Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grant helps Farm to School Task Force fight childhood obesity

The Colorado Farm to School Task Force received a $105,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation ( to help schools, local farmers and communities bring fresh local food into K-12 school meal and snack programs.

“Farm-to-school is a promising strategy for addressing the rising tide of childhood obesity in Colorado,” said Chris Lindley, director of the Prevention Services Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

According to Lindley, Colorado ranks 23 out of 50 states in the prevalence of childhood obesity, which belies its reputation as the “leanest” state in the nation. Children who are obese have an increased risk of developing chronic diseases later in life.

Lindley said, “Many of these children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, and this is simply unacceptable. We’d like to see farm-to-school initiatives spread to every school district in every corner of the state.”

As more Colorado schools replace highly processed foods, the opportunity for “scratch” ingredients to come from Colorado farmers is significant. When it comes to institutional buying power, schools lead the pack, with more than a half million meals served to Colorado school children every day.

“Showcasing Colorado’s high-quality farm food products in schools teaches children about agriculture and creates new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers,” said Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar. “It is exciting to see the accomplishments of the Colorado Farm to School Task Force in such a short time.”

The grant will fund outreach and technical assistance to local communities, research on best practices in farm-to-school policy, development of a farm-to-school evaluation plan, and promising pilot programs.

“We see the Colorado Farm to School Task Force as an essential partner for making local produce a part of healthy school meals for kids across Colorado,” said Kelly Dunkin, vice president of philanthropy for the Colorado Health Foundation.

The task force just released its first annual report , available at The executive summary highlights the task force’s accomplishments, such as leading hands-on, working sessions between school districts and farmers to bring local fresh foods into school meals and publishing policy analyses on key Colorado farm-to-school topics.

“This generous grant will help ensure the task force continues to support an increase in the number of school districts that participate in robust farm-to-school programs,” said Jeremy West, task force chair and nutrition services director of Weld County School District 6.

The task force members travel the state, meeting with local schools and producers. The next quarterly meeting will be Tuesday, June 26, in Las Animas, Colo., and is open to the public. Click here to view the executive summary of the Colorado Farm to School Task Force report, or contact Lyn Kathlene at for information.

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