Department of Agriculture
Supporting Arkansas farmers and ranchers while ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of Arkansas, the nation, and across the globe
Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program
The Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program connects schools, local growers, and the community to food and farm education experiences paired with healthy, locally grown food. The program provides equitable and just programming, resources, funding, and technical assistance to schools, farmers, and partners in the local food system.
Farm to School
Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by initiating changes in food purchasing and education practices at schools and early childhood education facilities. Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as educational 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:
● School Gardens: Students engage in hands-on learning through gardening and farming;
● Education: Students participate in education activities related to agriculture, food, health, or nutrition; and
● Procurement: Local foods are purchased, promoted, and served in the cafeteria or as a snack or taste test.
The Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program is the facilitator of the Arkansas Farm to School Collaborative, a statewide farm to school effort between state agencies, non-profits, schools, and farms. Further, the program manages two programs for school gardens: the Arkansas School Garden Grant Program and the Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year Contest. Both school garden programs offer grant or contest funding to early childhood education facilities, K-12 schools, and alternative learning environments. In 2021, the program launched the Arkansas Taste Test Grant Program, which offers grant funding to early childhood education facilities, K-12 schools, and alternative learning environments to conduct cafeteria taste tests. In 2023, the program launched the Farm to School Kitchen Equipment Grant Program to increase the capacity to process and serve more specialty crops to students through the school cafeteria. The program also provides support, information, and training on school gardens and local procurement.
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is honored to support the goals of the Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Act and is pleased to submit the Arkansas Farm to School 2022 Annual Report. Further, the Program is excited to share the Farm to School and Early Childhood Education in the USDA Southeast Region report that was written in response to farm to school research and interviews with key players in the southeast of the United States.
The Department is pleased to share the Arkansas Farm to Early Childhood Education 2021 Survey Results. The survey collected responses from February 17, 2021, until March 22, 2021, and received 202 responses from childcare providers and individuals throughout the state who work with children aged 0-5 years.
For information about this program contact:
Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator
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