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Why is it important to keep the school community engaged?

In order to have a successful farm to school program, students and their families need to be involved in the process!  New initiatives work best when individuals being served by the initiative feel that they have a place at the table and a voice in the decision-making process.  By understanding students’ needs, listening to students’ wants, and making students aware of how the procurement process is unfolding, students will be more likely to embrace the new changes coming to the school.  Further, by engaging students’ families and keeping them in the loop about the farm to school program and how its initiatives will affect students, families will also be more likely to embrace the program and encourage healthy eating behaviors at home.

Likewise, it is vital to keep the school’s parent-teacher organization (PTO), the district as a whole, and community partners engaged!  Individuals within each of these groups will be critical to the success of the farm to school program, as many of these individuals are the decision-makers and supporters of the program.

What is involved in engaging the school community?

Engage the school community by offering educational experiences that are fun and exciting!  Students love trying new things, and parents love seeing their children having fun and enjoying themselves.  By incorporating creative learning and nutrition education into the school culture, students will be more likely to see these educational experiences as a natural function or tradition of the school and embrace them.

Offer taste tests and incorporate a Harvest of the Month Program to engage students in the farm to school program and introduce them to newly procured foods!

Tell your story Training Video from Minnesota

What channels of communication can be used to engage the school community?

Make marketing fun!  A wellness event hosted by the school or a local community organization is a great way for the school to get the word out about the farm to school program.  Offer taste tests at the event to showcase the healthy, local foods that students are being served in the cafeteria.  Rally community support by engaging community members and discussing the benefits of the farm to school program: health benefits for the students and economic benefits for the community!

Social media is also a great way to market the farm to school program.  Utilize sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to give program updates, share upcoming community events, and post pictures and videos of the healthy food and nutrition-related activities being offered at the school.

Schools can also send newsletters and recipe cards home to parents.  Through newsletters, schools can inform parents of how students are being engaged in the farm to school program by providing highlights of the healthy, local foods that are being offered in the school cafeteria and the activities that students are involved in, such as test tests or chef demonstrations.  Schools might even choose to highlight the different farmers/producers from which the local food is being procured.  Newsletters can also be sent to school educators and community letters to keep these individuals engaged in the farm to school process as well.  Further, recipe cards are a great extension to a Harvest of the Month program.  By sending home recipe cards featuring the seasonal foods being offered to students, families can further encourage healthy eating by recreating these recipes at home.

In addition to newsletters, press releases can also be an effective way to communicate how the school is moving forward with the farm to school program.  See below for templates from the CA Harvest of the Month Program:

These templates can be used to announce the launch of a new local Harvest of the Month program, promote a new or successful partnership between two organizations implementing Harvest of the Month, or share a success story or positive outcomes as a result of local Harvest of the Month efforts.

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