Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What is "Farm to School" ?

Farm to School is a program that connects schools to local farms with the objectives of:

  • serving healthy meals in the cafeteria
  • improving student nutrition
  • providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities
  • supporting local and regional farmers
In Vermont, farm to school efforts  are lead by Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED).  Farm to School is happening all over Vermont and across the USA!

What does Farm to School mean for JES?

There is so much going on at JES!  The Farm-to-School efforts began with a committed parent group.  Last year the efforts ramped up, support broadened and we:
  • started taste tests
  • removed processed foods from the menu
  • added many more local products to the menu
  • surrounded the cafeteria in pictures of local farms
  • put in a garden and more  

Because of the broad support in the JES Community for the program, JES was invited to attend The Farm-to-School Institute Summer Workshop at Shelburne Farms.  Four staff members, Vicki Graf, Amy Beckwith, Lars Botzojorns and Mary-Lou Lappierre, and a parent, Jamie Lofy, attended the workshop.  There, we developed a Farm-to-School Action Plan for JES and have been implementing the plan this year.  In addition to the workshop, JES received a year of support from Abbie Nelson who works for VT FEED, to help with the plan roll out.  An additional staff member, Dave Bouchard, and an additional parent, Ray Medina, have joined the farm-to-School committee this year.  

This year we have:
  • added a new fruit/veggie bar
  • increased local products on the menu
  • enjoyed garden activities and harvests
  • changed taste testing to include students in the food prep
  • focused on curriculum
  • had a school wide Stone Soup harvest celebration

The momentum grows and the excitement is there at JES for an increase in healthy food consumption! Below is our Farm to School plan. 

Vision Statement: At Jericho Elementary School we work together to promote the wellbeing of all members of our school community.  We do this by encouraging lifelong healthy habits, fostering participation, building appreciation and making connections to the land and greater community.

Our plan focuses on four areas, Cafeteria, Garden, Classroom and Community.  We look at this as a long term plan, over several years, although many of the action steps are completed or will be completed soon. This is an evolving plan which we hope will eventually be infused into the  culture of JES.  It already is in many ways!

  • Vision Statement- In our cafeteria, we foster a positive climate that supports the knowledge and consumption of healthy foods.
  • Goals-
    • Improve the culture of eating
    • Increase the use of and consumption of local foods and healthy food choices.
  • Action Steps-
    • purchase round tables
    • purchase a salad bar- done.  Thank you PIE!
    • As a staff, foster a positive experience for students at lunch, discouraging students from criticizing their neighbors food, and discussing food varieties and the benefits of eating healthy foods as it comes up in conversation.
    • purchase planters for the cafeteria windows.
    • connect with local farmers and purchase local food regularly.
    • taste tests- involve the students more in preparation and conducting the tests.
  • Vision Statement- In our school garden, we use the garden as a learning space and share the care of the garden with the larger community.
  • Goals-
    • Create an outdoor learning space in the garden.
    • Develop a plan for garden maintenance
    • Compile a list of ways for teachers to use the space with students.
  • Action Steps-
    • Put in benches.
    • Bring the staff into the garden and brainstorm ways to use the garden with students.  Provide master list to teachers. (List attached to this document)
    • Search for and provide other curriculum ideas for teachers to incorporate if they choose.
    • Brainstorm ways to maintain the garden- parents? students?
  • Vision Statement- In our classrooms, we teach students about healthy foods, good nutrition and the role of farms and farmers in our community.
  • Goals-
    • Audit our current curriculum for Farm to School lessons already in action.
    • Develop a plan to connect with local farms.
  • Action Steps-
    • Develop an inventory
    • Discuss with the teaching staff to share ideas
    • Offer Farmer Correspondence as an option
  • Vision Statement- In our community, we build relationships and celebrate our Farm-to-School successes.
  • Goals-
    • Develop a Wellness Structure with Farm-to-School as a part of it.
    • Reach out to the community to make connections. Encourage involvement on our committee and with our action plan.
  • Action Steps-
    • Set up ways to reach out such as the Wellness blog, Google+, newsletters.
    • Student generated thank you’s.
    • Seek out and advertise family picking for JES opportunities at local farms
    • Introduction of the Farm-to-School plan to the larger JES community in the evening.
    • Open House info table.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


JAM stands for Just A Minute, referring to taking "just a minute" from academics for physical activity.  The JAMS actually last 3 or 5 minutes.  Many classrooms have already been doing in-class activity breaks this year, but with our new Jammin' JES wellness initiative, we are celebrating JAMS school wide and talking about the importance of physical activity.  What is so important about physical activity breaks in school?  It has been shown to improve academic success and increase focus and attention in class.  Physical activity is important for overall health and can decrease obesity which reduces the risk for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.  Increased physical activity has also been shown to reduce risky behaviors, reduce rates of depression and improve overall outlook on life.  With our JAMMIN' JES initiate, we are highlighting the importance of physical activity and celebrating it regularly!  We are keeping track of monthly JAM totals.  On September, 26th 2013, we participated in a World Record JAM moment where we did a JAM at the same time as 1,351,974 other people around the world!  That kicked off our JAMS for the year!


News from the Kitchen

The school day just got healthier thanks to new federal requirements for changes to school meals.  As a parent, you have the ability to help make the school meal changes a positive and exciting experience for your child. The new school meals have more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; low-fat milk; and less salty and fatty foods. School meals now do a better job of giving your kids the healthy foods they need. Help your child check out these new meals and find what they like.

It takes time to get kids to learn to like new foods. Here are some tips to help your children eat healthy foods:
  • Make time to join your child for lunch in the school cafeteria.
  • When your child gets home from school, ask what he/she ate for lunch.
  • Eat meals with your child as much as you can. Let your child see you eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at meals and snacks.
  • Grocery shopping can teach your children about healthy eating. Talk to them about where vegetables, fruits and grains, and milk and meat come from. Let your children make healthy choices.
  • Try new foods yourself. Describe how they smell, feel and taste. Offer one new food at a time. Serve something your child likes with the new food.
The School Day Just Got Healthier. Together we can help our kids learn healthy habits that last forever.

The following are specifics about recent changes on the JES menu:

  • Almost all from scratch
  • Processed foods off the menu
  • Local Misty Knolls Chicken
  • Cabot butter and Stonyfield organic yogurt
  • All whole grain pasta
  • Almost all whole wheat flour
  • Brown rice only
  • Beans 2-3 x week
  • Fresh fruit and veggie bar T-F, with seconds
  • Five rainbow groups of veggies per week
  • Real Maple Syrup

In other Kitchen News:
  • The State of Vermont Department of Nutrition and the USDA Foods were both here at JES for an inspection review. They report that we are exceeding the national requirements. They were very happy with what they saw! We won't stop here, though! We are continuing to improve on our menu and look for ways to add healthy recipes that the kids will love. One avenue that is helping in this area is taste testing! Our third taste test is next week and the kids have been very excited about the process. See our post on Taste Testing for more details.
  • We are hoping to move to all round tables in the cafeteria.
  • click here for a link to the USDA site for details about school lunch requirements.

What is School Wellness? School wellness is a focus on all aspects of the health of the student to improve education outcomes. The overall goal is to teach kids about HOW to be healthy with improved nutrition, increased physical activity and improved life skills. We teach them WHY it is important and help them practice. This leads to improved education outcomes AND health outcomes, both of which have a huge impact on their life. Ultimately, we hope these healthy behaviors turn into habit for them, part of their lifestyle and they become healthy, happy, better educated and more productive members of society.

Click here to view the presentation on School Wellness given 1/16/13 by Nurse Amy.

Many studies show there are benefits to a School Wellness Program such as

  • increased academic success
  • increased focus and attention in class
  • decrease in risky behaviors
  • improved outlook on life
  • decrease in obesity which reduces the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes

But here is the #1 reason to be passionate about and put energy toward School Wellness: This generation of children is on track to be the first to not live as long as their parents! JES is part of a nation wide movement to reverse this trend by increasing physical activity and improving nutrition. To learn about the exciting programs going on Nationally and Locally, click the link above for the wellness presentation.