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"Farm to Childcare" Ready to Grow Statewide

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PHOTO: Farm to Childcare connects childcare providers with local growers to bring fresh, local foods to kids in the years when their taste preferences and healthy habits are forming. Photo courtesy New Horizon Academy.
PHOTO: Farm to Childcare connects childcare providers with local growers to bring fresh, local foods to kids in the years when their taste preferences and healthy habits are forming. Photo courtesy New Horizon Academy.
July 21, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. – An effort to get more fresh, healthy and local foods on the plates of children in day care is now ready to roll out across Minnesota.

The development of the Farm to Childcare curriculum was led by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Erin McKee VanSlooten, senior program associate of the institute’s Farm to Institution, says after a two-year pilot project, the curriculum has just been released for use statewide.

"That makes it available to any other child care providers,” she points out. “If they're in centers, if they're in Head Start locations, if they're family care providers that work out of their home – anybody can access these resources and then adapt them to their own situations, for free."

The other partner in the initiative, New Horizon Academy, now has Farm to Childcare in all 62 of its centers in Minnesota.

Cara Johnson-Bader, director of parent experiences for the New Horizon Academy, says it's important to introduce young children to fresh foods, as their taste preferences are forming in the early years.

She also notes that many of the children are bringing those healthy habits learned in child care back home.

"In fact, we had 48 percent of our families that were surveyed say that they did something different at home because of the program,” she says. “And it was things like eating fresh fruits and vegetables, or buying more local foods. And we thought that that was just amazing."

In addition to improving children's health and educating them about farming, cooking and healthy eating, Van Slooten says the program provides a boost for the economy by supporting Minnesota agriculture.

"The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy really got into the Farm to Institution work because we want to support our local growers, and provide a new market for them," she says.

The Farm to Childcare curriculum is available on the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's website.

Each week, more than 350,000 Minnesota children under age six are in some type of child care setting.




John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN