What You'll Learn
Where food and dairy in your area comes from and about the work of local farms.
What You'll Do
Bring locally produced food and dairy into your school in a practical way.
Why This Play
This Play has two important parts: education (i.e., learning about farm-raised and farm-grown food and dairy in your area and understanding their benefits) and implementation (i.e., bringing locally produced food and dairy into your school in a practical way that fits local and school regulations and budgets).
It may even inspire students to learn more about a career in farming! There’s more to it than they may think!
You’ll collaborate with local farms and organizations that can provide expertise to help raise awareness about the great work that’s probably being done right in your school’s backyard.
Learning about the work of dairy and other farmers in producing nutritious foods can help students better appreciate the variety of foods available and where those foods come from.ii
Local food sourcing and farm-to-school initiatives can also benefit the local economy,iii may help the environmentvi and can be used to teach kids about where their food comes fromv. And, according to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, schools with robust farm-to-school programs report reductions in food waste, higher school meal participation rates and increased willingness of students to try new foods.vi See the video below to learn more.
Warm Up Activity Idea!
Not quite ready for the full Play? Try this.
Work with local dairy farmers and processors to host regular smoothie events at your school. Invite local produce farmers to bring their resources and make them veggie-smoothie events! Run one every month if possible and work with the farmers to see about broadening the program to create a more robust farm-to-school program.
What to Do
Understanding where your food comes from and trying new, nutritious options is just the start of building healthier eating habits. Remember, this Play is about two things: education (i.e., students learning where their food comes from) and implementation (i.e., getting more farm-fresh foods on your school menu).
⚠️ Note: In any Play where you plan to work with school meals or à la carte offerings, you must involve the school nutrition director and other professionals! If that’s not you, be sure to contact that team before you get started.
Step 1: Education
Take a virtual field trip to visit a dairy farm to follow milk from the farm to your glass. You can find virtual field trips in the Fuel Up to Play 60 Homeroom.
- Take note of all the various people working on the farm and learn what they do. Use this Who’s Who in the Food System to have students reflect back on the people the met during the virtual tour to what they’ve already learned about what goes on in modern-day farming.
If there is a local farm close to your school, consider scheduling a field trip. Be sure to document your trip with photos and/or videos.
Then, use these STEM curriculum lessons to help students learn more about how farmers protect the environment, how food gets from the farm to school, and the science behind fermentation:
- Converting Poop to Power: Examine how farmers and scientists are engaging in sustainable farming practices to create energy and other renewable products.
- Creating My Plate: Teach students what it means to compose healthy, balanced meals and how to reduce food waste in the process.
- Our Perspective: From Farm to Table: Explore real-world innovation in the dairy community plus teach students the magic and science behind fermentation.
You can also check out the Fuel Up to Play 60 Learning Plan for additional classroom-ready resources on this topic.
Step 2: Implementation
Get local foods on the menu.
Hold taste tests with students to have them try local, seasonal food items (suggested budget of $0.60 per student — not covered by Fuel Up to Play 60 Funds).
- Incorporate local dairy foods by having a smoothie taste test using local fruits and vegetables blended with low-fat yogurt and/or milk, or pair a serving of different types of low-fat cheeses with local, seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Use these breakfast recipes as part of your Healthy Eating Play and make sure students know that milk is one of the local food categories offered daily in schools — fresh and always in season!
Work with your school nutrition professionals to identify foods that are produced locally. Then develop a plan to start adding those foods to the school menu.
- Start small by swapping out one or two main items for local and seasonal alternatives and build from there.
- Create displays in the cafeteria highlighting new foods and the farms — and farmers! — they come from. Tell the story of how each food is grown, raised or produced and finds its way to your school.
Here are some optional extension activity ideas for Steps 1 and 2.
Step 3: Learn about the Future of Farming
Help students build your program by having them learn about the future of farming.
There are lots of ways to participate in or support local and regional efforts, including farming. Consider developing partnerships with your local 4-H club or nearest Future Farmers of America chapter. Find ways to involve students more in learning about farming and build relationships between your school and these organizations.
Use some of these examples to help students learn more:
Who Can Help
You are not in this alone. There are many people who can help make this Play a success. For this Play, you’ll need the help of your school nutrition professionals. Meet with them first to talk about the goals of the Play and what seems most “doable” in your school. Here’s a list of some of the people who can help with this Play and some specific ways they can do that.
School Nutrition Professionals
- Help with strategy and nutritious food selection to bring locally grown, produced or raised foods into the school food-service program
- Participate in assemblies with farmers to talk about the value of farm-fresh foods
- Approve your plan and its various field trips and assemblies
- Engage with school nutrition staff, teachers and custodians to get their support
- Encourage student participation
Local Dairy Council
- Help connect you with a local farmer
- Participate in field trips, taste tests and other activities
- Encourage student participation
- Assist with taste tests and menu selections
- Encourage peers to participate
- Help get information about farms and food companies in your area
- Volunteer to help with activities
School Transportation Personnel
- Provide buses and drivers for field trips
- Use this Farm to School Community Roster to find out more about how outside organizations can help.
As with any game that’s worth playing and winning, you are bound to run into challenges. That's why getting help from others is so important. You’ll be more likely to achieve your goals when everyone works together.
Host an assembly and invite a local dairy or other farmer to talk about his or her work.
- Ask your local Dairy Council to help you find a farmer in your area.
- Brainstorm questions in advance, such as: What does it take to create milk and other nutrient-rich dairy foods? How do dairy farmers care for their cows and the land, and how does this impact the quality of the milk? How does food get from the farm to your school tray?
Ask your school nutrition professionals to participate in the assembly by explaining the benefits of enjoying foods from the farms in your region and ask classroom teachers to have follow-up discussions in class.
- Be sure to emphasize that it is dairy farmers who support Fuel Up to Play 60 and the importance of both nutrition and physical activity.
- Have students thank the farmers for working so hard to make sure we have nutrient-rich foods and beverages that are both nutritious and delicious.
Create a “Farm-to-School Snack Table” in the cafeteria and offer samples of the various foods produced by local and regional farmers, including low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese, yogurt and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Create a sign for each item that explains the nutrients in that food or beverage and tells a little about the farm it comes from.
- Take it further with your students and check out the FUTP 60 Learning Plan and the lesson available there.
This section features ideas on ways to involve everyone in your school and community. Think about ideas for differentiating between older and younger students and ways to bring in the family connection.
Build student leadership opportunities. As much as possible, have students do the planning and run your programs.
- This Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum, developed by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, can help high school students get involved at a substantial level with a farm-to-school program. Even if you’re not using the program, adults and students can get some ideas for how to engage students in specific leadership roles.
- Look into the possibility of students earning service learning hours.
- Don’t have a farm that’s within easy traveling distance from your school? Work with your local Dairy Council to build a mentoring relationship with a farmer who is willing.
- You can set up regular Facetime or Zoom calls, email correspondence or telephone calls where you can ask questions and get advice or answers straight from the farmer.
- By building a long-term relationship with your region’s farmers, you can open doors for more farm-to-school teamwork and opportunities for students and their classmates to explore careers in agriculture.
- See this Farm to School Cooking in the Classroom guide, and check out Curriculum Connections for more ideas.
Put students in the driver’s seat as much as possible. They’ll learn valuable life lessons on how to plan and implement programs, and they’ll feel great about helping their school!
- Volunteer to run the farm-to-school snack table and hold taste tests.
- Identify local farmers — especially dairy farmers — who can talk about their work and invite them to speak at your school.
- Create posters, photo slideshows and videos to share information about the farmers in your community and the hard work they do to help provide nutritious foods.
- Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables and local or regional dairy foods like milk for taste tests and to highlight in the cafeteria.
- Inform their families about the active role dairy farmers are taking to support students through Fuel Up to Play 60.
Homefield Advantage: Check out this resource and share it with parents and caretakers so they can see what they can do to help at home and at school.
Help Build the Whole Fuel Up to Play 60 Community
Encourage students to download the Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Zone app.
- National Dairy Council: Dairy Good - Tips to Help Bring the Farm to School
- USDA Farm to School Toolkit
- National Farm to School Network: Getting Started Tip Sheet
- How to Involve Your Community
- National Farm to School Network
- New York Times and MilkPEP: Fresh Look: How Milk Travels, and Why it Matters
- Farm to School: Getting Schooled on Dairy Farming
- Maine Dairy & Nutrition: Know Your Farmer