veggie toddler - a young child learning how to walk and eat vegetables, not necessarily a wobbly vegetarian.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What happnes in kindergarten, doesn't stay in comes home.

Long before my daughter could talk, she taught me that well-timed nutrition snacks were my secret weapon to keeping her balanced and eager to explore the world around her. I discovered, first hand, the effects that good nutrition had on her behavior and moods. By the time I figured it all out and felt like I could predict her every move, my toddler grew into a preschooler and now a kindergartener.

What happens in kindergarten, doesn’t stay in kindergarten…it comes home. Sugary snacks, high-fructose corn syrup chocolate milk, fried everything and candy rewards. My kindergartener was exposed to and expected to maneuver through a new landscape of food choices except this time I couldn’t act as tour guide. My only hope was to teach my daughter to make healthy choices for herself because I wasn’t there to make them for her.

All of a sudden, nutrition wasn’t just about what we ate at home. Once my daughter entered school, nutrition became a community-wide concern. And so, I decided to tackle school lunch as I did my daughter’s snacks. Replace the junk with fresh food. They have a name for it. It’s called Farm to School.

No big deal right? Well my county doesn’t have one high school, two middle schools and 5 elementary schools as did the town I grew up in. No, my county has 19 high schools, 19 middle schools, 79 elementary schools and 20 specialty schools. Here is how I got involved.

When my daughter started kindergarten at our neighborhood public school this past fall, I asked the newly formed school garden PTA committee who was working on a Farm to School program and how could I get involved. Aside from the brand new and exciting school garden, no one else was heading a farm to school initiative. In fact, no one in the county had started one either. That day the school garden PTA parents looked at me and said, “You do it.”

And so here we are. More than halfway through the school year and I have assembled a group of PTA parents devoted to the Farm to School initiative, introduced some ideas about nutrition awareness campaigns to do in our very own school, and organized a county-wide stakeholders meeting to discuss how our county could start a Farm to School program.

Our county-wide meeting is scheduled for the end of March but already I have received an RSVP from three principals, a school board member, our state representative, a member of the county board of health, our county school nutrition director and possibly more elected officials. We also have many parents and teachers from schools all across the county as well as farmers and local businesses coming to our meeting.

This meeting is truly exciting for the fact that it will bring so many varied members of the school community together under one purpose, to improve the school nutrition and support local farmers. Whatever the outcome of this meeting, we have taken a gigantic step in the right direction just by initiating a discussion of Farm to School.