Nebraska Farm to School Summit Coming to Northeast Nebraska

The 2nd Annual Nebraska Farm to School Summit is coming March 18 to the Nielsen Community Center in West Point. The summit brings together schools, growers/producers, and community members to learn about the farm to school initiative in Nebraska. It runs from 1 to 4:30 pm.

At the summit, school personnel will see how they can provide healthy, fresh, local food to students. Growers will learn how to connect with schools and ensure safe food handling practices. Interested community members and parents can connect with the local food movement for their school district. The summit is designed for Food Service Directors, principals, teachers, parents, farmers, ranchers, business owners, and interested community members.

The workshop will consist of 3 breakout sessions that will define the feasibility of a farm to school program (for your school district, farming operation, or community); identify barriers and opportunities; and create a farm to school action plan. Implementing a farm to school program is not a ‘one size fits all.’

This is a timely event that will help connect K-12 schools and local farmers and ranchers, while keeping several objectives in mind: serving healthy, nutritious food in school cafeterias; improving student nutrition; increasing academic achievement through experiential learning; creating educational opportunities relating to agriculture, health, and nutrition; and supporting local and regional farmers and ranchers.

Implementing a statewide local food program in Nebraska is overdue. Two-thirds of school children eat a National School Lunch Program meal, which provides one-third of their total daily calories. Currently, that food travels between 2500 and 4000 miles before reaching their plates. Moreover, nearly one-third of Nebraska children age 10–17 are either overweight or obese, according to a 2007 study compiled by the National Survey of Children’s Health.

These stats make clear the need, importance, and immediate value of a farm to school program. The farm to school initiative not only provides healthy - and tasty - food choices for our children, but it also increases economic opportunities for Nebraska farmers and specialty crop growers.

The summit will provide resources to help Food Service Directors throughout the region connect with local farmers and hear firsthand success stories about how schools across the nation are switching to healthy, local foods. The transition to sourcing school cafeteria food locally won't happen overnight, but it does need to happen. Starting simple, as well as simply starting, is key.

To register for the summit or for more information on the farm to school initiative, visit http://www.cfra.org/farm-to-school or contact me, Caryl Guisinger at carylg@cfra.org; cell 308.850.6041; office 308.357.1000.