Are you familiar with the new Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act? It’s also about the new farm-to-school initiative. See the site, Sacramento Area Farm to School Programs – Farm to School Programs. And check out the latest changes being done in Sacramento about helping to give children healthier school lunches. With agricultural sustainability and more green food coming to Sacramento, how much of it will land in local school children’s lunches or breakfasts in public schools?
The latest news is that in the Sacramento-Davis regional area, according to the UC Davis news & information site, a University of California Davis team is leading a new farm-to-school initiative that will help provide children in three Northern California school districts with the healthier school lunches called for in the recently passed federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. See the article which explains the details of this new federal act, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 Child and Adult Care [PDF].
The Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis has begun working with school districts in Oakland, Winters and Redding on a participatory project to expand student access to local, seasonal fresh produce; provide local markets for specialty crop growers; and help integrate school food with nutrition education, school gardens and classroom lessons. The institute recently received a $497,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop the program.
Since its inception in 1977, the Student Farm mentioned on the Agricultural Sustainability Institute’s website has served the UC Davis students and faculty, farmers, gardeners, school children and many others. Its unique program centers around three principles:
1. A focus on sustainable agriculture principles and practices,
2. An emphasis on in-field, experiential learning,
3. The encouragement of student initiative, creativity and exploration.
The Student Farm offers a wide range of opportunities for students to learn about and explore the many aspects of sustainable agriculture. These opportunities include internships, formal courses and research projects.
You can even major in sustainability. UC Davis is developing a new undergraduate major: Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. Yes, the green food movement is in bloom in Sacramento and Davis, especially with this new UC Davis major in sustainable food systems.
In developing the curriculum, UC Davis conducted a survey (see The Delphi Study) to gather input on what knowledge, experiences and skills would be important to include in the major. UC Davis faculty and students are developing a new undergraduate major in sustainable agriculture and food systems.
The major will include several innovative features designed to help students acquire the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to develop and work in more ecologically, economically and socially viable food and farming systems. Information about the major and several new courses developed for the major is available here. Also check out, Information about major and courses and the Delphi Study: Stakeholders inform the curriculum development process.
Meanwhile, the new farm-to-school initiative that will help provide children in three Northern California school districts with the healthier school lunches that the UC Davis team is developing will help those districts improve the nutritional quality of cafeteria meals in order to promote health and address childhood obesity, central concerns of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, according to the news release from UC Davis.
“Providing access to healthy school lunches is a vital part of childhood nutrition, and this program will also help kids develop lifelong healthy eating habits,” said project leader Gail Feenstra, the food systems coordinator at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, in the news release. The UC Davis team will work with the three school districts to benefit more than 50,000 children by increasing the availability of seasonal, local fruits and vegetables in school meals. In about two-thirds of the schools in these districts, at least half of the students receive free and reduced-price lunches.
“Right now, only about four in 10 California kids eat five or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day,” said Feenstra, according to the news release. “The child nutrition bill paves the way for more healthful school lunches, and our program will help connect schools with local farmers who grow the fruits and vegetables that are an important part of healthful meals.”
As part of the program, schools will work with community partners, UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Davis team to design menus that incorporate fresh, local produce. Ultimately, this project will develop farm-to-school methods that can be expanded and replicated by school districts statewide.
This fall, the USDA awarded $55 million in specialty-crops funding; California received nearly $17.3 million, more than any other state. The UC Davis grant will also allow California specialty-crop producers to expand their market opportunities into farm-to-school programs. California is the nation’s largest producer of specialty crops, accounting for 40 percent of the nation’s specialty-crop production according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and dried fruits.
Founded in 2006, the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis works to ensure access to healthy food and promote the vitality of agriculture today and for future generations, through integrative research, education, communication and early action on big, emerging issues. The institute includes the UC statewide Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, the UC Davis Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility and the UC Davis Student Farm. More information from the institute is available online. See, the Agricultural Sustainability Institute.