Fort Osage School District's Farm to Fort Program Brings New Opportunities
Apr 01, 2019
Children at the Fort Osage School District are eating local, fresh produce as a part of the Farm to Fort Program. Fort Osage introduced the Farm to Fort program to parents and community members at Elm Grove Elementary on Oct. 1, 2018. Students, teachers and faculty all took a bite at the same time for the Great Apple Crunch Challenge. The apples used for the challenge were donated by Sibley Orchards. To help continue the festivities during National Farm to School Month, the District created #FortCrunch and asked teachers, parents, community members and organizations to send in photos of them doing their own Apple Crunch Challenge.
Through the Farm to School initiatives, the inspiration behind Farm to Fort, children across the country are learning healthy habits. The goal of Farm to School is to get more locally grown products into school cafeterias, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Whether the program is large or small, each program is important, and supports the health of students and farmers. Research by the National Farm to School Network shows that Farm to School programs result in:
Students who consume more fruits and vegetables, and have greater knowledge of both agriculture and healthy eating.
School food service operations that increase both the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables served, and increase revenues from adult and student participation in school meal programs.
Farmers who diversify their markets, secure contracts for their products and establish collaboratives and cooperatives
The participation and feedback since introducing the program continues to grow. On Oct. 31, 2018, a group of Future Farmers of America (FFA) students from the district went to Jefferson City, Mo. to participate in Youth Innovation Day hosted by No Kids Hungry. Students from around the state gathered to pitch their ideas and activities to a panel with the goal to increase participation in USDA nutrition programs. Students competed for grant funding, including a group of students from Fort Osage. They were awarded a $1,000 grant, and received recognition at the District’s Board of Education meeting in February.
Another group of students (two FFA students and two students from Elm Grove Elementary) were invited to participate at the Missouri School Board Associations Student Showcase in Jefferson City on Feb. 11, 2019. They shared the Farm to Fort program with various state representatives and congressmen. Fort Osage was one of about 25 school districts represented from across the state.
Stacie Waller, Food Services Director for the Fort Osage School District, says the program’s opportunities are endless. “The recent expansion of the Farm to Fort initiative has proven that there are no limits to where we can take this program,” Waller said. “With each new door that opens, new ideas take root.”
In February, Waller and Janet Daubendiek, Food Services Administrative Assistant, presented a presentation at the Growing Local Food Economy meeting at the MU Extension office in Kansas City. They were joined by specialists in horticulture and agronomy, among others. “There were a lot of different individuals who all work on food insecurity at different levels,” Waller explained. “Recent events have given the program recognition outside of our four walls, and helps provide us with more ideas.”
Students and the community benefit from the Farm to Fort initiatives. Last summer the District brought local, fresh produce into the schools for its summer feed program through community partnerships. Student lunches included fresh, locally grown watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, and red and green peppers, provided by Nathan and Erin Moyer with Moyer Farms out of Richmond, Missouri. The District has continued its partnership with Moyer Farms for the 2018-2019 school year.
Data shows the positive impacts of Farm to School initiatives extend beyond the school cafeteria. The last USDA Farm to School Census reported that schools purchased nearly $790 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food processors and manufacturers in the 2013-2014 school year. “Community partnerships help the local economy, which is very important to the District,” Waller said. The District is currently looking to expand its partnerships with local individuals and organizations. For more information about Fort Osage’s Farm to Fort, contact Stacie Waller at 816.650.7207, or firstname.lastname@example.org.