On October 18th, NHSA and National Farm to School Network are announcing “Celebrate Farm to Head Start Day.” During October, Many Head Start programs are engaging in “Farm to Head Start” activities, including purchasing local food for meals and snacks, bringing students to farms and farmers into the classroom, teaching students how to cook or prepare locally grown food, and even tending to their own gardens.
Take a look at the featured "Farm to Head Start" activities from around the country and get inspired to incorporate the farm in your classroom!
Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, Occidental College
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Farm to Preschool at the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI), Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA is an evidence-based program designed to influence early childhood eating habits through increased access to affordable local healthy food, nutrition education, trainings and workshops, and opportunities for hands-on learning experiences for preschool-aged children, their families, schools and communities. The program serves all early childhood education and child care models, and has worked closely with Head Start since 2009. In 2011, UEPI launched the Farm to Preschool website, designed as a clearinghouse of resources for programs around the country. Notably, the program was honored with a Recognition Award from Let’s Move Child Care in 2012 and is a co-leader of the Farm to Preschool movement on a national level.
Partnerships with Head Start centers and agencies across Los Angeles and San Diego Counties have been multi-fold. Hundreds of teachers have participated in trainings to integrate the Farm to Preschool program in their classrooms, using an age and developmentally appropriate nutrition-based curriculum aligned to Head Start Learning Domains and DRDP. UEPI staff have engaged parents through nutrition-based workshops, gardening, newsletters and farmers’ market field trips. In addition, UEPI has worked closely with an L.A. based Head Start agency, PACE Early Childhood Education, to develop a wellness policy which aligns to Head Start policies and Farm to Preschool activities. This is currently being piloted at all 27 of PACE’s centers in the 2013-2014 school year. In San Diego County, UEPI has closely worked with numerous partners, including Neighborhood House Association which serves healthy scratch-cooked meals to Head Start centers across the county, as well as integrating gardens at sites. UEPI continues to expand, including piloting a new garden-based curriculum with local Head Starts.
Community Action Early Head Start
WASHINGTON COUNTY, OREGON
Families in the Community Action Early Head Start Home Based program received something extra during the summer of 2012 – fresh organic produce from local farms and ideas for preparing delicious, healthy meals.
Through a CACFP Child Care Wellness Grant received in 2011 and a new partnership with Ecotrust of Oregon, Community Action implemented a Farm to Preschool program that brought together families, farmers, and fresh, local food. Beginning in May 2012, Home Based Teachers began distributing bags of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables each month as part of a strategy to improve children’s diets. The produce deliveries were accompanied by recipes and age-appropriate food activities, printed in English and Spanish, that parents and children participated in together. Home Based teachers also received training from the Registered Dietitian who developed the recipes in how to involve children in food preparation in a way that builds school readiness skills.
When parents and children prepare meals as a family, the benefits extend beyond nutrition. Parents and children bond over kitchen activities. Young children develop fine motor coordination as they tear apart lettuce leaves to make salad and learn about colors and numbers as they help measure ingredients.
Connecting parents with local sources of fresh, healthy food was an important element of the program, ensuring that they will be able to feed their children nutritious meals in the future. Through our collaboration with Ecotrust, the local farmers who supplied the food visited Socialization events and shared information about farming and farmers’ markets, where parents can use their SNAP or WIC benefits to purchase fresh local food. The Farm to Preschool program has been a great success, uniting families, farmers, and staff in the goals of healthier children and a sustainable food culture.
The families received six food-and-recipe distributions. Locally grown produce was also used in food events at Socializations. Home Based Teachers are now engaged in peer education activities, sharing what they have learned with fellow Early Head Start and Head Start teachers. Families are better connected to sources of healthy food, and teachers have a better understanding of how to develop age-appropriate food activities for our youngest community members.
Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation Head Start
NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative (FFI) works to ensure that caregivers of children from birth to age five provide access to healthy food and active play every day. Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation Head Start helps them accomplish their goal with the Farm to Preschool Program. Beginning in Fall 2013, a pilot project will be expanded to include all 10 Head Start locations in Northeast Iowa, with a total of 15 classrooms.
What does Farm to Preschool look like at NEICAC Head Start? NEICAC Head Start features one local food per month that is grown in Iowa. During week 1, children are introduced to the new food; in week two they taste it; and in the third week they have additional experience with the food such as reading books, cooking in the classroom, visiting a farm, or doing an art activity. In the last week of the month, they have a classroom celebration. All families are invited to come and enjoy a meal made with that month’s food item.
During the pilot phase Head Start centers enjoyed close to 100% turnout of parents or other caregivers!
Neighborhood House Association
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
The Neighborhood House Association (NHA) Head Start children will celebrate Farm to School Month by focusing on a harvest-themed curriculum as well as continuing to eat seasonal produce in their meals. Making meals from scratch easily allows NHA’s Nutrition Services to use the Harvest of the Month program to plan a seasonal menu in accordance with San Diego’s harvest season.
“NHA celebrates Farm to Preschool and is proud to continue making a difference in our underserved communities,” says Rudolph A. Johnson III, NHA President and CEO. “As operators of a very large Head Start program, we are keenly aware that we have both a great opportunity and responsibility to impact the future health and habits of our preschoolers and their families. Through our innovative nutrition program, we have embraced the challenge of dispelling the myth that young children will not eat healthy foods and have changed how families view the nutritional needs of their families.”
Specifically, NHA’s New Life Head Start site will focus on a harvest-study within the classroom and in the garden to further celebrate Farm to School in October. Children have already started growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs from seeds and will transplant them to their new garden later in the month. Farm to School takes on a special meaning at NHA’s New Life Head Start. Recently, the center received a grant, allowing the center to plant a new garden! Children will have the opportunity to learn about nutrition and growing food using a Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP)-focused “Farm to Preschool Harvest of the Month” curriculum from Occidental College’s Urban & Environmental Policy Institute. Additionally, teachers will use the California Department of Education’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Photo Cards and encourage children to touch, smell, taste, and feel real pieces of fruit. Parents are included in the month’s celebration and are invited to learn about gardening at Head Start and at home.
Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start
Through our partnership with Springfield’s Farm to Preschool, each classroom was provided with a children’s book “In the Garden” to teach the importance of growing and eating fresh fruits and vegetable.
The Farm to Preschool and Families project is an innovative initiative that starts in early education and care sites providing high quality, local produce to preschool children and their families, exposing them to healthy eating habits. Each partner–Early Education and Care (EEC) organizations, local farmers and distributors, Springfield Early Childhood Education Partnership (SECEP), MA Farm to School, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), and The Food Bank of Western MA–realizes its own potential to impact the lives of children through this cooperative effort and once to scale, provide access to healthy foods for approximately 5,000 low-income children in the Greater Springfield community.
Our participating preschools include: YMCA of Greater Springfield, Square One, Children's House, Early Childhood Centers of Springfield, The Community Music School/Prelude Preschools for the Arts, Boys & Girls Club Family Center, New Beginnings Child Care Center, New North Citizens Council, and Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start.
Harvest for Healthy Kids
Harvest for Healthy Kids helps Head Start educators connect young children with fresh food grown close to home through activity kits that teach science, math, and literacy. Each kit includes hands-on activities with different fruits and vegetables, colorful picture cards, family newsletters, and fruit and vegetable background information for teachers. All Harvest for Healthy Kids activities are aligned with early learning standards and have been rigorously evaluated.
Free and downloadable fruit and vegetable kits will be available in 2014. Until then, contact Dawn Barberis, Associate Director of Administrative Services at Mt. Hood Community College Head Start and Early Head Start at 503-491-6121 or Dawn.Barberis@mhcc.edu for more information.
Harvest for Healthy Kids was developed through a partnership between Mt. Hood Community College Head Start and the School of Community Health at Portland State University and with funding from Kaiser Permanente Northwest and Meyer Memorial Trust.
Aullwood Head Start
The 2013-2014 school year has gotten off to a great start. Once a week our preschoolers have the opportunity to work with naturalists from the Aullwood Audubon Center. The naturalists offer a wide variety of experiences such as insects, farm life and history of Native Americans. On September 26 the children had the opportunity to explore apples and pumpkins with a naturalist. We extended the experience to include our parents as well. During this experience the children had the opportunity to “find” apples. The children found the apples on the farm, on and around the apple tree. After the discovery of the apples the naturalist explained that the pigs had apples as a part of their diet and we then fed the pigs in the barn yard.
After we left the barn yard the children then had the chance to peel apples, and taste them (of course after washing their hands). In part two of our experience - as small groups we opened pumpkins and the children used their senses to explore the pumpkins. When we were done with the small group activity the children took the unused pumpkin and put it into the compost pile. The naturalist explained to the children that the compost is later used to fertilize the garden to help make the vegetable grow healthy and strong.
Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD, Inc. Head Start
Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), Inc. Head Start partners with Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures and The Food Project to offer Farm to Family, an innovative program designed to make affordable, fresh produce easily available to Head Start families in Boston. For just $25 per month, payable with cash or food stamps, participating Head Start families receive $100 worth of locally grown produce each month from July to October. All produce is grown by The Food Project and delivered weekly to four ABCD Head Start sites in Boston. Along with their weekly bag of vegetables and fruits, families receive a bilingual newsletter featuring farm news, recipes, and nutrition tips.
Educational activities for families, including tasting demonstrations and farm field trips, are also part of the program. Farm to Family was launched in 2011, and has served over 200 ABCD Head Start families since then. In an evaluation conducted in 2012, 57% of families reported that their child had tried a new fruit or vegetable and 78% reported that their families were eating more fruits and vegetables as a result of participation in Farm to Family. For more information, please contact Sonia Carter, Nutrition Coordinator, ABCD Head Start and Children’s Services: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We get different vegetables every single week. The last three weeks my bags…had arugula, parsley, cilantro, turnips, collard greens, kale, apples every week, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, carrots every single week. I mean fresh. The dirt is still on them. Also, they give you a list of everything that they offer in the bag and then they give you a recipe for one of things in the bag. Like when they gave us kale they told us how to make kale chips. So I made kale chips for the kids…it was really cool.”
Willamette Farm and Food Coalition
Willamette Farm and Food Coalition staff and volunteers attended a Head Start Family Day at Fairfield Head Start on Sunday October 14th, 2013. We set up a “veggie critters” station as a kids activity and offered a tasting table for parents to sample fresh fruits and vegetables. Families also received produce to take home, coupons for use at nearby farmers markets or farm stands, flyers educating them about the opportunity to use their SNAP benefits at these sites, and Oregon Harvest for Schools Newsletters. Families really appreciated the coupons and supplemental produce!