Farm to Preschool in Georgia
With nine out of ten kids still not eating enough fruits and vegetables, prevention-based Farm to Preschool strategies aimed at our youngest eaters is a no-brainer. But if you listen to the nay-sayers, it can really get you down. We’ve all heard them before:
“There’s not enough money to serve fresh food.”
“Nobody has enough time to garden with kids.”
“Kids can’t survive without chicken fingers.”
The pervading strategy in Georgia has been to spend resources on the plethora of doors open to us. Farm to Preschool is an important investment in children, and garden-based nutrition enhanced education is the easiest way to get kids to not just eat—but LOVE—veggies for life.
Farm to Preschool in Georgia has had some great projects to fuel this momentum and is on the cusp of hitting its stride.
Here’s an overview of some projects to date:
- In 2013, Georgia’s first Farm to Preschool Summit convened over 175 early care providers to learn gardening, cooking and food procurement tips. This Summit was made possible with support from a USDA Team Nutrition grant, Georgia Organics, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (GA DECAL) and the Georgia Department of Public Health.
- Seven videos on gardening and cooking with young children were produced to give early care providers a simple introduction to Farm to Preschool.
- The state’s first comprehensive Farm to Preschool survey was conducted, giving us a first glimpse at the growing demand for these programs.
- In 2014, the GA DECAL offered 25 Farm to Preschool mini-grants to centers. Georgia Organics provided grantees hands-on workshops and Farmer Meet and Greets.
- Georgia State University dietetic graduate students wrote and presented a business plan to launch a Farm to Preschool program at the University’s early care and learning program, which would simultaneously provide multi-disciplined research opportunities for nutrition, business and early education students.
In 2015, partners from multiple agencies and non-profits (including Georgia Organics, USDA, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia State University, University of Georgia, Quality Care for Children and Georgia DECAL) began crafting the state’s first Farm to Preschool Strategy. With so many resources, it was imperative to create a unified strategy for building this movement in Georgia. To gain inspiration, plans were researched from Alaska, Oregon, Canada and San Diego.
The Georgia Farm to School Alliance has been a guiding force for the movement as well. For over six years, more than a dozen diverse organizations have been meeting quarterly to keep K-12 Farm to School programming thriving.
While strategic planning can feel onerous, the investment in creating a strong plan will help use limited resources wisely. So often agencies work in silos, and creating a Georgia Farm to Preschool Strategic plan provides an opportunity to leverage strengths, talents and resources to build a movement that will be sustained over the long haul.