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Farm to School’s Best of the Best

Beginning this fall, two of Vermont’s regional Farm-to-School organizations are combining the best parts of their successful pilot programs into one that is rolling out statewide. Green Mountain Farm-to-School in Newport and Food Connects in Brattleboro have launched Harvest of the Month (HOM) through a collaborative grant from the Vermont Community Foundation.

Educators learning about a greenhouse program during a Vermont Farm to School Network meeting at Montpelier High School. Photo Courtesy of Food Connects.

As a result, K-12 schools across Vermont are signing up to be part of the free HOM project. In return, they receive beautiful and informative materials to promote the use of local, seasonal foods. Each month, year-round, original illustrated posters, recipes, and curricula materials about the featured items are sent to every participating school. They also get a monthly e-newsletter, with lots of ideas about how to incorporate the HOM into school meal sites. HOM offers a wonderful way to connect the “3cs” of cafeteria, classroom, and community.

The idea is really taking off, with over 88 schools already in the network. Sales of farm products are also up, as Green Mountain Farm-to-School and Food Connects fill demand from local sources through two emerging food hubs: Green Mountain Farm Direct in the Northeast Kingdom and Windham Farm and Food.

The new Farm and Food Initiative (FFI) from the Vermont Community Foundation is supporting work at the intersection of sustainable agriculture and food security to ensure that all Vermonters have the opportunity to eat healthy, local food. This is one of the key goals of the Vermont Farm to Plate Plan and the Community Foundation is making a long-term commitment to achieving it.

While Vermont is a national leader in the local food movement, there are still many in our state who don’t have access to, can’t afford, or don’t know how to make use of the food produced here. This includes one in five Vermont children who are food insecure because their families can’t reliably meet basic nutritional needs.

These are some of the findings in a new report from the Community Foundation titled Local Food for Healthy Communities: Bringing Food Security to All Vermonters. It clearly spells out the challenges that farmers, institutions, and individuals face while building a sustainable and equitable food system, and highlights some promising approaches and opportunities where philanthropy can make a difference.

Though barely under way, the FFI is already strengthening links between farmers, school cafeterias, classrooms, community members, and local food hubs. When the Foundation announced the first round of these grants last December, one of its goals was to expand successful local programs to serve new parts of the state. With the kick-off of the 2013-2014 school year, Harvest of the Month is doing just that.

Written by Michael Levine for The Vermont Community Foundation.

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Harvest of the Month is looking for schools to participate in this free program. Learn more at:

The new Vermont Community Foundation report, Local Food for Healthy Communities: Bringing Food Security to All Vermonters is at www.vermontcf.org/localfood or call Emily Jacke EJacke@vermontcf.org , 802-388-3355 x285 for more information.

 

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