I love visiting schools. When I see all those young faces I see the future – bright-eyed children who will be leading us in 20, 30 or 40 years. Those of us in positions of responsibility have an obligation to provide our children with every opportunity to succeed in school and in life.
We know a big part of that future success is the food young people eat. It is important to teach them about the advantages of a nutritious diet to help them achieve their potential and become healthy, productive adults. We can make progress by facilitating programs in our schools to help students learn about healthy eating.
That’s why I was honored to attend an assembly last week at Chatom Elementary School near Turlock. With help from the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and the California Bountiful Foundation, which utilized a Specialty Crop Block Grant administered by CDFA, the school is offering its students a year-long farm-to-school educational program, including a school-wide farmers’ market, a salad bar in the cafeteria, and monthly taste tests of healthy foods. The day I was there, the students had an opportunity to taste fresh and canned peaches, all grown locally.
That local connection is critical. These students may not realize the amazing amount of food produced in their backyard and throughout the communities of the Central Valley. This program will help them gain an understanding about the bounty in their own neighborhood and also learn about the commitment of farmers to grow food for consumers here and around the world.
The program’s objective is to have students learn more about the foods that are best for them and to ask their parents for those foods in family meals. Last week, as I met the children at Chatom School and saw first-hand the commitment of their principal and teachers, I knew this program was in good hands. With more efforts like this to connect young people, healthy eating, and the people who grow their food, California will have well-informed agricultural policy decision makers in our future!