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Civic Agriculture and Food Systems

The nutrition of the average American is a topic of hot debate, especially when it concerns how the government regulates food production and food health advocacy. For adults, it’s often a huge point of contention that sparks huge debates about the government’s place in determining something like soda consumption or fast food value meals. Informing a person about nutritious food is one thing, getting them to eat properly is something entirely different. With kids however, the approach to nutrition is more difficult. Most kids won’t understand the details of a debate about sugary sodas, they’re just told that it’s “bad” for them. But how do you think a child will react if they’re told that one of their favorite drinks, or snack foods, is bad simply because an adult says so? It’s not enough to tell children that a certain food or beverage is “bad” or “good.” Children deserve to have more information about the food they eat every day, especially if we want them to become informed adults capable of making smart choices when they grow up.

This is why organizations and groups like Food Education Every Day (FEED), Food Works, and Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of Vermont are so important to the future of our food systems. Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) works with schools and communities to raise awareness about healthy food, the role of Vermont farms and farmers, and good nutrition. Founded in 2000, Vermont FEED has worked with more than one third of schools in Vermont to create robust and viable Farm to School programs. Farm to School programs bring healthy food from local farms to school children. These programs connect schools with local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing health and nutrition education opportunities that will last a lifetime. Farm to School is a comprehensive program that extends beyond farm fresh salad bars and local foods in the cafeteria to include waste management programs like composting, and experiential education opportunities such as planting school gardens, cooking demonstrations and farm tours. The Farm to School approach helps children understand where their food comes from and how their food choices impact their bodies, the environment and their communities at large.

While Vermont FEED works to educate and improve school lunches, Food Works strives to educated whole communities. Founded in 1987 as a nonprofit organization to combat childhood hunger, Food Works has expanded into many different aspects of community life. Part of their mission is to help educate past current and future generations about our food system. They have programs like school gardens where school children grow gardens that supply meals on wheels programs for seniors. These seniors in turn come in and teach classes about gardening, baking fresh bread, and generally connect the children with the people in their community. One of the newest initiatives of Food Works is the Foodbank Farm, “which brings fresh, locally grown produce to the tables of poor families in Central Vermont.  In partnership with the Vermont Foodbank, the Food Works farm team is growing potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and onions for distribution solely to recipient families of Foodbank member agencies.”  The goal of the partnership is to provide a source of locally grown foods for low-income folks, regardless of their ability to pay.

Lastly we come to NOFA who having been founded in 1971 are one of the oldest organic farming associations in the US. NOFA is working to promote an economically viable and ecologically sound Vermont food system for the benefit of current and future generations. To this end they bring together and partner with local farmers, gardeners, consumers, and organizations like VT FEED and Food Works to create a stronger community. More than just matching up farmers to their consumers NOFA takes it one step further by providing business consulting and planning services so that these local farmers can grow and prosper as a business. NOFA’s website even has helpful links for becoming a certified organic farm.

While all of these organizations go about it in different ways, their end goal is the same: educate future generations about how our food is grown. These organizations have come to realize that in order for a change to happen in our food systems it is going to require educating future generations about our food systems. When our children know more about where there food comes from they will grow up spending their money on local foods that support the community. When a community has a strong local food system it generally also has a strong economy. When organizations come together for a common cause the effect is monumental, and if we continue to see our food systems evolve into community supported partnerships like VT FEED, Food Works, and NOFA VT we could have a whole new food system in our lives in the next few years.

Literature Review:

             With this week’s topic being about the impact/ cause and effect that Social and Civic organizations have on our food systems I decided to look at this assignment from an educational point of view. I am a big believer that without education on our food systems we will not be able to grow as a people. With this in mind I decided to research organizations that are focused around educating future generations.  I started out thinking I would only need to look into VT FEED but I was surprised to find that it worked in partnership with Food Works and NOFA VT. I ended up using information about what each group does to educate people about our food systems as pieces to a bigger puzzle. When looked at on the small scale it is easy to see why it is important that these organizations partner together. Each one fills in parts that another might lack to make a stronger community organization just like the ones they are trying to support. Each web site has a bunch of different links and are packed full of useful information. I highly encourage everyone to check them out and who knows maybe a system they support would work for your own local community.

Works Cited:

“Food, Garden, and Nutrition Education.” FOOD WORKS at TWO RIVERS CENTER. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013.

“Vermont Food Education Every Day.” NOFA Vermont. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013.

“What Is Vermont Feed?” VT FEED. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013.

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