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Pilot program brings the farm to school to teach students about nutrition, gardening

A pilot program in North County is teaching students about nutrition and where their food comes from. KPBS North County reporter Alexander Nguyen says the Farm to School program encourages kids to try vegetables they may not have tried before.

A pilot program in North County is teaching students about nutrition and where their food comes from.

The five-week Farm to School program is a partnership between Escondido Union School District and Farm to Institution Center, an initiative from the local nonprofit Community Health Improvement Partners. It encourages elementary school children to try vegetables they may not have tried before.

“I think that part of understanding just the roots, no pun intended, of where our food comes from and how it gets to our table is just, it's powerful," said Jeremy Lyche, principal of Bernardo Elementary School. "You saw the kids' excitement today. They love it.”


The students in Paul Erickson's class have been in the program for over a month.

“We've been doing multiple lessons where we're learning about and teaching about local farms in our community, as well as some healthier choices like produce and things, just getting students engaged in farming,” Erickson said.

Once a week for the past five weeks, Alexis Anderson from the Farm to Institution Center has been coming by to teach these kids more about farming and what it takes to get fresh produce to their tables.

Wednesday was the students' last session in the program. She said the main takeaway for the kids is learning where their food comes from.

"And eating locally and supporting local because it benefits their community economically, but also benefits their health and just education overall of knowing what's available," Anderson said.


The Farm to School program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

After Wednesday's lesson, the students went to the school garden for a game of Bingo to identify the things they’ve learned. One of the goals of the school garden is for the students to try new things.

“I've eaten some carrot and lettuce, and I've eaten a lot more fruit,” said Katelyn Borecky, a student in the class.

But not everything was as tasty as it looks, like the rainbow chard.

“The rainbow chard just tasted like lettuce and then the goldenberry didn’t taste very good," said Adonis Constantinovici, another student in the class. "And then the cotton candy grape just tasted like a normal grape."

Students also learned about the food mile.

"Food miles are when food like bananas travel really far across from the world," Borecky said.

Anderson said it's important for children to know where their food comes from and the environmental impact, as well as why it's important to support local farmers and locally grown produce.

"We had stuff from California going all the way across the world. And the amount of miles there, they were shocked," she said. "I was like, 'So what's the closest to you?' And they're like, 'Our garden.' So then we walked in and did, 'How many steps does it take to get to your garden?' And I think it just put that into perspective for them."

For Escondido Union School District, the ultimate goal for the school garden is for the produce to end up in the cafeteria for the children to eat. But there are some health regulations the district still needs to overcome before that can happen.

In the meantime, the district has partnered with Dickinson Family Farms in Fallbrook to bring farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to the lunch menu.

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