The objective of farm to child care activities is to connect children in early child care settings — preschools, Head Start, center-based programs, programs in K-12 schools and family child care programs — to local food and agriculture, by serving local products in meals and snacks, garden-based learning and agriculture and nutrition education and activities.
Birth- to 4- years is a great time to start exposing children to new foods. This is a time many children are more apt to try new foods, especially if a peer or a teacher is modeling the behavior of eating the item. Farm to child care activities offer a great way to introduce children to foods available from Texas farmers and ranchers and ensuring that incorporating new ingredients into a child’s diet is not a chore.
5 tips to consider when starting a farm to child care program
Evaluate where you currently are and set realistic expectations.
Some potential topics to focus on:
-- Purchasing local food
-- Garden-based learning
-- Cooking classes, community partnerships and nutrition education
Form a strong team of collaborators.
-- Different people have different strengths.
-- Make sure to include the educators and staff outside of your direct team if you want to have the greatest success and buy-in.
Establish attainable goals to get started
Example goals include:
-- Identify a snack or meal item that can transition to a local item
-- Find a farmers market, producer or distributor that can connect you to local foods
-- Identify if any resources already developed for farm to school are relevant to your farm to child care programs
-- Plan an activity focused around local products
-- Plan a field trip to a farm, farmers market or have a farmer visit the classroom
Collaborate with your community
If you are running into a barrier you are likely not the first one to encounter it. Communicate with other child care centers in your area to find out what they’re doing to bring farm to child care to their students.
Promote farm to child care to parents and your community
-- Make sure to include your new initiatives in newsletters and other communications
-- Recruit volunteers through these communication channels
Child Care centers can use their unique qualities to their advantage:
- Local food procurement: child care settings tend to have lower food volume needs. Farmers and ranchers with smaller production capacity may be able to accommodate the needs of a preschool or family care site when they cannot accommodate an entire school district.
- Class size: child care settings tend to have smaller class sizes; allowing greater flexibility in the types of curriculum an educator can offer.
- More flexible curriculum: Experiential education is the preferred learning model for child care centers. Garden-based learning and field trips to farms and farmers markets are great learning opportunities for children to connect with local food.
- Parent participation: Parent and family involvement can be a huge asset for farm to child care programming. Include upcoming farm to child care opportunities in your communication to see if parents would like to participate.
Many great farm to child care resources already exist and can help you get started. Visit our Map of Farm Fresh Activities to see if centers located near you are already implementing farm to child care activities.
USDA Farm to Preschool Fact Sheet
This USDA-developed fact sheet provides an overview of farm to child care and how it can be incorporated at a facility operating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
National Farm to School Network Farm to Preschool Fact Sheet
This fact sheet offers steps for incorporating farm to child care and outlines the differences between school districts and early child care settings.
Growing Head Start Success with Farm to Child Care
Aligning the Head Start Program Performance Standards and the Early Learning Outcomes Framework with Farm to Child Care is a win-win for Head Start Programs and their participants. This resource aims to highlight how different elements of Farm to Child Care, implemented individually or in combination, address many of the Head Start standards and provide significant benefits for children, families and communities.