By Eleanor Baron
New Hampshire school administrators, nutrition professionals, nurses, teachers and local farmers didn’t need a celebrity chef coming to town to get inspired to change the way our kids eat. With no film crew, no media buzz, creative people have been at work for years in
Since 2003, beginning with making New Hampshire apples and cider available to local schools, children throughout the state have enjoyed fresh, locally produced food as part of their school lunch program. Through the New Hampshire Farm to School Program, food service directors make connections with local farms to buy fresh produce locally. “We have 302 schools, K through 12, participating in the program right now,” says Stacey Purslow, program coordinator. “We’re constantly finding new farms to participate. There’s a big push right now to bring healthier foods into the cafeteria.” Many children discover new foods through the program, expanding their tastes, but that’s an extra benefit, according to Purslow. “Although getting kids to try new foods is important, Farm to School wants kinds to enjoy fresh, local foods, even if they are not new.”
New Hampshire Farm to School, a collaboration of the UNH Office of Sustainability, Share Our Strength and the New Hampshire Coalition for Sustaining Agriculture, works with farmers, distributors, teachers, food service professionals and administrators to adopt farm to school practices, in turn supporting both local economies and agriculture in the state. Program staff will help schools negotiate simple, affordable systems for local purchasing. Through the program’s website, teachers can access curriculum materials, posters, fieldtrip guides, vegetable fact sheets—even stickers—to support the effort year-round in the classroom.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, administered through the New Hampshire Department of Education, provides another boost of support to 95 eligible schools in low income communities. Eligible schools must have 50 percent or higher participation in the free and reduced lunch program. Funds are distributed to the school based on the number of students; between $50 and $75 is allocated per student, and food must be served outside the lunch period. The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program has, in many cases, provided a springboard for other agriculture-related activities in schools, such as school gardens, but the big benefit is getting children eating fresh, healthy foods and, sometimes, trying new foods.
School Nurse Jacque Puk of the
Writing for School Notes this month is Eleanor Baron, director of communications with the New Hampshire Local Government Center. Contact her with your New Hampshire Town and City story ideas by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800.852.3358, ext. 137.
Resources for Healthy Food in Schools
New Hampshire Farm to School Program
Stacey Purslow, Program Coordinator: email@example.com or 603.862.2542