What is Farm to School?
In 2021 Governor Larry Hogan designated October 4-8 as Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week. In its 14th year, this annual promotion encourages Maryland schools to serve local food in lunches to show students where their food comes from and to introduce them to fresh, nutritious products made right here in Maryland.
Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week is an element of the Maryland Farm to School Program, which is administered in partnership by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). The program aims to bring locally-produced foods into schools, provide hands-on experiential learning to students, and integrate food-related education while promoting the benefits of local, nutritious foods.
According to the 2019 U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Farm to School Census, Maryland schools spent over $19 million on local foods in school year 2018-2019. More than 95% of Maryland schools serve local foods, and nearly 97% of Maryland schools participate in Farm to School activities such as nutrition education, taste testing, gardening, and collaborating with local farmers. Maryland was also the first state in the nation to have every public school system participate in the Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week.
This year's Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week falls during National Farm to School Month. You can see activities state-wide by following #MDHGSLW and #FarmToSchool on social media.
Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder joined St. Mary's County Public School leaders at Greenview Knolls Elementary School in Great Mills on October 7th for a Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week event. The event was packed full of agriculture education activities for students that are aimed at introducing them to the local agricultural and seafood bounty from St. Mary's County and to the people who grow and harvest these products.
Guests joined students as they rotated through four outside stations with experiential activities focused on animal agriculture, nutrition, planting and farming, and sustainable fishing and oyster harvesting. Farmers from the area were on hand to answer any questions. Staff from the U.S. Oyster Festival was in attendance to teach kids about Maryland's rich seafood history and how to tong for oysters. Other stations and activities are being held by University of Maryland Extention agents, who have been partners with SMCPS on Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week activities since 2008.
During lunch, the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service Regional Administrator Dr. Patty Bennett joined virtually to give thanks to the SMCPS food service staff for their hard work. The school lunch for the day featured pulled chicken and hot dogs from Hoffman's Meats served with sweet potatoes from Beagle Hill Farms and roasted squash from the Loveville Produce Auction. Additionally, every student received a slice of fresh watermelon from a local farmer, Ben Beale.
For educational materials, Harvest of the Month posters, produce seasonality charts, menus, places to find local products, a brief video sound book with photos and interviews, plus much more for parents, teachers, and food service staff, please visit the Maryland Farm to School website.
Maryland State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury
"Maryland invests more than $19.8 million annually in Farm to School initiatives, which source local, healthy foods for school meals that help fuel overall student success and achievement. Our schools provide expansive agricultural education opportunities, including growing school gardens, hosting local foods taste testing, and partnering with local farmers," said State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudury. "Homegrown School Lunch Week is a celebration of the commitment and dedication of Maryland schools and school nutrition professionals in order to provide healthy choices for Maryland students."
Scott Smith, St. Mary’s County Public Schools, Superintendent
“St. Mary's County Public Schools is proud to showcase our partnership with our community for Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week. We are excited to highlight the home-grown, healthy foods for our students that come directly from our local farms and agriculture community.”
Ben Beale, University of Maryland Extension, Extension Agent
“University of Maryland Extension is proud to celebrate our farmers and the county’s rich agricultural heritage through the Maryland Farm to School Program. Farm to School provides a great platform to educate children on the importance of farming, where our food comes from, and nutritious eating. We look forward to working with St. Mary’s County farmers and other agricultural organizations to bring a part of our local farms to our schools.”
Delegate Brian Crosby, St. Mary’s County
“I am very proud of the partnership St. Mary’s County Public Schools has formed with our county's farms in this effort to showcase locally-grown, healthy foods. Giving students the opportunity to eat local produce at school is an example of the power of true community building, and it will make a lasting impact on these lucky students.”