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About Farm to Preschool

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Children taste spinach at Prospect Enrichment Preschool (Seattle, WA)

In this section, learn more about:

What is Farm to Preschool?

Farm to Preschool is an extension of the Farm to School movement, and incorporates many similar activities designed to promote locally produced fruits and vegetables in a childcare setting. Such activities may include school garden curriculum, class field trips to farms, or in-class meal-preparation and taste-testing. Childcare providers can draw upon young childrens' natural curiosity to stimulate interest in local foods and draw connections between multiple areas of learning.

Farm to Preschool is aimed at preschool age children, typically ages 3-5, in any type of childcare setting. Such settings may include preschools, Head Start, center based childcare, programs in K-12 school districts, nurseries, or family home care facilities.

Read National Farm to School Network's full report and state level data from the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey for information on national and Washington State Farm to ECE activities.

Goals of Farm to Preschool Programs

 The goals of a Farm to Preschool program vary by provider, but many programs share common goals. While many goals overlap with those of Farm to School, preschoolers' young age allows for an additional focus on habit formation and preference setting. Goals of a Farm to Preschool program may include:

  • Educate children about local farming and food systems
  • Influence eating habits and food preferences during formative years
  • Improve the quality of foods served in the program
  • Improve healthy food access, nutrition and prevent obesity and obesity-related diseases
  • Support local farmers and the local community
  • Increase market opportunities for small farms
  • Improve institution-community relationships

For farmers, preschool/childcare providers/educators, and community organizers, Farm to Preschool programs are an opportunity to work together to achieve the goals of many, while providing access to fresh, nutritious, local and delicious produce.

The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families maintains a list of Nutrition & Physical Activity Resources for early learning programs.

Farm to Preschool: Local Food and Learning in Early Child Care and Education Settings by USDA Farm to School
This fact sheet discusses how Farm to School isn't just for K-12 institutions; an increasing number of early child care and education providers are engaging in farm to preschool activities. The term "farm to preschool" encompasses efforts to serve local or regionally produced foods in early child care and education settings; provide hands-on learning activities such as gardening, farm visits, and culinary activities; and integrate food-related education into the curriculum.

"Making Health Easier: Healthy Changes Start in Preschool" is an inspirational video how one preschool teacher brings healthy changes to her classroom through various techniques, including farm to preschool components.

Getting Started with Farm to Preschool [PDF] by National Farm to School Network provides an overview and initial steps to starting your farm to preschool program. 

Many Head Start programs are engaging in "Farm to Head Start" activities including purchasing local food for meals and snacks, bringing students to farms and farmers into the classroom, teaching students how to cook or prepare locally grown food, and even tending to your own gardens. National Head Start Association and National Farm to School Network announced "Celebrate Farm to Head Start Day" last October. Check out "Farm to Head Start" activities around the county at NHSA website.

Does your program or center have a wellness policy? Wellness policies strengthen Farm to Preschool efforts. Working with staff, teachers, parents, and other care providers to create a wellness policy helps get everyone on the same page, whether you are just starting out, or have been doing Farm to Preschool activities for several years. If you already have a wellness policy, consider adding language that specifically focuses on local foods, Farm to Preschool, and school gardens. Find resources here for creating a wellness policy of your own. Also check out two great examples from Hawaii and California.


Buying Local Food for Childcare Providers

Local Procurement for Child Care Centers [PDF] by National Farm to School Network provides a range of ways and tips to local sourcing for the meal program. Also available in Spanish: Compras Locales Para Los Centros de Cuidado Infantil

Local Procurement for Family Child Care Providers [PDF] by National Farm to School Network offers advice for those looking to purchase local food in a family child care setting. Also available in Spanish: Compras Locales Para Los Proveedores de Cuidado Familiares

Farm to Early Childhood Program: A Step-by-Step Guide [PDF] by Michigan Farm to School

Local Food for Little Eaters: A Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Guide to Local Food Purchasing [PDF] by Abby Harper, Bryan Brown, and Meagan Shedd at Michigan State University. Local food purchasing is one component of farm to early care and education (ECE), which also includes on-site gardens and food, nutrition, and agriculture education. This guide is designed to help Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs increase the amount of local foods they purchase and use in their early care and education (ECE) programs serving children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers. MSHS programs can use these step-by-step instructions and interactive tools to begin purchasing and using more local foods in their programs. The accompanying Farm to Migrant and Seasonal Head Start in Action offers multiple case studies highlighting successful MSHS programs and offering ideas for implementation strategies. Check out these profiles of MSHS programs nationwide who are purchasing and serving local food.

CACFP Webinars & Trainings by USDA FNS Team Nutrition
Many webinars are archived here for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and focus on CACFP Meal Pattern Requirements, tactics and techniques for trainers and program operators to equip staff with the knowledge and skills needed to provide high-quality meals and snacks in the CACFP. The Trainers' Circle series will assist State agencies, CACFP sponsoring organizations, and independent centers in planning and implementing quality job skills training for CACFP operators.

Grants for Farm to Childcare & ECE Programs

Gro More Garden Grants - National Head Start Association
Through the Gro More Garden Grants initiative, National Head Start Association and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation are working with Head Start programs across the country to teach children, families, and communities how to grow their own fresh produce.

 

National Farm to Preschool logo Visit the National Farm to Preschool website for many more resources!

 

Consideration of social justice issues throughout the development process will ensure that your Farm to Preschool program benefits all children without inadvertently contributing to inequity. Providers may wish to reference the Racial Equity Toolkit during the early stages of development. Produced by the Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative, these guidelines provide a useful outline for any provider looking to ensure equity.

Last Updated: 12/31/2018