NE Indiana ‘Farm to School’ program strengthening connections between local farmers and students

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Where does our food come from, and who’s grows it? One local partnership is teaching northeast Indiana students the answers to those questions.

For years, “Farm to School” programs have been used nationwide to connect schools with local or regional farmers. Students can learn where that food comes from while schools can have their food sourced by local farmers.

Northeast Indiana did not have their own farm to school program until two years ago. Currently the Northeast Indiana Farm to School team develops sustainable education and agricultural opportunities in the area while supporting healthy living. The program began thanks to an initial $34,000 grant from the U.S.D.A. and has involved collaboration between organizations like Parkview Health, Northeast Indiana Local Food Network and Purdue Extension.

Last month, the U.S.D.A. awarded an additional grant totaling over $96,000 to implement various farm to school programs. This grant will be used to strengthen partnerships with local farmers and educate students on where their food comes from.

Kylee Bennett, Parkview Health’s youth well-being coordinator, focuses on the benefits of farm to school education on students and families. Monthly “Harvest of the Month” videos teach students about various produce and who grows them around northeast Indiana.

“We found that a lot of people, not just kids but some adults too, are not quite understanding where our food is coming from,” Bennett said.

Nearly a dozen local school districts will also benefit from the added Farm to School curriculum, including Fort Wayne Community Schools, East Allen County Schools and Northwest Allen County Schools. Part of the grant money will tie in farm to school education with current state standards.

Learn how Parkview Health is teaching basic gardening skills at their community greenhouse and kitchen.

At the same time, several northeast Indiana school districts will get connected to local farmers. Bennett and her colleagues hope the Farm to School program will also strengthen the local economy.

“There are places that we can go locally, and that’s so important to build on those relationships and know that we have fresh produce that’s out there and available to us,” Bennett said. “People want to work together to bring that into restaurants and schools and businesses. Just to take that platform and build off of it is really great.”

For more information on the Northeast Indiana Farm to School team, check out their website.

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