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This resource provides a summary of findings from a national survey exploring the interests and educational needs related to K–12 and ECE-based local food incentive programs.
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. In addition to supporting the development of children's healthy eating habits, local food purchasing keeps dollars local, supports local farmers, and strengthens connections between early childhood programs and communities. Access to local, healthy food coupled with education can help children build healthy eating habits and form the foundation for a healthy life. Farm to ECE can also be a starting point for increasing families' access to local foods. Engaging families in farm to ECE efforts can educate parents and families about local food sources and connect them with farmers and other local vendors.
Farm to early care and education (ECE) is a set of activities and strategies—including the use of local foods in meals and snacks, gardening opportunities, and food, nutrition, and agriculture learning activities—implemented with the goals of promoting health and wellness and enhancing the overall quality of the educational experience in all types of ECE settings.In 2018, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN), in partnership with the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS), implemented the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey. Similar surveys were conducted in 2012 by NFSN, Ecotrust, and the NFSN Farm to Preschool Subcommittee and in 2015 by NFSN with support of the Farm to ECE Working Group. As with the previous iterations, the 2018 version was implemented to better understand the current landscape and reach of farm to ECE, including the application of activities, motivations, and challenges.The 2018 survey utilized a purposive sample inviting a representative sample of ECE educators to participate in the survey in order to gain a better perspective of the activities, motivations for implementation, and barriers to farm to ECE among a variety of types of providers. However, limitations of the sampling method and survey design have implications for interpreting the results. These limitations also point to a need for further research and analysis to gain a better understanding of the needs and opportunities for expansion of farm to ECE across all types of programs and settings. This survey and subsequent analysis represent the best efforts to date to capture the information available across as many program types as possible. Future research to evaluate the various characteristics associated with implementation of farm to ECE activities and their barriers is necessary to inform policy and programmatic development to advance farm to ECE.
This toolbox and the tools in it are meant for early childhood programs interested in purchasing local food. Primarily, it aims to support USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) participants in using funds to increase their local food purchases; however, it is also appropriate for early childhood programs that are interested in local food but are not yet participants in CACFP. It provides an overview of purchasinglocal food for early childhood programs, federal funding opportunities that can support local purchasing, and stepby-step instructions for purchasing from a variety of different local food sources. This toolbox can be used collectively or as individual components tailored to specific program goals.
This Farm to Early Childhood Program guide provides tools and resources to help early childhood program providers of all types and sizes purchase and use local foods in their meals and snacks.
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