A good conference results in the depletion of vitamin D, the sunlight vitamin. A fantastic conference causes you to toss your dream of attending a Detroit Tigers game. And that's what is happening to me at the US Farm To School Conference. Everyone is here from all facets of the food system in US schools and everyone has a story. After 10 years here is what we can aspire to in a short period of time: - there is a program in every State, and the Farm To School network supports 10,000 projects at the local, regional, and national level:
- farmers that contract directly with school kitchens, getting the best price for products that are fresh from the tree or ground
- food service chefs that give students control over what they eat as long as it's healthy. And guess what, participation in school lunch programs increases dramatically
- budgetary support from government even in these economic times like funding for the school-based Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Program and providing separate funding for school food
- Learning Labs at universities to engage large food service providers like Compass, Aramark and Sodexo and help them change their food systems to incorporate local and fresh
- Foundations such as Kellogs and CS Mott, who are committed to helping Farm To School achieve it's goals
- research on local economic, health and learning benefits of eating healthy foods
- and in our west, BC's food in schools program were for $15,000 elementary schools without kitchens can set up a salad bar stand and purchase an industrial dishwasher, a fridge and prep tools, serving fresh veggies, fruit, grains and protein for $3/meal for students and on and on...
With over 30 Canadians here learning about what can be done and sharing our successes, expect even more local fresh food in our schools - the opportunities to make this happen are endless. I have my fingers-crossed for a cameo appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama and would even be excited to see Jamie Oliver, what are the chances.....?
-- Shelley Petrie (Shelley is the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation’s Grants Program Director)