farm

That’s Not What My School Lunches Looked Like…

By Wendy Dew

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Salida Colorado School District to learn about the Farm to School Initiative the local community has embraced.  Providing local foods for student lunches is very beneficial for schools, communities and the environment:

  • Reduced carbon footprint by reducing the distance from food source to food consumption
  • Healthier and sustainable food opportunities
  • Environmental, cultural and agricultural education hands-on learning
  • Supporting local communities and economies

My visit to Salida was amazing!  The day was filled with so many environmental and educational best practices and I was completely in awe.

The day started with a visit to the main farm that supplies the school district with healthy foods for school meals.  The farm was created collaboratively by the Salida School District, LiveWell Chaffee County and Guidestone Colorado with additional support from citizens, local businesses, and Colorado foundations. The farm was being harvested and maintained by Guidestone Colorado and the Southwest Conservation Corps volunteers when I was there.  A variety of volunteers, students and citizens help maintain the farm throughout the year.

A collage of people working and taking care of a farm.

A collage of images from daily farm life.

Many types of crops make up the farm:

After leaving the farm we visited the middle school garden and I was able to meet the Salida School District Superintendent who is very excited about the Farm to School Initiative:

The school gardens that are in place at the schools act as outdoor classrooms.  At the elementary school, students learned about how plants grow, how to take care of them and even about the cultural significance of certain plants to Native Americans.

Students visit the school garden for a lesson at the local elementary school

Students visit the school garden for a lesson at the local elementary school

I was then informed that lunch would be provided to us by the local high school to celebrate Colorado Proud School Meal Day.  I have to admit my eyes got a little wide at this announcement.  I am a bit of a foodie and my recollections of school lunches were cardboard-like pizzas and greasy deep fried burritos.  I was a little leery standing in line, but once I got up to the serving area the “lunch lady” proudly told me about all of the great farm fresh ingredients that were going into the various dishes she had created.  I was super impressed!   The meal was low waste:  by using serving trays as plates that are then washed and reused, the students learn about waste reduction.  I also noticed that just enough food was made for the amount of students and that each student got a reasonable-size portion.  This helps contribute to healthy eating and less wasted food.  I wolfed down my very healthy and super tasty lunch with colleagues, teachers and students.

Wendy Dew enjoying lunch with colleagues at the local high school

Wendy Dew enjoying lunch with colleagues at the local high school

One student was very clear about how great it is to know where your food comes from is, and how “creepy” it is to not know:

The day ended with a shopping trip at the Youth Farmers Market, hosted by the Salida Boys and Girls Club, where the other shoppers and I happily went home with bags of veggies.  I snagged two cucumbers, a bag of green beans and two bunches of kale.  My homemade kale chips for dinner that night were my best batch yet!

Buyinig vegetables at the Yout Farmers Market.

A day of shopping at the Youth Farmers Market.

I cannot express how impressed I was with this community and this program.  Guidestone Colorado has managed to generate support from literally every player in the farm to school food cycle within the rural town of Salida.

A LiveWell Garden sign showing the types of vegetables grown on the farm.

A LiveWell Garden sign showing the types of vegetables grown on the farm.

 The educational importance of kids understanding where their food comes from is, to me, one of the most important environmental learning experiences.   Helping to plant, care for and eat locally grown food, teaches children so many different aspects of environmental science.  It is a very personal, hands on educational opportunity that every child should have.  School districts across the country could learn a lot from the Salida community that is raising food-wise, healthy kids.

To learn more about local foods visit: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/local-foods-local-places

To learn more about sustainable food management visit: http://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for EPA Region 8.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Do You Know Who Grows Your Food?

 

Two million farmworkers help grow, tend and harvest the food that we put on our tables every day.  They are the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers whose hard work and long days enable us to have healthy, plentiful food.  They are often exposed to hazards from pesticide exposures and need the same workplace protection that other industry workers have had for decades.

It’s been 20 years since the rules providing protections to farmworkers were updated.  In February of this year, the agency proposed for public comment on a revised Worker Protection Standard.  The proposal is the result of numerous discussions across the country with farm workers, farm owners, states and others on what is working, what is not, and what needs to be improved when it comes to the current rule. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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It’s Farm Safety and Health Week 2013

Like many Americans, I didn’t always know a lot about growing or harvesting my food. I knew that it started on a farm and ended up in my grocery store. Over time, I learned that agricultural work is one of the toughest, riskiest and lowest paid jobs in the U.S. Now, I put my passion for farm safety to work here at EPA.

Across the nation this week, farm communities are working together to stay safe as part of Farm Safety and Health Week. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, with numerous risks to workers. Agricultural workers can also face potential chemical hazards. At EPA we’re working with our partners to help people understand how to be safe around farms, nurseries, and greenhouses.

For example, we work with federal, state, and non-profit agencies and associations to implement the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard. Our goal: reduce risks of pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers, pesticide handlers, and their families. We’re also improving this standard to better protect you in the future.

Organizations we work with provide training and support for agricultural communities. The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs trains people on the proper handling of pesticides. The Migrant Clinicians Network trains doctors and nurses on how to address the health concerns of farm workers and their families. And the National Pesticide Information Center offers a toll-free number for anyone to call with questions regarding pesticides and related issues. Training is available in English, Spanish, and other languages to help agricultural communities.

Do you live or work in a farm community? Here are tips to protect yourself and your family from pesticide exposure.

  • Close windows near fields during and after spraying.
  • Don’t eat fruit or vegetables directly from the field; always wash them in clean water first.
  • Keep children away from pesticides and store household pesticides in a locked cabinet out of their reach.
  • After you apply pesticides, wash your clothes separately from the family laundry and wash your body and your hair. Put on clean clothes, not the ones you wore.
  • Leave your work shoes or boots outside the house so you don’t bring pesticide residues inside.
  • Don’t use agricultural pesticides in your home.
  • If pesticides get on your skin, wash right away. Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 to see if you need medical attention.
  • If you feel dizzy or sick while working in a greenhouse or another enclosed area, get out to an open area to breathe fresh air.

More information on agricultural worker safety and training is available.

To farm families and workers, thank you for the work you do.

 Emily Selia is an Environmental Health Scientist at the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. She works primarily on health communication and outreach initiatives, including farmworker health programs.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.