CU Farm to School Project


Champaign, Ill. (WCIA)

Valerie Koress, Community Nutrition Program Coordinator WITH C-U-P-H-D, shares details on the CUPHD’s Summer Meals Program.

Here’s more from Valerie:

As the Community Nutrition Program Coordinator, I currently manage the Champaign County WIC program, CUPHD’s Summer Meals Program, and coordinate any other nutrition-related activities we do in the community. Along with that, part of my job is applying for food and nutrition-related grants, and supporting their implementation when awarded. As such, CUPHD applied as a key partner on a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant being led by Sola Gratia Farm of Urbana. We are approximately 7 months into the grant cycle, and diligently working to collect input from the Urbana School District community, such as parents and students, teachers, local farmers and producers, school administration, and food service staff. We have also convened a steering committee composed of representatives from each of those stakeholder groups, and once we get as much input as possible from the school community, we will use that information to create an action plan for a comprehensive farm to school program in Urbana. Then, we will shift focus to Champaign and go through the same process to collect community input and create an action plan for success in that district.

As a public health dietitian, I promote and educate on healthy eating habits and good nutrition, and work to address food insecurity issues in our community. March is National Nutrition Month, so a great time to promote food and nutrition initiatives in our community, such as the CU Farm to School project. Farm to school programs have 3 main components: local food procurement, school gardening, and food/nutrition/agriculture education in the classroom. USDA data shows that school districts who implement farm to school programs have increased meal program participation, and that school gardens improve student knowledge related to healthy eating and positively impact academic performance. And of course there’s the economic benefit for the whole community of keeping food sales local.

We know that there are some farm to school activities already happening in CU schools, but we are trying to take those efforts, and expand/build on existing infrastructure and programs to create a comprehensive farm to school program so that all students have access to farm to school programming during the school day or in after school programs. One of the questions that keeps coming up is related to this being a “CU” farm to school project, but right now we are targeting the Urbana School District, and once the action plan for that district is complete or nearly complete, we will shift focus to Champaign schools.

We are offering raffle entries to any stakeholder (parent, student, farmer, etc.) that fills out a survey on our website.

We are actively seeking survey respondents within the Urbana School District community. Surveys can all be found on our website, and there is a survey for each type of stakeholder: Student, Parent, School Staff, Food Service Worker, Producer. Survey respondents can enter themselves in a raffle to win a garden/cooking-related gift basket.

Champaign-Urbana Public Health District/CU Farm to School
201 W. Kenyon Rd., Champaign, IL 61820

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