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Healthy Habits Take Root: Farm to School in Iowa

Farm to School programs get more local and healthy foods on the trays of students, while providing more markets for the state's farmers. Credit: Steve Debenport.
Farm to School programs get more local and healthy foods on the trays of students, while providing more markets for the state's farmers. Credit: Steve Debenport.
August 17, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa - Class will soon be back in session for children across Iowa and an ever growing number of students will find local foods being served in school cafeterias.

Tammy Stotts is the Farm to School coordinator for the state for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

She says programs to bring local produce into the lunch lines have really taken off in recent years and among the most popular items in the fall are tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.

"The momentum is great," says Stotts. "More and more schools are getting involved in offering kids local foods. There's more education behind it. There's more hands-on learning and we're really excited for this next year."

According to the USDA, in Iowa there are around 460 schools with more than 180,000 children bringing the farm to school.

It's also estimated more than a third of school districts in the state have edible gardens. Stotts says they are a great way to combine healthy eating and education.

"Because you're teaching the students about the growth cycle and the work behind it, the nutritional aspect," she says. "And you're giving them a chance to actually participate in feeding themselves a little bit and that is a great lesson."

Food to School Month will be celebrated in October, which will include a Food Day on the 22 where schools in Iowa and other states in the Midwest will serve a coordinated lunch tray with local and regional offerings.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA