Teaching children about food and where it comes from is an important part of many childcare programs, but many childcare facilities want to go a step further and build a Farm to Childcare program that connects local farmers with young children by providing fresh, healthy foods in childcare meals.
In response, IATP has just published a ready-to-use Farm to Childcare Curriculum developed in partnership with childcare provider company New Horizon Academy (NHA); and a complementary Farm to Childcare: Highlights and Lessons Learned Report that tells the story of using that curriculum to start a comprehensive Farm to Childcare program currently operating at 62 NHA childcare centers throughout Minnesota.
The Farm to Childcare Curriculum Package contains information on designing a Farm to Childcare menu and implementation schedule, recommendations on how to highlight local farmers to make the connection real for children, detailed examples of family engagement strategies and extensive experiential learning activity suggestions to incorporate Farm to Childcare themes into Circle Time, Math and Science, Sensory and Dramatic Play, Arts and conversations at mealtime. It also includes resource recommendations for further ideas.
Farm to Childcare: Highlights and Lessons Learned Report acts as an “everything you want to know” guide, sharing the story of our experience implementing Farm to Childcare—including both the successes and missteps—with the hope that it might provide some helpful insight and tools for other organizations wishing to start or expand their own Farm to Childcare initiatives. Inside, you will find a description of our experience developing partnerships, the timetable for our program, our approach for designing the pilot Farm to Childcare program, the tools we developed, the locally grown foods used in our pilot, sample menus, parent outreach strategies and more. Throughout this material, we share “what we did” and then “what we learned.” We also conducted an extensive evaluation of the pilot, and share our tools and lessons from that experience.
This summer IATP is building on our previous experience as part of a new Farm to Head Start pilot program. Working in partnership with the CAPRW Head Start program in St. Paul and the Hmong American Farmers Association who farm in Dakota County, we are adapting our curriculum to fit Head Start educational standards and expanding these resources to include content that is culturally responsive to the Hmong community. More on this project in the coming months!
We have made both of our new Farm to Childcare resources available at www.iatp.org/farmtochildcare.
This work is supported in part by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.