It is wonderful to learn that the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, a biennial event hosted by the National Farm to School Network will be held in Madison in June. This event will convene more than 1,500 diverse stakeholders working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America.
Cafeterias in schools and early care, colleges and universities, hospitals and other institutional settings serve tens of millions of Americans every day, placing the farm to cafeteria movement at the forefront of the fight to end obesity and strengthen local food systems. The 2016 conference theme Moving Forward Together lifts up new and innovative partnerships to continue to build momentum and ensure long-term sustainability in the movement.
We look forward to welcoming hundreds of conference participants to Madison. This is a great opportunity to showcase, not only our many farmers' markets, but also our community and school gardens, our own Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) farm-to-school program in partnership with REAP Food Group, and our numerous businesses that focus on providing safe and healthy food for not only students, but also their entire families.
Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.
Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips. Farm to school empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities.
Farm to school implementation differs by location but always includes one or more of the following:
Procurement: Local foods are purchased, promoted and served in the cafeteria or as a snack or taste-test;
Education: Students participate in education activities related to agriculture, food, health or nutrition; and
School gardens: Students engage in hands-on learning through gardening.