Heidi Bombrisk of Family Roots Farm in Detroit is one of the many urban farmers who delivers a bounty of fresh produce fresh to a group of early care and education (ECE) providers. Along with fresh, seasonal produce and a Michigan-made food product, she offers resources such as cookbooks, seeds, or garden-focused books for the childcare providers to use with the children in their care.
This collaborative learning community shares recipes, planting tips, and ideas for gardens and purchasing local foods for the upcoming months. Perhaps more important is that the members of the community—a group of ECE providers, the farmer, and staff from other organizations — have a similar goal in mind: using farm to early care and education to support children, farmers, and their local community.
What is Farm to Early Care and Education?
Farm to early care and education (farm to ECE) is a group of strategies and activities that increase access to healthy, local foods, gardening opportunities, and education about food, nutrition, and agriculture for children ages birth through five.
Kids and families, farmers, and communities benefit when childcare sites use farm to ECE. Farm to ECE is sometimes called “farm to preschool” or “farm to childcare.”
Benefits of Farm to ECE
Early care and education providers use farm to ECE to teach children where food comes from and to improve and sustain their health.
Whether in a family childcare home or a childcare center, farm to ECE can enhance the quality of the learning environment. It offers a wide array of experiential learning opportunities, supporting children’s cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development.
When children taste and grow new foods, they often share their excitement at home. Because of this, ECEs use farm to ECE to engage families in their programs. Sending recipes or garden transplants home is a fun way to encourage family members to learn about healthy eating and how food grows.
Farm to ECE supporters recognize that farm to ECE is a great market for local producers. Food producers and suppliers can add a new stream of income by selling to ECE sites. Additionally, increased demand for local food can stimulate the local economy and create more food systems jobs.
A Shared Vision for Farm to ECE
Early care and education providers and farmers can work toward a shared goal to support children, families, farmers, and communities with farm to ECE.
The strategies and activities that increase access to healthy local foods, gardening opportunities, and education about food, nutrition, and agriculture must be part of a shared vision. We can achieve that vision by working together to create tangible goals, share responsibility, and collaborate as part of a network, such as the Michigan Farm to ECE Network.
To learn more about farm to ECE, check out:
- Farm to Early Care and Education: Growing Healthy Eaters
- Farm to Early Care and Education Webinar Series
For farmers interested in connecting with Early Care and Education centers near them, join and learn more about the Michigan Farm to ECE network here.
For families, ask your child’s care center where they source food from and encourage them to learn about the Michigan Farm to Early Care and Education network.
Part of this blog is adapted from Farm to Early Care and Education: Toward a Shared Language.
Meagan Shedd is an Assistant Professor of Farm to Early Care and K-12 Education and Lindsay Mensch is an Outreach and Communications Specialist at the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems. Contact Meagan at [email protected] and Lindsay at [email protected]
Photo Credit: Heidi Bombrisk