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Farm to School

Staff Perspective Justin Watkins

The majority of children in San Mateo County and across the country are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Get Healthy San Mateo County (GHSMC) is working hard to change that by supporting Farm to School initiatives in San Mateo County schools that encourage students to become more engaged in the food system and increase their interest in lifelong healthy eating. Rooted in the belief that chronic disease can be prevented by using a variety of approaches to encourage systems and behavior change, the Farm to School movement provides multiple strategies to improve the health and wellness young people.

Farm to School programs have a long history of connecting students to local agriculture with the goal of improving student health by increasing their consumption of locally grown fruits and vegetables. Many students in San Mateo County have never planted, grown, harvested or cooked their own food. Farm to School programs introduce students to hands-on garden-based learning and cooking programs, nutrition education, farm fieldtrips, and increasing the amount of local produce in the school meals. Garden-based education uses the school garden as an outdoor classroom to introduce children to how their food is grown, what makes healthy food healthy, and why it’s important to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

The San Mateo County School Farm in Half Moon Bay is a great example of the work we are doing to connect students to the local food system. The School Farm was established over six years ago through a partnership between the San Mateo County Health System, the HEAL Project, and Cabrillo Farms, with the goal of providing students from San Mateo County schools the opportunity to learn more about where their fruits and vegetables come from. By providing students experiential learning opportunities through fieldtrips and summer camps, the farm teaches students about all aspects of sustainable agriculture.

More recently, GHSMC expanded our Farm to School work to support schools in procuring more local produce for their school meal programs. The Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) was awarded 2016 GHSMC Community implementation funding to connect local school districts with regional farmers to increase the amount of local produce in schools meals. CAFF convened the first ever San Mateo County Farm to School Summit in April 2016 to inform schools about the new program. They then identified school districts that were interested in participating and worked with produce distributors to identify regional farms to source the produce from. With several local school districts participating in the program, many San Mateo County students are now getting the chance to eat local produce in their school meals for the first time.

These strategies are helping to make the healthy choice the easy choice when it comes to eating more fruits and vegetables for San Mateo County students. To learn more about these and other Farm to School projects happening in San Mateo County schools, visit to gethealthysmc.org/HealthySchools and gethealthysmc.org/HealthyFood.  

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