Chadwick Schools recently joined the Farm to School of the Ozarks project, which focuses on improving the connection that children, schools and communities have to fresh, local food, and local food producers.
Schools in Christian County are working together to include locally grown food products in school meals and snacks. Students are participating in educational learning activities related to agriculture, food, health, and nutrition.
The project provides support for farm field trips and funds to build and maintain school gardens. Gardens create positive learning environments, increase children’s willingness to try new fruits and vegetables, and serve as a valuable tool for engaging students in a number of academic subjects. Garden education also welcomes every type of learner, regardless of age or ability.
Unlike traditional classrooms, school gardens help level the playing field for students with physical disabilities, learning and behavior challenges and other special classroom needs by empowering everyone to contribute to the process of growing food from seed to harvest.
The project also funds training for teachers; provides curriculum that is approved through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; and complies with the Missouri Learning Standards. This past month, Chadwick participated in a day-long field trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, funded by the USDA Farm to School project. Participants were provided with school and farm tours, and offered education on best practices for Farm to School.
If you have interest in helping to support Farm to School, contact your local MU Extension office. Dr. Pam Duitsman is the Farm to School of the Ozarks Project Coordinator, a USDA funded project through Taney County Health Department.
Jacklyn Aldrich, Special Services Coordinator for Chadwick R-I School District, is helping direct Farm to School activities for the district.
“In the late 1880's to the mid 1940's Chadwick was known for its production of strawberries, peaches, apples, pears and plums,” Aldrich said. “It was not until after the end of the Civil War that its rich natural pine forests were harvested to help rebuild a broken and burned country. This clearing of timber made way for rocky, rough and open terrain. This terrain was more than difficult to plow, but perfect for spot cropping such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, tomatoes, and fruit trees. Our community wishes to provide our children with the knowledge base for not just understanding where their food comes from, but why and how. This type of education, which provides opportunities for hands-on application, is paramount for maximum brain development and cognitive growth.”
Impact on students: Research shows that students who participate in Farm to School educational activitiesshow positive attitudes towards education, score significantly higher on science achievement tests than students who are taught by strictly traditional classroommethods, eat morefruits and vegetables, and are more inclined to continue healthy eating habits through adulthood. A study of third, fourth and fifth graders showed that students participating in a garden program had increased self-understanding, interpersonal skills, and cooperative skills when compared to non-gardening students.
Impact on teachers: The benefits of Farm to School programs extend to the teachers involved – with research showing that teachers who work in schools with garden programs have higher workplace morale, increased general satisfaction with their jobs, and show positive changes in healthy eating and lifestyles.
Impact on the economy: For every job created by school districts purchasing local foods, additional economic activity creates another 1.67 jobs. Each dollar invested in farm to school stimulates an additional $1.40-$2.60 of local economic activity, in one study resulting in $1.4 million overall for the state.
Impact on farmers and food producers: The increased purchases from local producers and processors supports jobs and local earnings. Schools offer a very stable market opportunity for farmers, ranchers, food processors and manufacturers, and can establish long-term revenue streams for individual farmers.