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This week I am in beautiful Burlington VT, on the shores of Lake Champlain, at the Council of State Governments/Eastern Regional Conference annual meeting. Our first health track panel was on farm to school programs. F2S programs are about far more than getting local foods into school cafeterias; it’s also about in-class nutrition education, farmers visiting schools and students taking field trips, school gardens, taste testing programs, after school cooking and gardening programs, harvest of the month programs, and composting. Our panel was a joint one with the Agriculture and Education committees and the benefits cross those areas and more. It’s about reducing and preventing obesity, supporting small farmers, encouraging community participation and economic development. There are over 2,000 F2S programs in 41 states. Twenty two states have F2S state legislation and the federal farm bill and child nutrition reauthorizations have opportunities. We heard about innovations across the country, but the Burlington school district is a national leader in F2S. Every day during the school year, local food will be offered in the Burlington schools. Research shows that F2S programs are associated with better eating knowledge and behaviors by kids in the programs. A very popular new initiative is VT Junior Iron Chef which started in Burlington and is catching on across many states as a way to engage young people in local food.
Ellen Andrews