|Illinois Farm to School Program Promotes Healthy, Local Foods|
|Written by Healthy Newspaper|
|Thursday, 26 April 2012 18:28|
Urbana, Illinois, April 2012 — It should be a no-brainer when considering bringing food grown in Illinois to the plates of children in Illinois schools. Moreover, most consumers like the idea of eating local food. However, less than 5 percent of the food consumed in Illinois is produced locally. Transportation costs account for 10 to 20 percent of what people must pay for food products.
State legislators recognized this as a serious problem— and passed the Illinois Local Farm, Food and Jobs Act in 2009. The act mandates that, by 2020, 10 percent of the food served in schools should be from Illinois farms. http://www.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/reg/register
The Illinois Farm to School program, through its membership in the national Farm to School Network, is working toward meeting this challenge. The network launched in 1996 as a pilot project in California and Florida; today there are over 2,000 programs in eight regions covering all 50 states.
The network brings K-12 schools together with local farms with the objective of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing education, and supporting local and regional farmers. Local products are included in school meal breakfasts, lunches, and in after-school and classroom snacks.
As part of the ongoing commitment to “put knowledge to work,” University of Illinois Extension Services has taken the Illinois Farm to School program under its umbrella, and in January 2012, hired Julia Govis as program coordinator. Govis has volunteered in the program for several years, working with individuals and organizations to foster a presence statewide.
Govis works with the State Board of Education, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Public Health as well as the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor. “I reach out to these agencies to address barriers or obstacles within our state that I’m made aware of as communities work toward creating their own unique programs,” said Govis.
Govis also works with volunteers across Illinois to coordinate efforts that include “getting more locally grown, fresh produce into school cafeterias, establishing school gardens on school premises, or taking field trips to farms.”
More information about the Illinois Farm to School program is available at http://www.farmtoschool.org/state-home.php?id=35 .
Farmers who want to find nearby customers for their product, or schools looking for locally produced goods to find a grower, can go to the MarketMaker National Network website at
SOURCE: University of Illinois Extension