October is National Farm to School Month, the perfect time to celebrate the connections between healthy kids, local food and farmers who bring fresh, nutritious foods to schools in our communities.
From hands-on educational activities in the classroom, visits to the farm and serving local food in the cafeteria, Farm to School helps kids understand where their food comes and supports increased access, knowledge and consumption of local, healthy food.
Did you know milk is the only food that is fresh, local and always in season? In New England, there are about 1,200 dairy farms that produce wholesome, nutritious milk and most live within 100 miles from your school. In fact, it takes just 48 hours or less for the milk to go from cow to you. Now that’s local!
Join in the celebration this month to support local milk and local dairy farmers.
Here are 7 easy ways to celebrate:
1) Hold a Taste Test
Taste tests are a fun way to introduce students to new foods. It allows them to vote on their favorite recipes bringing the voice of the student body into the decision-making process, which could ultimately lead to the development of a student-approved menu.
Start simple by providing samples yogurt parfaits, or try some of our student-tested and approved dairy recipes (select school meal recipes category) to see which your students prefer. Bonus: Invite a dairy farmer to come help pass out samples to help make the local farmer connection or get your students to help prepare and hand out samples!
2) Take a Farm Field Trip
Can you believe that many students have never stepped foot on a farm? Visiting a dairy farm allows students to see firsthand the daily operation of safe milk production and the care dairy farmers give to their land and animals to produce the highest quality of milk. Contact us (submit a general inquiry or reach out to someone from our school/youth wellness staff) to learn more about the dairy farms in your area that offer classroom tours.
3) Bring the Farm to Your Classroom
Can’t make it to the farm? No problem! Invite a dairy farmer from your local community to share his or her story with your class. Or, get virtual! Have students view online these interactive 360° videos of two New England dairy farms to get a behind-the-scenes look of modern farming, innovative technology and how farmers care for their cows to produce the highest quality of milk! Corresponding discussion guides and activities that meet common core standards for health and science can be found here.
If you want to learn more about dairy farming in your state, check out our State-Based Posters about dairy, dairy farming and dairy cows. You can also check out local dairy farmers featured on our website who work hard 365 days a year to ensure milk can be sourced locally year-round.
4) Teach Nutrition in the Classroom
Integrating farm to school activities while teaching nutrition lessons helps make the connection between healthy eating, nutrition and local agriculture. Use our “Build a Healthy Skeleton” promotion materials as a guide to talk to students in the classroom about the role of calcium and dairy in building healthy bones and encourage them to consume 3 servings of dairy a day. Make the cafeteria connection by working with foodservice staff to set a goal and process for tracking for the number of milks used throughout the month. As you progress towards your goal, add bones to build a skeleton cafeteria wall for all students to see.
5) Cook with your students
Hands-on activities like cooking lessons introduce students to new foods and empower them to make healthy choices that last a lifetime. Use these dairy activity cards that provide hands-on “how-to” make butter, ice cream and yogurt with your students in the classroom. The activity also asks science questions incorporating dairy into STEM learning.
6) Make a Bulletin Board
Make teaching students about dairy fun with these Undeniably Fun Facts and State-Based Posters about dairy, dairy farming and dairy cows! Create signs with the facts, print the posters and hang them on the school lobby, classroom and/or cafeteria bulletin board for all students to see.
7) Host a Fun Competition
Get students excited about dairy by planning a smoothie recipe challenge. Invite local farmers, dietitians and other food experts to be guest judges. Check out our Dairy Good Smoothies marketing & promotion resources to make it happen.
As National Farm to School Month kicks off, so does the Fuel Up to Play 60 school year! We invite all Fuel Up to Play schools to share how they kicked off the school year by celebrating local dairy farmers and the nutritious dairy foods they enjoy for a chance to receive a smoothie bike and Ultimate Smoothie Party for their school. Visit our contest page at www.NewEnglandDairy.com/BTSContest to enter.
To learn more about dairy in farm to school, check out our Farm to School page.