Local foods are purchased, promoted, and served in the cafeteria or as a snack or taste test.
Farm to school encourages the development of a school garden. From potted plants in a windowsill, to in-ground beds outside the school, school gardens provide students with opportunities for hands-on learning. School gardens can enhance lessons, connect to the state standards, and teach students life-long skills about food, agriculture, and nutrition.
Farm to school provides a real-life context for learning across all Arkansas state standards such as science, math, language arts, social studies, art, music, and more. Engaging students in hands-on opportunities, such as planting school gardens, cooking food from scratch, and visiting local farms, establishes meaningful connections to the curriculum and deepens student understanding.
Farm to school programs incorporating local and seasonal foods into school meals, building expertise in school nutrition staff through professional development, reducing waste, and making nutritious food accessible to all students. Activities like taste tests and cafeteria role modeling introduce students to new foods and empower them to make healthy choices.
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program tracks farm to school activities at the state level and has identified: 310 gardens at schools, early childhood education facilities, and alternative learning environments; 34 school districts procuring local foods; and 44 farmers and local businesses selling to schools.
The Arkansas Farm to School State Profile is based on the 2019 and 2020 Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Act Annual Report and the 2020 Arkansas Farm to School Annual Report.