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Farm to School program brings local produce to cafeterias

In today's culture, people are more likely to be vegan and gluten-free and to choose organic foods. But what about choosing local? That is where the local foods movement steps in, and Farm to School is part of that.

The Farm to School program in Ohio began in 2007 and Ohio State University Extension took over as the state lead organization in 2011. Farm to School is a nationwide effort to get more locally grown foods into what Ohio State Assistant Professor and Director of Farm to School Carol Smathers calls, "the three C's: community, cafeteria and classroom."

"The program encourages procurement of locally produced and processed foods in the community, works on serving local foods in the cafeteria and boosts hands-on activity that gets children excited about school gardens, greenhouses and things like aquaponics in the classroom," Smathers explained. "Some of these concepts are even stretching to include Farm to Preschool, College and even Hospital." Smathers engages in Extension teaching outside of the university and throughout local health departments. She also works on coordinating and connecting people to the different resources Farm to School has to offer in their partnerships with organizations like the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Department of Agriculture and the American Dairy Association Mideast.

Smathers is not alone in her daily teaching efforts. She finds a Farm to School partner and supporter in Program Coordinator Amy Fovargue. Fovargue helps plan events and manages the Farm to School website and social media pages, but her favorite involvement is developing success stories about what is working related to Farm to School throughout Ohio.

"I love talking with people throughout the state and hearing how they incorporate Farm to School activities in their own community," Fovargue explained. "These efforts show the range of what is possible for schools and producers."

The story that impacts Fovargue most is that of Arps Dairy and the dairy farmers in Defiance, Ohio that provide the milk for their community. The farmers are very connected to local schools and support teaching activities by offering activities like field trips.

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