Who loves fresh, local produce?
Thanks to Farm to School (F2S) Frederick, fresh products from local farms are getting into the hands of Frederick County Public School (FCPS) children. Not only are the children getting exposed to where their food comes from, but the F2S Frederick team has helped create new economic opportunities for our local farms. Executive Director, Alysia Feuer says, “My absolute favorite part of my job is meeting a farmer! Over the last several years, Farm to School Frederick has helped create pathways for at least 12 Frederick Farmers to sell their foods to FCPS Food and Nutrition Services and other important school programs.”
Recently, F2S Frederick partnered with the Frederick County Judy Center for a 10-week pilot program to purchase and deliver locally grown produce to the county’s Judy Center Early Learning Hub play groups located at five FCPS schools. Playgroup families were sent home with bags of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables and a Harvest of the Month handout which provides information on how to pick, store and prepare a certain food, and includes nutritional information and a recipe. Within the 10-week pilot program, fresh produce was purchased from seven Frederick County farms- A Piece of Harmony, Catoctin Mountain Orchard, District Farms, Glade Link Farms, Pleasant Hill Produce, Serenity Grove Farm and Summer Creek Farm. Varieties of produce included: apples, beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, green onions, kale, lettuce, potatoes, rutabaga, squash, spinach and turnips.
Upon the completion of the pilot program, Judy Center families receiving fresh, seasonal produce were surveyed, revealing the program’s overwhelmingly positive impact. Judy Center Program Administrator, Kathy Allen said, “I love this program. It has been powerful for our group.” She shared with us that they were able to get fresh, local fruits and vegetables to families that may struggle with access, and how the program has allowed families to bond over preparing dishes from their cultures. Survey results indicated more than one-third of the families tried turnips and green onions for the first time with the help of this program. Prior to the pilot program, families indicated many of the vegetables were never tried simply because they did not know how to prepare them.
It takes a team of partners to help connect our youth with where their food comes from. Pleasant Hill Produce owner, Farmer Ben Sayler, has also been instrumental in the work being done by F2S Frederick. Not only does Pleasant Hill provide local foods to F2S Frederick programs, but Ben also meets the local youth where they are. He has volunteered time presenting to classes about farming and growing foods and has hosted school field trips on his farm to provide on-the-ground agriculture exposure to local youth. Ben expressed the importance of programming to expose, educate and excite the next generation about agriculture, and is a proud partner in F2S Frederick’s mission: to make locally grown, highly nutritious food available for all Frederick residents.
To learn more about Farm to School Frederick, visit their website and follow them on Facebook. Lastly, if you haven’t browsed the Homegrown Frederick website yet, what are you waiting for? It is your map to visit local farms, find local products, craft beverage businesses, farmer’s markets and more!