Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) has been awarded a Farm to Early Care and Education Implementation Grant on behalf of the North Carolina Farm to Preschool Network. The grant will be used to strengthen state-level farm to preschool efforts to provide children with access to nutritious and fresh foods and to programs that educate and encourage a hands-on approach to food, health and agriculture education. North Carolina is one of 10 states, along with the District of Columbia, to be awarded the grant by the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists.
ASAP will co-lead the project to enhance and expand farm to preschool education. “North Carolina has been a leader in farm to preschool work and we are excited to continue growing the movement,” says project co-lead Emily Jackson, director of ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School program, one of the first farm to school programs in the country. The program got its start in 2002 at Hazelwood Elementary School in Haywood County. Today, more than 42,000 schools in all 50 states have farm to school programs.
Growing Minds now works with schools in 60 Appalachian Grown counties providing opportunities for children to learn about local food and farms with a multi-faceted, hands-on approach. Learning opportunities include school gardens, farm field trips, classroom cooking and taste tests of locally grown food. The Growing Minds website includes weekly lesson plans, recipes, experiments and a database of children’s literature—all of which can be used by parents and educators to involve children in learning about their food. In addition to farm to school resources, the program also provides training for teachers, school nutrition staff, parents, community members, farmers and agricultural professionals
ASAP’s work with preschool age children dates back to 2007. Aided by the new grant, Jackson says, “We want to reach child care centers that have never heard of farm to preschool.” The NC Farm to Preschool Network will use grant funds to expand its capacity and outreach, conduct needs assessments and administer mini-grants to 40 child care centers across the state. In addition to funds, the centers will be matched with mentors to help with the implementation of farm to preschool education.
The Growing Minds team co-facilitates the North Carolina Farm to Preschool Network, serves on the National Farm to School Network’s Farm to Early Childhood Education work group and the Farm to School Coalition of North Carolina Seering Committee. ASAP also served as the Southeast Regional Lead for the National Farm to School Network from 2007 to 2016.
ASAP is a nonprofit serving the Southern Appalachian region. Its mission is “to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters and build healthy communities through connections to local food.”
To learn more visit Growing-Minds.org or ASAPConnections.org.