St. Vrain Nutrition Services Featured in USDA’s The DIRT Newsletter

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"kids plant farm to school'

Colorado Preschool is Building Partnerships to Grow Their Farm to Early Childcare Program

St. Vrain Valley School District in Boulder, CO, has had Farm to School programming since 2012, but had a strong resurgence after receiving a Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Student Wellness Grant in 2018. The Colorado Department of Education is a Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Farm to School State Agency grantee. They used their grant to provide sub-grant awards to eligible SFAs with priority given to SFAs where at least a 40% of children served are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Using the funds received from their grant, St. Vrain was able to build several school education gardens and outdoor classrooms, and host Colorado Proud School Meal Day celebrations, Harvest of Month local produce taste tests, and student-led farmer’s markets. With funding from the USDA Farm to School Transitioning ECE and Agriculture Meal Environment (TEAM) grant has allowed St. Vrain to move into Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE) programming at Spark! Discovery Preschool.  St. Vrain has worked at establishing new partnerships and building community support which led to the installation of preschool garden beds and agriculture and nutritional education opportunities. St. Vrain’s Agriscience/Future Farmers of America (FFA) mentorship program began its education and hands-on garden support within the district in 2022, and Spark! Discovery Preschool was one of the first mentorship education sites. FFA students developed and taught hands-on skills and provided engaging lesson topics on soil, pollinators and plant nutrients. Children learned about these important aspects of farming through lessons and planting their own garden beds.  Farm to ECE efforts have bolstered the snack program through a 10 cent per meal local food incentive program offered through the Farm to School TEAM grant. Spark! Discovery Preschool is providing delicious, great tasting hyper-local fresh heirloom tomato salsa with colorful tomatoes from Rocky Mountain Fresh Hydroponic Farm in Longmont, Colorado. Theresa Spires, the Wellness Coordinator stated that, “Kids are fun, naturally curious and excited to learn! They are adventurous and can problem solve even at this young age. They ask when we will be back and what they will be learning the next time our Agriscience mentors are back in the classroom teaching lessons or digging in the gardens.”