By Sabine Rhyne
Many of you know that much of the BFC Education and Outreach work has been situated in the local schools. Like many of the initiatives with which the Co-op is involved, none of them can be achieved without strong community partners who have similar goals in mind. One of the most active is Food Connects, an organization whose mission is to “cultivate healthy food and farm connections in classrooms, cafeterias, and communities in and around Windham County, VT.” Sound familiar?
Food Connects runs several programs: Farm to School, Farm to Community, Farm to Institution, and Harvest of the Month. The Co-op has been mostly involved in the educational focus of Farm to School and Harvest of the Month. Farm to School aims to improve food, farm, and nutrition education while increasing access to healthy local meals and snacks in schools. For instance, one of our collaborative projects was the Fifth Grade Garlic Project, achieved through the hard work of our respective organizations, the local fifth grade classrooms, Hilltop Montessori, and Lilac Ridge Farm. Additionally, Food Connects, along with Castleton State College and VT FEED, sponsors the Farm to School Professional Development Course, which allows educators to learn skills from each other to integrate the principles of Farm to School into the curriculum, consistent with Vermont Learning Standards and other core standards. Food Connects has hosted a regional Farm to School Conference for the last four years in Brattleboro, an important place for educators and related program administrators to continue to develop valuable tools to improve food, farm, and nutrition education, and for students to access better food.
It’s a big task, and there are few staff members to do the work. Still, Katherine Jandernoa, Farm to School program manager, and Richard Berkfield, Food Connects Executive Director, partner with the Co-op to target common educational goals with the BFC’s Education and Outreach Coordinator, Vicky Senni. Beginning in August, the Co-op’s After School Co-op Kids program will incorporate Harvest of the Month, a focus on a vegetable or fruit that is available from local farms, and allow kids yet another way to work with the produce themselves in some flavorful and irresistible ways. Look for signs in the produce department highlighting these items.
Strengthening local food systems requires many hands and hearts. Our friends at Food Connects are doing good work, and we are all in it together.