Farm to Summer: Incorporating Local Food in Summer Feeding and Camps
For much of the country, school gets out just as farms and gardens come into their prime growing season. There are still plenty of opportunities to connect kids and and communities to healthy, local food though. Thanks to the National Farm to School Network for this information on ways to keep the farm involved in kids’ summer vacation.
Summer Feeding Programs
With 3.2 million children receiving free meals through the Summer Food Service Program in 2014, these meals are a critical access point to healthy food for low-income children to thrive over summer months. Local foods and fun farm-based activities draw more kids and families to the program, bolstering your farm to school activities and supporting local and regional food systems all year long. Visit the USDA Farm to Summer page for more on continuing farm to school activities during summer and read learn more about Farm to Summer Feeding Programs.
Food and Farm-focused Summer Camps
Reinforce food and agriculture education outside of school to reduce “learning loss” among students on summer vacation. Day camps that introduce kids to planting, harvesting, cooking and caretaking farm animals have popped up all over the country. Check with local parks and recreation programs, 4-H and nonprofits in your region, or search for “farm camps” to see what’s offered locally.
Camp organizers can work with local farmers, Wake County farmers’ markets and local produce suppliers (such as POP Market and/or The Produce Box) to source seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Maintain School Gardens
Keeping up a school garden during summer can be a challenge for schools on a traditional calendar, but returning to school in the fall with a ready-to-harvest crop will help students hit the ground running. If your school has strong parent support, invite families to water and maintain the school garden for a week at a time in exchange for harvesting summer crops.
Other popular approaches are working with city parks departments, incorporating the garden in summer school curriculum or inviting summer camps to use the space for their classes. Explore more tips in this Summer in the School Garden guide by Growing Gardens in Portland, Ore.