Target: Novella Fraser, President of Washington State Parents and Teachers Association
Goal: Encourage healthy students and protect the environment by connecting public schools with local farms.
Beginning in 2008 the Washington State Department of Agriculture developed and implemented the Farm-to-School Program to encourage positive relationships between schools and local farms. This program worked towards providing farmers with economic opportunity while engaging students in their health, food, the environment and their community. Washington State eliminated this vital program in 2011 due to budget cuts. Since then, the challenges the program sought to address have only become more difficult. Rates of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases are staggering, especially among children. While the economic recession has forced programs like this one to cease, it has also made it more difficult for children to access healthy food, and simultaneously, for small farms to survive.
Farm-to-school programs across the United States have proven to be successful in addressing some of the country’s most pressing challenges at their roots since the turn of the 21st century. By connecting schools to local farms and creating schoolyard gardens with students, these programs engage all children in their own health, sustenance and quality of life. At the same time, they help students see a connection between education, livelihood and community. As part of public school curricula, these programs reduce disparities between socio-economic classes in regard to access to healthy food, nutrition education, quality of life and good health; and they bring people together around the vital pursuit of growing and eating food.
We need to make the Farm-to-School Program a legislative priority this year. Similar programs around the country exemplify that it would be remarkably beneficial to Washington communities; it would raise awareness and support for local farms; while at the same time encouraging a local, sustainable economy. Students and their families would gain engagement and empowerment in regard to health, education, the natural environment, the local economy, and their community.
Dear Novella Fraser,
The Washington State Farm-to-School Program, which was eliminated in 2011, sought to address the most important issues we are facing in America today: namely diet-related diseases, shortcomings in public education, and dependence on cheap food and unsustainable, input-intensive agriculture. The economic recession, which necessitated the end of the Farm-to-School Program, has made these challenges even more severe.
By connecting public schools to local, small farms, this program would support struggling farmers and farm businesses economically, while providing healthy food, and nutrition and agricultural education to students. Students would learn, likely for the first time, where food comes from. They would gain access to food that makes them healthy rather than disease-prone, and they would be involved in not only their own sustenance and health, but in that of their community and natural environment.
Without this comprehensive program, our children, environment, education system, local economies, and communities will continue to be disconnected, impaired and at-risk. Please support the Farm-to-School Program in Washington State so that it can resume working to ensure a healthy and productive future for our children and communities.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: La Flaf via Flickr