Agriculture Education aff plans/Drafts

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Ag Education Solves Nutrition

Increased the agricultural sector is necessary to improve nutrition and health especially in low income areas – also improves economy

Fan, International Food Policy Research Institute Director General, 15

(Shenggen, 4-9-15, World Economic Forum, “How agriculture can improve health and nutrition”,, accessed 7-1-17, VB)

The agricultural sector presents key opportunities for improving nutrition and health. But this connection is often not given due attention, despite parallel initiatives across the three sectors.

The potential impacts of agricultural activities on health and nutrition extend across a number of channels. One area of impact is household ability to produce, purchase and consume more, better and cheaper food. Over the past 40 years, agricultural advances, such as the Green Revolution, led to the doubling of cereal production and yields, improving the well-being of many people and providing a springboard for remarkable economic growth. More recently, biofortification efforts to breed and disseminate crops that are rich in micronutrients, such as vitamin A, zinc and iron, have improved vitamin and mineral intake among consumers in Africa and Asia.

Another important contribution of agriculture towards nutrition and health is increased rural income, allowing people to improve their diets. The poor are overwhelmingly located in rural areas and derive a significant share of their income from agricultural activities. Given the importance of agriculture for the livelihoods of the rural poor, agricultural growth has the potential to greatly reduce poverty – a key contributor to poor health and undernutrition. Agricultural activities can also generate economy-wide effects such as increasing government revenues to fund health, infrastructure and nutrition intervention programmes.

Agricultural intensification has been essential to feed the world’s growing population, but it has also brought its own risks for people’s health, including zoonotic diseases, water- and food-borne diseases, occupational hazards, and natural resource degradation and overuse. Similarly, water, energy (electricity) and fertilizer subsidies have been linked to distorted consumption and production choices and the crowding out of public investment.

Despite major progress, serious concerns remain about the nutrition and health situation throughout the developing world. An estimated 805 million people still go hungry and many people also suffer from hidden hunger, that is, deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals, which are associated with a number of negative health and economic impacts. At the same time, 2.1 billion people worldwide (37% of men and 38% of women) are obese and overweight and this figure is rising (especially in the developing world), bringing with it a rise in non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer).

Much more can be done to take advantage of agriculture’s potential to improve nutrition and health.

A critical first step is improved knowledge on the agriculture-nutrition-health nexus. We need to go beyond a blind pursuit of indiscriminate agricultural growth. Instead, we should promote “smarter” growth by learning more about the health and nutrition impacts of different subsectoral patterns of agricultural development. Important steps to build up this knowledge base include investments in research, evaluation and education systems capable of integrating information from all three sectors.

Farm to School Solvency

Farm to School network key to education and nutrition

Mills, Seven Generations Ahead farm to school coordinator, 16

[Lydia, April 2016, The Education Digest, “Farm to School Leads School Lunch Revolution”,, accessed 6/30/17, JBC]

School lunch is in the middle of a revolution. After decades of nuggets and peas, students and school administrators are starting to demand more. In Illinois, much of the landscape is farmland, but the food grown there is rarely placed in a school salad bar or blended into cafeteria spaghetti sauce. While there are obstacles, the school lunch revolution has helped connect farmers and students through local food sales and curricular connections. This movement is called Farm to School, and it is quickly growing.

The purpose of the National Farm to School Network is to enrich the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.

In Illinois, Farm to School encompasses three main areas: the cafeteria, the classroom, and the garden. If school or school district has a goal of starting a Farm to School program, it doesn't have to source all local produce or have farmers visit the cafeteria. If a school builds a raised bed and has students plant vegetables in the garden, it is engaging with Farm to School.

Often, schools find that one project leads to another. If students plant a garden, they may want to visit different types of farm operations. This could introduce new ideas about possibilities for agricultural careers. In rural areas, schools with Farm to School programs are reviving Future Farmers of America and 4-H groups, some for the first time in years. Students learn to appreciate agriculture while learning real, hands-on skills in the garden.

Schools in Valley View CUSD365U, in the Romeoville area, have found gardens a powerful learning tool. Meghan Gibbons, food service director for the district, created a grant program for schools to use when creating gardens. This initial connection between the cafeteria and the garden was a powerful partnership. "Though the school receives guidance from our department, they bring their unique spin to each garden," Gibbons said. "Our first pilot garden started in 2012-2013 and now eight of our 19 schools have 'Edible School Gardens.'"

Bringing garden fresh or locally-grown food into nutrition education has the added benefit of tasting fresh and delicious.

In the classroom, Farm to School can operate as a standalone curriculum or as a part of existing curricular modules. At Valley View, "Just about every subject has been taught in our gardens, making a tie to our K-12 curriculum," Gibbons said.

Many nutrition-focused Farm to School curricula are available. Although frequently used in health education, these can be used in many other subjects.

Teaching about food in the school garden and the classroom is a natural way to transition a cafeteria from the status quo to a part of the school lunch revolution. Local food procurement is not without hurdles. However, the USDA offers training and toolkits for food service directors to use when developing bids, so they can prioritize and select distributors who buy food from local farmers. Many schools find that once students are excited about local food, it is much easier to change the way food is purchased for lunch.

Oak Park ESD97 started its Farm to School program after deciding to improve the food served in the cafeteria. The district changed its bid to increase the amount of produce from local farmers, and discovered that when it brought in more local food, students were eating better. Anna Gacke, district assistant director of food and nutrition services, said, "We are proud to serve local food to students about once a week, depending on the season. So far this year, we have offered local apples, salad greens, kale mixes, broccoli slaw, baked potatoes, and cauliflower."

Serving local food in the cafeteria created a culture shift in the school overall. More healthy food promotion is done through the cafeteria, including days when students dress up as different fruit and vegetable colors each day of the week. Food service participates in wellness committees and helps teachers create activities connected to the local foods served. High school students maintain gardens and serve the produce once a year at a special meal.

In the 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School census, food service directors reported spending $6.4 million on food produced locally. That is a fraction of the $42 million spent in total. Farm to School programs not only have amazing impacts in the classroom, they also serve as an economic stimulus in rural communities.

As the National Farm to School Network states, Farm to School empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. Studies show that when children learn about where food comes from in a classroom setting, they actually do eat more fruits and vegetables. Farm to School helps students grow more likely to make healthy choices throughout their lives.

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