Systems Change: Local Produce for Little Ones
Nearly 1,000 children at 15 facilities will start eating fresh, North Carolina grown produce at meals and snacks this May as part of Farm to Child Care (F2CC) in Wake County. They join the 2,500 children at 47 facilities that participated in the first two years of Farm to Child Care in Wake County, through funding from the John Rex Endowment.
“We are seeing amazing changes in the food young children in Wake County child care facilities are eating. On average, children are eating 12 fresh produce items weekly, with 4 ½ items being NC grown,” said Farm to Child Care Program Coordinator Lynn Policastro. “Thanks to the commitment child care directors are making to change their menus towards local, fresh produce, there is an increase in local farms being able to support child care facilities as new market,” she said.
Farmer Foodshare’s Wholesale Farmers Market (formerly POP Market) delivers NC grown produce weekly to Pam’s School of Raleigh.
Led by Wake County SmartStart (WCSS) and in partnership with AHA and Wake County Cooperative Extension, F2CC is system change at work. Together, we are literally creating a system where child care directors have the knowledge and access to purchase NC produce, where farmers and distributors have new business opportunities in this huge child care market.
This type of system change takes time. While it is still evolving, the system is strengthening during this third year of F2CC in Wake County, and the community of practice among child care providers is growing to a point where directors are beginning to support each other in this work to make serving NC grown produce the norm.
Plus, the Farm to Child Care Toolkit is available online to all child care facilities in Wake County; it provides information on what Farm to Child Care is, how and where to purchase local produce, how to make this policy and practice, and more. The Toolkit also features profiles on 13 local farmers who want to work with child care providers.
Farmer Robert Jones delivers his produce weekly to cook Kim Saint Germain at Bright Horizons at Raleigh Corporate Center.
AHA partner Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) is also working with WCSS to build capacity among child care programs by supporting the expansion of outdoor learning environments that include edible components. Through this partnership, NLI continued its Preventing Obesity by Design work in child care facilities that had participated in the F2CC project and already were showing a level of commitment to providing a healthier lifestyle for young children. Through the collaboration, child care programs receive technical assistance and training on how to plan gardens and menus based on what’s in season.
Child care facilities receive:
- On-site gardening support from an NLI gardener
- Design for outdoor learning space form NLI designers
- Training on how to use space as an outdoor learning classroom from both NLI and WCSS
- Training on how to incorporate learning activities into everyday routines from WCSS
- Support on how to build community of volunteers/supporters—NLI and WCSS
Child care facilities that purchase NC produce and grow their own vegetables and fruit are truly instilling a culture change for the children they serve.