Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is encouraging schools, child care centers, and summer meal sites to participate in the Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month Program and other programs that connect farms with schools to get more fresh, locally grown food on students’ plates.
“The Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month Program creates opportunities for students to try new fruits and vegetables and learn more about where they come from,” said Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “I’m grateful to the schools who participate in this important program, which supports farmers and producers and provides students with locally grown, nutritious food.”
Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month is coordinated by Project PA, a collaboration between PDE and Penn State University’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. Launched in August 2020 via a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School grant, the program provides tools and resources for promoting local products to help expand students’ palates and understanding of food grown across the commonwealth. A Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month calendar identifies a Pennsylvania-grown agricultural product each month. To facilitate connections between schools and farms, links to resources to find PA farms and growers are provided along with recipes that incorporate the designated item of the month.
“Although the program was introduced at a time when schools were operating under very unique and challenging circumstances, we were pleased to see them embrace the program and find creative ways to implement it, and the feedback we’ve received has been very positive,” said Director of Project PA Elaine McDonnell, MS, RDN. “We hope that as we return to normalcy, implementation will be more widespread. The program is a win-win in that it introduces children to fresh, healthy, agricultural products and creates more market opportunities for Pennsylvania producers.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has also supported the program with the inclusion of Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month Promotional Kits. “Ensuring students have access to healthy food is critical to help them develop and grow,” said Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam. “Consuming the proper amount of fruits and vegetables can help students focus better in school.”
Although not required, a growing number of schools, childcare centers, and summer meal sites from across the commonwealth participate in the program. Read about how schools have implemented the PA Harvest of the Month program.
“The Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month program is a good starting point for connecting children with agricultural products and serves as an additional valuable resource to those looking to expand existing programs,” said Public Health Nutrition Consultant in the Division of Food and Nutrition at PDE Audrey Hess, MPH, RDN.
In addition to PA Harvest of the Month, other programs are coordinated that support school community access to nutritious, healthy, and locally grown foods. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture offers the Pennsylvania Farm to School Grant Program, which provides schools with opportunities to apply for funding to improve access to healthy, local foods and increases agriculture education opportunities for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. PA Preferred® also provides resources to schools and all Pennsylvanians to find locally grown and processed agricultural products.
In honor of June being National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, the American Heart Association offers information and resources that celebrate, promote, and support healthy eating.
“Habits of buying and eating fresh, locally grown foods start early and last a lifetime,” said Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. “Pennsylvania farmers feed people healthy foods, cultivate healthy economies, and help create healthy futures.”
For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, please visit the Department of Education’s website at www.education.pa.gov or follow PDE on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
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