Helena, Mont. – The Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) has been selected as a 2017-2019 National Farm to School Network Montana Supporting Partner, providing new opportunities to expand efforts to connect children to local food, school gardens and food and agriculture education in Montana.
As a Supporting Partner, MDA will support capacity building and expansion of farm to school and farm to early care and education throughout the state, alongside the National Farm to School Network Montana Core Partner, Montana State University.
“We believe that farm to school initiatives are important for helping kids to eat healthy and connect with agriculture and nutrition through education,” said Ben Thomas, MDA Director. “Farm to school also supports Montana farmers and food producers by providing them with additional markets for their products. The quality and diversity of farm to school programming in our state is outstanding and we look forward to supporting its growth as a National Farm to School Network supporting partner.”
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 early care and education settings. 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.
In Montana, 40% of school districts, which include 115 schools serving over 9,000 students, participate in farm to school activities each year. As part of the Montana Farm to School Leadership team, MDA works collaboratively on projects that address food access and distribution issues, supports the Montana Harvest of the Month program that brings Montana foods into classrooms and cafeterias, and is helping to develop ways for farm to school to engage early childhood populations.
The National Farm to School Network is the leading voice for the U.S. farm to school and farm to early care and education movement, providing information, advocacy and networking for communities working to bring local food sourcing, school gardens and food and agriculture education into school systems and early care and education settings. Learn more and get involved at farmtoschool.org, and learn more about Farm to School in Montana at www.montana.edu/mtharvestofthemonth.
The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries.