Commissioner’s AgriCorner: Farm to School Program Update

As Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, improving the nutritional value of school meals by adding more locally grown produce to school trays is one of my top priorities. In 2011, I worked with the Legislature to move Florida’s School Nutrition Program from the Department of Education to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Simply put, I believe we can better connect Florida’s growers and producers with schools and direct more of our world-class fresh fruits and vegetables to school cafeterias.[emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]
Since transferring the program to this department, we have raised the bar on the quality of food available in Florida’s schools. We have worked with Florida’s school districts to implement changes to school meal standards that add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, as well as fat-free and low-fat milk to school breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.
In addition to offering healthier options in school, we have worked to enlist an increasing number of growers and producers to participate in the Farm to School program. The program pairs local growers and producers with K-12 schools to provide Florida children with nourishing, locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, the department has coordinated statewide lunch menus to coincide with Florida’s harvest seasons. This enables schools to access more locally grown produce at affordable prices, supports local economies, and helps preserve farms and farmland.
In addition to improving school nutrition, we are committed to educating students and their families about the benefits of eating fresh, local produce. We have educational programs throughout the school year—and even during the summer.
By making these important changes, we ensure that all children have access to the healthy meals they need to succeed in school. We’re proud of the improvements to school nutrition across the state because research shows there is a direct connection between nutrition and academic success.
We are committed to exploring opportunities to further marry farmers with school districts, incorporating technology and creating additional demand for product during harvesting times. Expanding access to nutritious foods through agricultural partnerships and education efforts, we will help foster healthier eating habits among our youngest residents, creating a better and brighter Florida for children and farmers.

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