What students can learn with implementation of USDA’s Farm to School program was on display Thursday at Mintonye Elementary School south of Lafayette. It appears there has been a real impact on the students. Purdue University and Indiana State Department of Agriculture officials attended and saw hallways lined with work done by the students.
Lisa Kirkham, project coordinator for K-12 programs at the Discovery Learning Research Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park is helping coordinate the one year old Indiana program.
“We’ve gone from really pulling a group of people together saying we’re interested in this to developing committees,” she explained to HAT. “We’ve written grants and been awarded grants in just a year to help fund this program. Really what we want to be about is providing a vision and leadership and support for this program throughout the state, helping growers and producers connect with schools and being able to get that fresh, tasty, pretty produce into schools so that kids can realize what a difference there is when they can have fresh produce in their school lunches.”
She says Indiana Farm to School has received two USDA small crop specialty block grants which will help get more schools involved.
“One grant we received is to fund a person about half-time to work with the schools in Indiana to travel around and try to connect with about 50 food service workers in the state of Indiana and find out what their needs and interests would be in doing a Farm to School program, and once she finds those 50 that are interested locating producers within about a 30 mile radius of that school district to see what kinds of produce could potentially come into that school. Then she’ll work with those producers and the school personnel to try to make it happen.”
Kirkham says kids and even teachers are benefiting from the Farm to School educational process at Mintonye.
“Teachers have seen changes in their own diet and nutrition habits. As they’ve taught their children they’ve learned things from it. Students have benefited in gaining knowledge about agriculture, and parents have reported that students involved in the programs have reduced TV and video game playing time. We’re not exactly sure why that is but we think maybe it’s because if they feel better because they’re making healthier choices, then maybe they’re wanting to be more active.”
Mintonye principal Rob Skaggs and Lori Shofroth, director of the food service program for Tippecanoe School Corp., helped Kirkham and the Purdue team organize the event.
Jill Pritchard, program manager of Diversified Ag and Entrepreneurial Development for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, said Indiana Farm to School also opens the eyes of students to career choices they might not have considered.
“The USDA reports that the average age of a U.S. farmer today is 52 and that opportunities exist for growers of not just corn and soybeans but specialty crops like pumpkins and grapes, not to mention agritourism,” she said. “Indiana Farm to School presents a forum for highlighting agriculture as a viable career option, connecting our growers with our students.”
Hear the full HAT interview with Lisa Kirkham:Lisa Kirkham on Farm to School