Farm to school in early care and education exposes young children to healthy, local foods through meals and snacks, taste tests, lessons, cooking activities, gardening, field trips, farmer visits and more. These strategies and activities support healthy development and achievement of learning goals in all types of early care and education settings, including family child care homes, preschools, child care centers, Head Start/ Early Head Start and programs in K-12 school districts.
With 8 million children spending an average of 33 hours per week in early care and education settings, farm to school has the potential to set up a great number of young children for a lifetime of health and wellness. New survey results from the National Farm to School Network show just that: farm to school in early care and education settings is promoting healthy eating habits and providing high quality learning environments for thousands of children at a critical stage of development.
In 2015, the National Farm to School Network surveyed early care and education providers across the country to better understand current initiatives, motivations and challenges in applying farm to school activities in early care and education settings. Nearly 1,500 providers serving 183,369 young children in 49 states and Washington, D.C., responded and shared insight into the important work that they are doing to connect young children to healthy, local foods and food related educational opportunities.
We found that more than 50 percent of respondents were already incorporating farm to school activities into their early care and education settings and another 28 percent plan to start in the future. That means thousands of young children are benefiting from farm to school activities like learning where food comes from, planting and tending gardens, and eating locally grown food in meals and snacks.
Teachers and early care providers agree that farm to school activities help create high quality learning environments that promote life long health and wellness, which are important priorities for children, providers and parents. Respondents identified these as their top three motivations for participating in farm to school:
- Teaches children about where food comes from and how it is grown (95%)
- Improves children’s healthy (95%)
- Provides children with experiential learning (94%)
One child care provider summed it up this way: “The farm to preschool movement makes our programs better in every way.” Farm to school activities are helping early care and education providers reach their goals of setting young children up for a lifetime of health and success.
Want to learn more about the survey results and the role of farm to early care and education in supporting healthy kids and high quality educational opportunities? The National Farm to School Network has developed an infographic and fact sheet highlighting key information from the survey. A complete summary of the survey results will be available in mid-May.
Help us reach more young kids, families, providers and communities with the many benefits of farm to school in early care and education. Share the results of the survey with 5 people you know who care about our next generation, join the National Farm to School Network and connect with farm to school and early care and education leaders in your region.
The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and early care and education settings.