Sustainable’s CAPE’s Farmer-in-the-School Program incorporates gardening and healthy eating directly into the school curriculum and children’s lives. Piloted in Truro Public Schools, the Farmer-in-the-School program now operates in seven elementary schools on Cape Cod from Brewster to Provincetown.
The program grew out of a 2013 report on existing food education programs and needs in schools throughout Barnstable County, produced by Sustainable CAPE for the Eos Foundation. We analyzed what works and what doesn’t, and learned a great deal about past successes and failures from a broad spectrum of schools. Based on our findings we developed a program that interweaves five key components:
- Farmer-in-the-School – Visits classrooms year-round to provide fun, hands-on instruction in gardening
- School garden – Children engage directly in producing food
- School cafeteria – Food grown in the school garden is incorporated in nutritious lunchtime meals
- Academic curriculum – Incorporates gardening into school lessons
- State Health & Wellness Curriculum or School Nurse – Provides additional education on the importance of healthful foods to our body, community and environment
In addition, the Farm-to-School program links children to farmer’s markets through spring and fall field trips, and Fresh Kid Awards – gift certificates donated to each student and redeemable at the Truro Educational Farmers’ Market. These certificates not only enable each child to purchase healthy food for their family at a local farmers’ market at no cost, but can double as education about the benefits and incentives available to low-income families at farmer’s markets.
Through the Farmer-in-the-School program we increase a school’s food production while linking the cafeteria, school curriculum and health & wellness instruction to the garden. We model a new school culture focused on health as well as education. And by linking schoolchildren to farmer’s markets, we connect children to “real world” farmers and SNAP incentive programs for healthful foods. We are able to strengthen not only the health of the next generation, but the health of our community as a whole.