Celebrate Local Food Day, beginning in your own backyard
There’s no place like home, especially when it comes to food and especially where home is in Iowa. October is National Farm to School month and October 13 is Local Food Day which highlights and celebrates the benefits of locally sourced foods. Early care sites, schools, colleges and universities are invited to participate by serving two or more local foods that day.
Scotta Ades, who runs Little Bears Childcare from her home in Ottumwa, is all in to celebrate Local Food Day with her young charges. Although in her third year of providing quality childcare, this is her first year participating in Local Food Day.
“Ninety percent of the fruits and vegetables we have are either grown in my backyard or in my friend’s garden who sells at farmer’s markets,” Ades said. “She has everything from tomatoes, to pumpkins, to squash. It’s great to be able to shop small and utilize local.”
Ades currently cares for five children from 9-months-old to age 4, who help in the garden as their abilities permit. Her own children, 4-year-old daughter Alex and 18-month-old son Avery love to help in the garden. Ades has taken the children to the farmer’s market and to her friend’s garden to pick out produce.
Ades speaks of the benefits to families and community from serving local foods to the children in her care.
“I have had a lot of picky eaters and I have noticed, especially with the older children, that when they get to go out and pick the foods that they are eating, they are more inclined to eat the foods they are being served,” Ades said. “Parents sometimes say, ‘My child won’t eat that at home’, so it’s been nice to see the children eating new foods here.
“Shopping local, not only are you guaranteed that the groceries are coming from Iowa, but it ensures that farmers in our area are still able to make a living from what they grow, and our kids are getting organic, good produce.”
Tri-Country Child and Family Development Council Inc. in Waterloo Iowa is also participating in Local Food Day this year. Tracey Sauke, Registered Dietitian with Tri-County says Tri-County’s initial involvement in Local Food Day was inspired by the Summer Food Service Program campaigns, like Kick It With Carrots and Crunch into Cucumbers.
“Logistically, it was easier in the summer to think about local foods because we serve less children at one site,” Sauke said. “We had the desire to do a farm to preschool program, and it was easier to think about how we were going to source and deliver food to a smaller group versus over 200 children. It was through the summer programs that we were introduced to more opportunities and training.”
Tri-County Head Start also participates in the Healthiest State Walk and takes advantage of the great resources and education in the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count campaign where Local Food Day is promoted and ideas for participation are provided.
Sauke says logistically local food hubs that allow for wholesale pricing was the best option for securing local foods for Tri-County Head Start facilities. They partnered with A Family Marketplace to receive weekly fresh produce deliveries.
“One challenge when utilizing a food hub is not always knowing exactly what you will get during the week,” Sauke said. “You have to stay open and flexible. It can vary week to week. For example, we made Thursdays local produce day through the summer while we could source fresh vegetables.”
One thing Sauke would like to see change around local food is making it possible to connect with local grocery store produce departments. Sometimes grant rules require purchasing food from a local source rather than a retail chain, but often produce in the grocery store is locally sourced. Grocery stores can purchase in larger quantities and sometimes provide delivery, and delivery can be the most challenging part for large childcare centers.
“For example, pumpkins in a grocery store arrive in tubs of 150, which requires a forklift to move them, so we have to go through another source to get pumpkins,” Sauke said. “The larger the number of children you serve can make sourcing locally more difficult given the delivery challenges, versus a home daycare provider with six children who can go to the farmer’s market to get produce.”
Sauke says they try to source locally whenever they can, and some of the most positive reactions have been when local foods were incorporated into the home-based program. Home-based families with preschool age children do not come to classrooms, but rather, staff go to the families and visit about topics such as parenting and nutrition.
“We serve low-income based populations and show them local foods are affordable, how to get them like through the Double Up Food Bucks program, and how to use them,” Sauke said. “Everybody feels good when they purchase something local. We help make it realistic to the individual as a good idea and then help them see easy ways to incorporate it and that local foods are doable.”
Tri-County Head Start celebrates a food of the month by incorporating the Choose Iowa Food of the Month Campaign into their menus and activities. Their October food of the month is pumpkins. This month they sent home local pumpkin pie pumpkins to all of their families with education on how to use the pumpkins to eat. She also notes that now is a good time of year to source apples so she is working on going to an apple orchard to provide apples for Local Food Day. Last year they did a CACFP harvest soup recipe using local squash and tomatoes and they are doing that again this year. “It’s a fun one for the kids to talk about,” Sauke said.
Sauke encourages everyone to start somewhere when it comes to local foods.
“At first it seemed there were a lot of reasons why it wouldn’t work, like we can’t get enough food and who’s going to pick it up,” Sauke said. “As you start doing it you start finding solutions and seeing educational resources available. Even if you just start by going to an orchard one time, you can build on it from that experience and do something every week or every month.”
Access the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Farm to School Producers directory.
Access the Iowa Food Hub Directory.
Access the Iowa Farmer’s Market Directory.
Access the Iowa CSA Directory.
Access the Iowa MarketMaker.
Access A Family Market Place
Access Choose Iowa
Access Grow It, Try It, Like It!
Access Iowa Food of the Month
Access Team Nutrition Child Care