Local educators and community members can learn how to provide elementary and high school students with healthy meals and nutrition education through a new training program offered by Purdue Extension in partnership with the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE) program.
The Farm-to-School Professional Development Training initiative will help connect local schools with area farmers, said program organizer Jodee Ellett, local foods coordinator for Purdue Extension.
“Buying healthy foods from local producers can be as cost-effective as purchasing from a distributor,” Ellett said. “Often local school districts want to start a farm-to-school program but don’t know how.”
Participants will learn how to procure locally sourced meats and vegetables for food service operations, as well as how to incorporate good eating habits into the general education curriculum.
“You can start small, maybe having a food day in the fall, starting a school garden or using healthy food as a theme in various classes,” Ellett said.
Each participating school or district will create an action committee consisting of 6-10 members. Team members could include administrators, principals, teachers, school wellness coordinators, community wellness coordinators, food service directors, parent volunteers, local farmers and Extension educators. Members could also come from local food hubs, county health departments and funding agencies.
Each committee will work through the process of designing and implementing a farm-to-school program.
“Leadership is important, but the training will help educators galvanize the entire community in the effort to help students develop healthier eating habits,” Ellett said. “Participants will come with their ideas and leave with a plan.”
Five action committees from throughout the state will be selected to participate in the training. All Indiana K-12 schools and districts, public and private, are eligible to apply.
Action committee members will be required to attend a one-day workshop on Aug. 29 in a central location. Participation is free, funded through a USDA grant. The application deadline is June 15.
The application is available online at https://www.purdue.edu/dffs/localfood/purdue-resources/f2straining/. A paper version is also available to download.