October is National Farm to School Month. It’s the perfect time to celebrate farmers who provide fresh, local, nutritious foods to our schools.
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 from and supports increased access, knowledge, and consumption of local, healthy foods.
Dairy milk is a fresh and local food that is always in season. There are over 1,000 dairy farming families in New England dedicated to making nutritious dairy products while being good stewards of the land, their cows, and their communities — and most live within 100 miles of your school. It takes just 48 hours or less for milk to go from the cow to store shelves. Now that’s local!
Join this month’s celebration to support local milk and 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. Bring the voice of the student body into the decision-making process by having kids vote on their favorite recipes, which could ultimately lead to the development of a student-approved menu.
Start simple by sampling smoothies or yogurt parfaits. Additional student-tested and approved dairy recipes here.
Bonus: invite a dairy farmer to help pass out samples to further make the local farmer connection.
2. Take a Farm Field Trip
Visiting a dairy farm allows students to see firsthand the daily operation behind safe milk production and the care dairy farmers provide to their land and animals. Contact your local Dairy Council representative to learn which dairy farms in your area offer classroom tours.
3. Bring the Farm to Your Classroom
Invite a dairy farmer from your local community to share his or her story with your class. Check out the New England dairy farmers featured on our website to see which farms are local to you.
Or go virtual. Students can view interactive 360° videos of two New England dairy farms to get a behind-the-scenes look at modern farming. Corresponding discussion guides and activities that meet common core standards for health and science can be found here.
We also have live virtual farm tour recordings tailored to each grade level for more lessons on cow care, innovative technology, and sustainability practices.
4. Teach Nutrition in the Classroom
Integrating farm to school activities while teaching about nutrition helps make the connection between healthy eating and local agriculture. Use our Build a Healthy Skeleton promotion materials as a guide to talk to students about the role of calcium in building healthy bones and encourage them to consume three servings of dairy a day.
Make the cafeteria connection by working with foodservice staff to set a goal and process for tracking the number of milks consumed throughout the month. As you progress towards your goal, add bones to build a skeleton cafeteria wall for all students to see.
5. Food Science Activities for Students
Make Yogurt, Butter, or Ice Cream in the classroom with easy, hands-on instructions that incorporate STEM learning.
6. Design a Bulletin Board
Utilize our Build Your Own Bulletin Board Classroom Activity to create a Farm to School masterpiece. Get students involved by letting them design the display. They’ll learn about their local farmers while flexing their creativity.
7. Host a Fun Competition
Get students excited about dairy by hosting a smoothie-making contest at your school. Invite local farmers, dietitians, and other food experts to be guest judges. Check out our Dairy Good Smoothies marketing & promotion resources for our blend-off contest materials, recipe guide, marketing tips, and more.
As National Farm to School Month kicks off, so does National School Lunch Week. This year it takes place October 10th through the 14th. The National School Lunch Program serves nearly 30 million children every school day. President John F. Kennedy created National School Lunch Week in 1962 to promote the importance of a healthy school lunch. For more details on school lunch, check out USDA’s How School Lunch is Made learning guide for middle school students. This guide helps students learn about school lunch and how they can help provide feedback to the program at their school.
There are so many opportunities to celebrate and highlight dairy in October. You can weave dairy into your National Farm to School Month or National School Lunch Week (10/10-10/14) plans and maximize specific moments like National Taco Day (10/4), National Farmers Day (10/12), and National Oatmeal Day (10/29). For additional ideas to engage students, sample social media posts, promotional ideas, recipes, and more visit our Digital Dairy Activation Guide for October.
To learn more about dairy in farm to school, visit our Dairy Farm to School page.