New farm to school report: programs blossoming across Iowa

September 29, 2020
Students hold trays with pizzas.
Postville students with homemade local pizzas.

In spite of challenges posed by COVID-19, Iowa’s farm to school and early care work has blossomed in 2020. Two statewide coalitions made up of more than 20 organizations merged earlier this year to make the movement even more powerful.

The newly formed Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition recently released its first annual report. Here are some exciting highlights!

  • More than 200,000 Iowa youth at 1,003 sites participated in farm to school and early care activities in 2019-20.
  • 469 of these sites hosted on-site gardens where students learned to grow, harvest and prepare delicious, healthy vegetables.
  • 390 school districts and early care sites bought food from local farmers to serve their youth. They spent more than $500,000 on this food, boosting both healthy eating and the farmers’ bottom line.
  • Iowa farm to school and early care programs earned $375,494 in grant dollars to support their programs last year.
Zucchini taste test.
Zucchini taste test.

Program highlights

The coalition and its members created a wide variety of programs to build capacity for more sites to participate in farm to school work. Here’s a sample from 2019-20:

  • 2019 Iowa Local Food Day. On October 11, 2019, more than 280 schools and 10 early care sites around Iowa served at least two locally sourced items at breakfast and lunch—in 107,900 meals! Meal participation jumped that day at 33% of sites. All of the participants said they’d do it again this year. Want to join them? Learn more about how to get engaged in the 2020 Iowa Local Food Day on October 14!
  • Farm to early care training series. This virtual training will launch later this fall, to educate ECE professionals around the state on farm to ECE and how to implement it at their site. Led by the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children, funded by WK Kellogg Foundation.
  • Iowa Nutrition Network school grant program. Introduces students to healthy foods through an interactive nutrition lesson called Pick a better snack. Impacts: 14,478 children participated at 32 sites, including 30 school gardens and $58,132 in subgrants awarded to local partners. Led by the Iowa Department of Public Health, funded by SNAP-Ed.

“What I liked is the excitement you see with these activities. The kids never saw anything like this before.”

—Ihsan Yaseen, director of AlRazi Academy Early Childhood Center
Farm to school month animation.
October is National Farm to School Month!

Learn more about the rest of the amazing work going on statewide with farm to school on our network page. And here are some COVID-19 resources regarding farm to school and early care.

Interested in more info on farm to early care? Here’s the executive summary of the 2020 Iowa Farm to Early Care report. Watch for the full report in October.

Want to get your school or early care site involved? Questions about the reports? Contact Chelsea Krist (farm to school coordinator) and Arlene Enderton (evaluator). And stay tuned for the coalition’s new website to go live at www.iowafarmtoschoolearlycare.org!