(11/24/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — The fifth statewide farm to school conference recently held virtually has made the information available to the public for training and information.
Sydney Melhado, Louisiana Farm to School Program assistant in the LSU AgCenter and coordinator for this year’s conference, said all of the conference materials can be accessed online at www.lsuagcenter.com/louisianafarmtoschool and at https://bit.ly/3nz5cKq.
In 2016, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed Act 404, requiring the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop and implement a farm to school program to promote the use of locally grown and raised agricultural products in school nutrition programs.
“In a state with one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country, it is essential for children to learn the value of eating healthy, local food,” said Crystal Besse, Louisiana Farm to School Program director in the AgCenter. “Farm to school is an important tool not only for improving the health of our children but also for strengthening our state’s economy by supporting local food businesses.”
Melhado cited many ways to become involved in farm to school activities, whether in Louisiana or across the country.
“We’re working to make sure that more Louisiana products are being consumed right here in our state,” she said.
The Louisiana Farm to School Program is made possible through an agreement between the AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Education Division of Nutrition Support and is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture, she said.
“Farm to school is an important tool in the fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity,” said Melissa Campbell, farm to school liaison for the Louisiana Department of Education Division of Nutrition, which also administers school meal programs.
“Farm to school projects provide for healthy eating habits among school-age children, and local economies are nourished as well when schools buy the food they provide from local producers,” she said.
The program works to integrate classroom and hands-on activities related to agriculture, food, health and nutrition into the school curriculum and develop farm to school resource materials for local schools and farmers, including a Louisiana Farm to School Handbook, Melhado said.
“We know that some children have no idea where their food comes from,” she said. “So we can have a local farmer do presentations about products they grow and allow the students to sample different foods they may not be used to.”
The Louisiana Farm to School Program offers resources and support to schools and local food producers interested in connecting children with fresh, healthy, local food, Melhado said.