From Farm to School: Know Your Foods
Where do nutritious dairy foods come from? What about fruits, vegetables and whole grains you find at the store? Help students learn more about healthy eating and the nutrients that fresh dairy and other farmed foods provide by organizing awareness events highlighting the origin of these foods and why they are healthy choices. Host an assembly highlighting fresh foods, including low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, plus fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
How Does It Work?
Learning about the work of dairy and other farmers in producing healthy, nutrient-rich foods can help students better appreciate the variety of foods they might choose and where those foods come from. And, building awareness through "point of purchase" promotions and offering incentives can increase their consumption.
The following steps are suggestions for how to complete the Play — but they can be done in any order or combination and can be altered to fit your needs. If you find ways to adapt this Play to fit your school, share it with us through the Tips section!
Meet with school nutritional professionals and the principal to get approval for your idea and to gain their support. Work with your school team to do some planning.
Build awareness about the benefits of nutrient-rich dairy and other farmed foods by creating "point of purchase" promotions during food service. Work with the school nutrition staff to create displays of low-fat and fat-free dairy and seasonal fruits and vegetables closer to the check-out line. Research shows these types of promotions can impact healthy eating choices.
Consider offering an incentive program to encourage increased consumption of fresh foods. Research indicates that providing small incentives on a particular day or over time can increase selection and consumption of nutrient-rich foods while decreasing cafeteria waste of these items. This benefits students and the school budget. (See From Our Teammates research links below.)
Create a "Farm to School Snack Table" in the cafeteria and offer samples of the various foods produced by farmers, including low-fat and fat-free dairy and seasonal fruits and vegetables. As students sample each food, talk about the nutrients they are providing their bodies and how the farmer's work makes these health benefits possible.
Hold taste tests for fresh dairy and seasonal foods, and survey students to see which options could be successful new school menu items.
To invite a farmer to your school event, go to the Dairy Council Directory on the National Dairy Council website. Locate the phone number for your state or regional Dairy Council and contact the Dairy Promotion Office.
If farms are not close enough for a class trip, ask a parent or group of volunteers to visit farms and take pictures to create a photo frame slideshow that can be shown in the school meals service line. Include pictures of the farm and the work it takes to produce dairy and seasonal foods.
Spread the Word
Have students create "Know Your Foods" posters showing the path foods take from the farm to your lunchroom. Have them highlight the fresh new dairy and other farmed foods they have tried and started eating regularly, including the health benefits they provide. Post the posters in the cafeteria and around the school to encourage other students to eat more nutritious foods. Use the From Our Teammates resources below to help students find those messages.
Get Others Involved
Everyone can help:
- Volunteer to help run the “Farm to School” snack table and hold taste tests
- Work with school nutrition personnel to develop healthy eating messages and organize promotions and incentives
- Identify local farmers who can speak about their work and invite them to visit the school, or work with them to create the photo frame slideshow collection
- Secure donations from local businesses to use in incentive programs
- Select the best times and places to hold incentive activities
- Choose fresh dairy foods and seasonal fruits and vegetables to serve
- Inform families about the activities and the benefits of serving fresh dairy and seasonal fruits and vegetables at home