We believe that fostering a deeper connection to the way our food is produced can help empower students to make healthier choices for life. And we are not alone. All across the world, community efforts to bring fresh fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers into school lunch programs have increased in recent years.
These efforts are key components of what has come to be known as the “Farm-to-School” movement. Agrarian Adventure has been leading local efforts to this end, as well as networking regionally and nationally to create and implement Farm-to-School efforts in public schools.
The Agrarian Adventure has been instrumental in creating and helping lead the Ann Arbor Farm to School Collaboration, which is a cross-sector partnership that includes Ann Arbor Public Schools, Chartwells Dining Services (the food service provider in local schools), University of Michigan Project Healthy Schools, Washtenaw County Public Health, and the Food System Economic Partnership.
The collaboration exists to facilitate the sharing of resources between these groups, thus increasing the efficiency with which we can bring more healthy, fresh food to students.
Our efforts to this end are facilitated through two areas of programming:
1. Bringing Local Food into School Cafeterias
Since 2007, the Agrarian Adventure has been a key leader in brining locally-sourced items to the Ann Arbor Public Schools as part of the school lunch program operated by Chartwells Dining Services. Additionally, during the 2010-2011 school year, Agrarian Adventure worked closely with students, teachers, and Chartwells, to serve food grown by students as part of their science coursework.
This effort represents one of the first successful school garden to cafeteria efforts in a district with a contracted food service provider. Best practices learned from this pilot are currently being disseminated.
Chartwells has continued to regularly feature locally-sourced fruits and vegetables in all Ann Arbor public school cafeterias in September and October. These “Farm Fresh Features” have been expanded over the years to feature local, cooked vegetables on the hot bar along with incorporation in the salad bar.
2. Farmer in the Classroom Program
Through this program, local farmers, chefs, and food artisans visit classrooms throughout Ann Arbor and the surrounding area to bring their perspective and their food directly to students during the school day. These visits allow students to taste local fruits and vegetables and learn about how they are produced, hear about farming as a career, and learn about other topics directly related to classroom curriculum and state standards.
The visits are made possible through dedicated community volunteers and the Ann Arbor Farm-to-School Collaboration, that together match interested farmers and food producers with teachers interested in hosting a visit. Our organization provides logistical support, as well as lesson-plan ideas and support for farmers throughout this process to ensure that each visit is an effective educational experience.