COLUMBIA – A new program with Columbia Public Schools aims to connect students with their food.
The program is a partnership with CPS, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Heart of Missouri United Way and the Boone County Children’s Service Fund.
The goal is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, improve physical and mental health and improve academic achievement for eight schools.
Liana Fullum, director of nutrition services at CPS, said she is very excited about the program.
”It’s a new part to our farm-to-school effort and it is a more coordinated effort and it’s what we have been working toward,” said Fullum.
This program falls under the Farm to School initiative. In 2014, CPS received a grant from the USDA’s Farm to School Program to bring in more local foods, more indoor and outdoor gardens and hands on activities for students. Funding from Boone County and the United Way will add to the USDA grant.
About a thousand students will get the opportunity to participate in 17 different food and agriculture activities throughout the school year. These activities include: school gardening, fruit and vegetable tasting, cooking demonstrations, place-based learning and field trips to the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture’s Urban Farm.
Billy Polansky, executive director of Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture said the most important part to the field trips are the taste tests.
“It’s the point of the whole thing. They are out there harvesting. They get to wash the produce, and they taste it. They have ownership over that process,” said Polansky.
The program will start with the fall semester at Alpha Hart, Elliot Battle, Benton STEM, Blue Ridge, Derby Ridge, New Haven, West Boulevard and Parkade elementary schools. The schools were chosen because their rates of free and reduced lunch are over fifty percent.
“A lot of the grants that schools can go out for, they have to have a high free and reduced rate. There has to be justification for most of the grants that we go for and poverty indicators are usually what is used and those schools have high poverty indicators,” said Fullum.
The next step is deciding where each garden will be located at the different elementary schools.