Top Ten Tips to Improve Food Sustainability at School

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1. Learn about the food being served at your school.

2. Work with administrators and cafeteria staff to brainstorm how you can improve meals.

  • Replace processed foods with fresh whenever possible.
  • Look into providing organic food whenever possible.
  • Investigate the possibility of connecting with area farms and incorporating local food into your cafeteria. The Farm to School Network is a great resource.
  • Learn about ways to make improvements in school food more affordable in this interview from the Center for Ecoliteracy.

3. Set standards for foods and beverages sold outside the school cafeteria.

  • Petition for vending machines to be stocked with healthier options.
  • Instead of fundraisers selling candy or other junk food, choose healthy alternatives.
  • Reduce or eliminate junk-food marketing on the school campus.

4. Help students understand where the food they eat comes from.

  • Arrange a tour of a local farmer’s market and talk to the vendors.
  • Visit a local farm and ask the farmers to talk about what they produce and their role in the community.
  • Bring in local foods and have a taste test with students. Check out this helpful "Guide to Taste Testing Local Foods in Schools" from Vermont FEED. 

5. Establish an edible garden at your school.

  • Invite students to decide what crops they want to grow and to be involved in the planting, tending and harvesting.
  • Utilize an integrated pest-management system.
  • Find out if and how you can use some of the harvest in school lunches.
  • Check out the Edible Schoolyard Project for ideas and inspiration. 

6. Hold cooking classes to teach students and staff how to prepare healthy meals.

  • Use organic, locally grown foods in your recipes.
  • Create dishes using fruits, vegetables, grains and other foods that may be new to students.
  • Give students an opportunity to lead some of the cooking classes.

7. Help make healthy food accessible in your community.

  • Support the establishment of a farmer’s market in your community. Consider hosting it at your school.
  • Help set up a community garden. Or, if you have an edible garden on site, encourage members of the community to volunteer their time in the garden in exchange for produce.
  • Facilitate a system in which farmer’s market vendors can accept food stamps. If you have a school garden, consider making excess produce available to families in need.
  • Participate in local outreach events, creating displays, posters and fliers that highlight the benefits of healthy eating.

8. Educate students about the issues associated with conventional agriculture.

  • Discuss the use of pesticides and how they can impact our health and the environment.
  • Investigate relationships between agricultural practices, soil fertility, and soil erosion.
  • Discuss the ways food is preserved and kept fresh longer.
  • Compare and contrast conventional techniques with those of  sustainable agriculture.
  • The Chesapeake Bay is heavily impacted by agricultural practices. Visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s website to use this location as a case study. 

9. Invite guest speakers to your school to talk about sustainable food.

  • Ask someone from your Cooperative Extension Office to talk to students about local agriculture practices. 
  • Reach out to a local health care provider to find a nutritionist who can talk about healthy eating.
  • Ask a farmer who runs an organically certified farm to talk to students about what organic food is.
  • Ask a chef who focuses on farm-to-table cooking to do a cooking presentation for the school community.

10. Work with students to understand the connection between food and sustainable development.

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