Sarasota County Schools Farm to School Program
Food & Nutrition Services (FNS) purchases fruits, vegetables, milk, and eggs from local farmers, including Jones Potato Farm in Parrish, Homestead Hydroponics in Myakka City (lettuce),PalmettoAcres in Arcadia(lettuce), M&B Products (milk and orange juice) in Tampa, and many other farmers throughout Florida.
In 2014, the district was the recipient of one of only eight nationally awarded Farm to School Implementation Grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The $100,000 grant funding was used to enhance existing programs that bring local produce to school cafeteria menus, with the objective of having Florida-grown produce representing 50% of the district’s entire produce budget. Other benefits of the grant included expanding school gardens and arranging field trips for students to local farms.
Benefits of Farm to School
Sarasota County Schools Food & Nutrition Services is very dedicated to Farm to School because of its many benefits, including the following:
- Local produce is fresher from the field to plate and therefore retains greater nutrients and flavor.
- Farm to School produce has been shown to increase children’s willingness to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Local food circulates money within the community and supports our local economy.
- Farm to School supports jobs in Florida.
- Decreasing the distance food travels from farm to plate reduces fuel emissions, a more environmentally responsible choice, helping keep our air clean.
- Farm to School helps educate students about the origins of our food.
- Supporting local farms protects and enhances Florida farmland.
- Local area farmland increases food security in our region in the event of natural or other emergencies. An interdependent local food system ensures continued access to fresh foods.
- School gardens teach students how plants grow and where food comes from and are shown to increase kids’ acceptance of fruits and vegetables.
Sarasota County schools are abundant with school gardens! Currently, thirty-one of our schools host gardens, and they are ripe with learning opportunities: Students learn not only how plants grow and where food comes from, but many other subjects as well such as history, math, science and culinary arts. Students who participate in school gardens are shown to have a greater likelihood of trying and liking fruits and vegetables!
Food and Nutrition Services seeks to not only increase the proportion of Florida-grown food on the school lunch tray but integrate the knowledge students gain in the classroom and school garden into the cafeteria experience. If your school garden is planning to increase production and would like to see the school garden produce in school meals, please see our Garden to Cafeteria Guide.
Farm Field Trips
Field trips to local farms are a great opportunity for children to learn about where and how food grows. The local farms below welcome school field trips:
Fruitville Groves is a family farm and market that offers fresh produce and a citrus grove. Field trips offer a guided tour to experience life living on a working farm. These trips include (seasonally dependent): a group hayride, feeding farm animals, duck races, use of the playground, and a mini pumpkin for each paying child. The best time to schedule is in October and November. Visit http://www.fruitvillegrove.com/birthday-parties/ for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule.
Hunsader Farm, Bradenton: Children get an educational and hands-on experience on farm life and vegetables, including a hayride! Contact Phone: 941-322-2168.
Mixon Fruit Farms, Bradenton: Tram rides guide visitors through the citrus grove, touching on the history of citrus farming in Florida. Students will also learn about native Florida wildlife and meet a crocodile, great horned owls, hawk and others. Contact Phone: 941-748-5829 x256; Email: Tours@Mixon.com
- Florida Department of Agriculture Farm to School
- Regional and Local Economic Impacts of the Sarasota County Farm to School Program: A 2011 Study of Economic and Employment impacts of Sarasota County Schools F2S Program.
- FDACS Florida Crops in Season
- Farm to School Program Information
- National Farm To School