October is National Farm to School Month, and this year students will learn more about a leafy green that is packed with nutrition through the theme “Spinach to Win It.”
Farm to School Month is coordinated by Georgia Organics in partnership with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, as well as the state of Georgia’s Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Public Health. Together, they focus on a specific crop to help students across the state learn more about agriculture and how food ends up on their plates.
UGA Extension has developed materials for teachers, students and other participants about the nutritional value of spinach, how to plant and care for the crop, and recipes to incorporate it into meals.
These materials and many more can be found on the Farm to School website throughout the month of October. The first 300 people to sign up also get a free packet of seeds, washable tattoos, and a Georgia planting and harvest calendar for school gardens.
Becky Griffin, who oversees some of the Farm to School month festivities as Extension community and school garden coordinator, said she’s excited to connect with teachers and get more school gardens up and running this year. She has been preparing Extension agents to work with local schools to connect them with farmers and resources. With Extension support, the schools will also help students grow their own spinach.
“My goal for this year is to touch base with as many teachers as I can, making sure they have the resources they need for their school gardens so we can get on track,” said Griffin. “We’re hoping to get lots of participants and get everybody excited.”
Georgia 4-H will also join in on the festivities, according to 4-H Extension specialist Kasey Bozeman. Some before- and after-school meetings this month will focus on activities such as planting spinach, teaching safe preparation and handling practices, creating and tasting recipes, playing games and singing songs about spinach.
“Farm to School programming is such a natural fit within our 4-H work — spinach is a great superfood to celebrate,” said Bozeman. “Perhaps some of these youth participants will work in the agriculture industry in the future, but all young people need to understand the importance of agriculture and farming in their communities.”
MaryBeth Hornbeck, the Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Extension agent in Rockdale County, encourages participants to reach out to their local UGA Extension office during the Spinach to Win It festivities to look to agents and their knowledge throughout the month.
“Extension is a great resource for Farm to School month in many ways, including our curriculum, community connections and people on our staff,” said Hornbeck. “Local Extension offices would love to partner with participants for a celebration, lesson or program this month! Many FACS agents love nothing more than making healthy eating fun and doable, and there are a million ways to enjoy spinach.”
The Farm to School program is open to the public, and school groups and families are encouraged to access and use the resources provided. Interested participants can sign up on the Farm to School website.
For more information about UGA Extension and its free services, visit extension.uga.edu.