For more than a year, Rogue Valley Farm to School has been piloting programs with schools aimed at deepening the impact of our mission. In December, the enthusiasm of students, teachers, and school administrators was rewarded when Rogue Valley Farm to School was awarded $65,340 to support our district-wide partnership with Central Point School District. Focused on serving all five elementary schools in the district, the partnership will also include a strategic exploration of developing programs for middle school and high school students.
The school partnership program is a fantastic opportunity for Rogue Valley Farm to School to work closely with teachers and students over the long-haul. Each school in the partnership selects a grade level to "dig deeper"; RVF2S then works closely with teachers in that grade level to identify ways we can support their curriculum goals using their school garden. Every student will spend time in the garden each week learning about how to grow food, how to care for soil, all the while building a love for healthy food and great nutrition. “We know that creating positive experiences for children in relation to healthy food is the key to laying the foundation for good nutrition throughout life,” Rogue Valley Farm to School executive director Sheila Carder said.
In addition to weekly garden education, students attending partnership schools will have layered exposure to healthy food education, both on the farm and in their cafeteria. Students will visit a farm every spring and fall, where they'll learn more about local agriculture; harvest fresh ingredients from the fields for a farm-fresh lunch; and prepare and eat that meal together on the farm. Rogue Valley Farm to School will provide quarterly teacher professional development workshops to school staff to support school-wide use of the school garden; and our Farm to Cafeteria Coordinator Greg Dills will work with school food service directors and staff to connect them with local farmers, increasing the amount of local, fresh food served in school meals. Every month, Rogue Valley Farm to School will also be featuring a different local fresh fruit or vegetable. “Learning to love healthy food starts with connecting children with the amazing world of growing food and making food. It takes time, but the end result we see are smiling children loving that zucchini they just harvested from the garden or field,” Rogue Valley Farm to School program director Melina Barker said. By working closely with schools throughout the school year, Rogue Valley Farm to School hopes to increase the impact of our programs. Tracking and evaluating that impact will be another exciting component of the program.
“Right now we have partnerships with seven schools in the Rogue Valley -- all Central Point elementary schools, Kids Unlimited Academy in Medford and Walker Elementary School in Ashland,” Sheila Carder said. “We are looking forward to working with the families of those schools as well as the children. Thriving, healthy children are what we all want. Anything we can do to help make that a reality is rewarding and our mission.”