Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables at an early age can provide children with lifelong healthy eating habits and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Farm-to-school programs connect children with the healthy foods they need when they're away from home.
What is Farm to School?
Farm to School programs connect schools (K-12) and local farms to bring healthy meals to school cafeterias, improve student nutrition, create nutrition awareness, and support local farmers. It does this by including local products in schools and preschools — not just in breakfast and lunch, but in after-school snacks, classroom activities, and anywhere food is involved. A good program also supports food-related curriculum development and learning opportunities such as school gardens, farm tours and farmers in the classroom.
- Fresh vegetables with the highest possible nutritional value
- A more healthful diet at critical ages for growth and development
- Encourages good eating habits that children can carry through life
- Builds a foundation for better health as an adult
- Support of local agriculture and economics
Children benefit from fresh, nutritious food that establishes good eating habits, a gift they will carry through life. They acquire an understanding of the connection between the food they eat and their health, agriculture, and the environment.
What is Farm to Preschool?
Farm-to-preschool programs offer the same benefits as farm-to-school programs, but in a daycare or preschool setting. They are easier to implement, with fewer formal requirements for preschools to meet, and smaller demands on farmers' supply. If anything, the benefits to children are greater, since healthy eating habits are instilled earlier in life. If you're considering a preschool program, the national Farm to Preschool Network is a clearinghouse for information and resources .
Farm to Business
We also encourage businesses and organizations to consider hosting a farmers' market on their premises to help promote healthy eating to their employees and customers. Local farmers and food producers take part by bringing their food and products to sell at indoor or outdoor facilities provided by the business. Farmers or businesses who would like to get involved can contact our Nutrition division at 601-576-7820.
Discover Farm to Preschool/School
MSDH provides information and guidelines for setting up a Farm to School or Farm to Preschool program. Contact our Nutrition section at 601-576-7820. The resources below will also help start the planning process and introduce some of the issues involved. Contacting an existing Farm to School project is also an excellent way to discover sources and practices that can work for your school.
FarmLink: Connecting Farmers and Preschools
To help link suppliers of farmed produce and local foods with daycares and preschools who are in search of sources, we provide public lists for schools and farms to post needs, offerings and contact information.
Resources for Planning a Farm-to-School Program