Focusing on farm-to-school - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Focusing on farm-to-school

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School isn't in-session at the University of Vermont, but Sunday the house is packed.

Organizers of the sixth annual Farm to Cafeteria conference hope the gathering will sow the seeds of food system reform.

National Farm to School Network Spokesperson Mary Stein says the movement grew dramatically in the last 10 years.

"Folks are learning from one another on strategies for really making farm to school happen, making farm to institution happen across the country." said Stein.

She adds what began as just a sprinkling now covers 10,000 schools nationwide.

That includes two-thirds of Vermont learning institutions.

"Anything we can do to help kids understand where their food comes from and develop healthier eating habits and supports our local farms." said Stein.

The *farm-to-school* label is quite broad though, covering everything from serving local food to agricultural field trips.

It can even cover art, though these six panels are designed to prevent ideas shared at the conference from withering with time.

Burlington artist, Bonnie Acker said, "The artwork is the lasting legacy of the conference but the conversations are what people will take away forever."

Local artist Bonnie Acker watched over more than 100 attendees as they created the panels.

They depict all forms of farm-to-institution efforts from urban settings to rural ones like Vermont.

She helps out with Burlington school district's local food and education efforts and says the programs are paying exponential dividends each year.

"We have reached a point after 10 years, where kids from pre-school through high school are truly excited to eat the new foods, that's a whole climate change." said Acker.

And those in attendance expect progress to continue as the movement digs in.@

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