AMES, Iowa – In November 2020, partners within the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition were awarded a Farm to Early Care and Education Implementation Grant (FIG) from the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists for their grant titled “Racial Equity in Iowa Farm to School and Early Care: Advancing Outcomes through Process, Programs and Policies.”
With this funding, the Iowa FIG team hosted a two-year pilot of a local food incentive called “Local Food Makes Cents: For Iowa Kids and Farmers.” The nearly 40 participating Early Care and Education providers all enrolled in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, spent close to $60,000 in funding over the two year grant on local food (fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy and grain). Every participant sourced local foods from local farmers, farmers markets or food hubs, and were supported with technical assistance from food system partners.
Iowa early care providers have substantial and growing interest and experience in local food procurement efforts, as evidenced by the number of providers interested in this opportunity. Leveraging this recent experience, grant coordinators have developed the next phase of engagement: The Iowa Farm to ECE Learning Collaborative.
A small cohort of four providers, one licensed center and three child development homes, has been selected to engage in training and technical assistance to:
- Develop a site-based, five-year local procurement plan.
- Learn about and discuss racial equity in early childhood education and local food systems.
- Grow skills and partnerships to be positioned to serve as farm to ECE peer mentors to other childcare professionals and in future regional learning collaboratives.
- Present together at the 2023 Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Conference.
Participating providers and locations include: Tri County Head Start in Waterloo, with Tracey Sauke and Lyz Schmitz; Angela Dobbs Childcare of Waterloo; Dandy-Lion Early Childhood Learning Place, with Becky Kouang, Marshalltown; and Tammy Anderson Alstott, of Fort Dodge.
Grant coordinators and food system partners look forward to this collaborative opportunity to make farm to early care initiatives and planning a fulfilling and enriching experience for the providers, the children and families they serve, and the local farmers and food hubs they support.
"Every provider we get to connect with through this opportunity brings so much passion to their work, their kids and communities,” said Chelsea Krist, a grant coordinator with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Farm, Food and Enterprise Development program. “The providers are full of heart and ideas. We're excited to support them in sharing this with other providers as peer mentors and leaders in Iowa farm to school."
For more information about the 2023 Iowa Farm to ECE Learning Collaborative, contact Chelsea Krist at email@example.com; or Krista Smith, farm to early care and education program coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach, and the Farm to ECE coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shareable photo: Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition Graphic.