Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition connects youth to healthy, local foods

Students pose with homemade pizza featuring garden grown produce, Postville Community School District.

Many children in Iowa are enjoying access to and learning about local foods through their schools or childcare facilities because of the efforts of dedicated groups of people who make up the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care (F2SEC) Coalition.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is one of 24 organizations that make up the coalition, which is the result of the merger in 2020 of the Iowa Food to School and Iowa Farm to Early Care and Education Coalitions.

The endeavor to promote healthy eating among Iowa youth began in 2007, when lawmakers established a program to link schools with local food producers and to provide children with hands-on, healthy learning. That year, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) formed the Iowa Farm to School Coalition. In 2016, realizing the need for the early childcare sector to receive the same support for and benefits of locally sourced food, food education, and on-site gardening, the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) established the Iowa F2SEC Coalition.

The Iowa Farm to School Coalition and the Iowa Farm to ECE Coalition operated independently from 2016 to 2019. During that time, both groups created professional development opportunities, trainings, collaborative grants, educational resources, and partnerships—but with some duplication of efforts. Leaders and members of both coalitions collectively decided to merge in 2020.

Currently co-chaired by specialists in ISU Extension and Outreach’s Farm Food and Enterprise Development (FFED) program, the Iowa F2SEC Coalition supports the efforts of a statewide network of stakeholders such as childcare providers, K–12 teachers, families, food-service staff, farmers, food hubs, and other food system and education partners. Three strategy teams bring the coalition’s work to life, organizing opportunities and funding for statewide local food procurement, food education, and network development.

The Iowa F2SEC Coalition is the only stakeholder group in Iowa serving children from birth through age 18. Working at the intersection of education and food in an increasingly diverse state, coalition members view equity as a core value and are committed to engaging in culturally responsive and reflective practices.

To learn about the Iowa F2SEC Coalition current, grants, training, and events, visit the website ( To get involved with the coalition, e-mail