Farm to school is a three-pronged approach that incorporates agricultural-based education, hands-on learning through school gardens, and increased access to fresh, local foods through local procurement by school meal programs. Farm to school strategies are shown to improve fruit and vegetable consumption, increase knowledge about food origins, improve academic achievement, and support the local economy.
The Maine Farm & Sea to School Institute is a year-long professional opportunity for Maine schools/districts to develop a Farm & Sea to School (FSTS) program. Each team has 5-7 committed representatives from School Nutrition, Teaching Faculty, School Administration, and Community Partners – the key partners for building a sustainable, equitable Farm to School program.
The first Farm to School Institute was held in 2022-2023 modeled after the Northeast Farm to School Institute in VT, in partnership with UMaine School of Food and Agriculture and over 20 collaborating organizations and agencies. The year-long professional learning program supported these school districts to develop a community-based, holistic farm & sea to school action plan to support local food purchasing, school gardens, food systems education, and more.
The Institute brings school teams together to build relationships, skills, and a collaborative action plan for Farm & Sea to School (FSTS) programming. Team members leave ready to support one another and implement an FSTS action plan across their school or district—building shared leadership for the long haul. With the support of a Coach, teams spend the Institute year connecting Classroom, Cafeteria, and Community.
- The first teams for the 2022-2023 school year included RSU 22 (Hampden, Newburgh, Winterport, & Frankfort); RSU 89 (Katahdin Schools); MSAD 17 (Oxford Hills).
- The 2023-2024 Teams are: Lawrence Jr/Sr High School, RSU 12, RSU 71, The Ecology Learning Center, West Bath School, Stratton School.
In 2023 the Maine School Garden Network held Maine School Garden Day at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden to highlight the work of the RSU 22 team.
Highlights included a tour of the grounds, topic specific workshops, lots of networking and a delicious farm to school lunch by the school chef!