All children in Georgia should have access to healthy, locally-grown foods and opportunities for good nutrition and physical activity in Early Care and Education settings.
What is Farm to Early Care and Education?
Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE; formerly Farm to Preschool) connects child care providers (preschools, day care centers, family child care homes, Head Start/Early Head Start, etc.) to locally grown, healthy foods.
Farm to ECE provides children with an experiential learning opportunity, which increases their nutritional awareness, while engaging their parents in issues related to child nutrition. Farm to ECE activities include taste tests, edible gardens, menu changes, and planting resources.
Farm to ECE can help improve children’s overall health and development through nutrition and physical activity.
Voices’ Work in this Area
In 2017, Voices for Georgia’s Children, along with Georgia Organics, Quality Care for Children, The Common Market, and Little Ones Learning Center receiving funding from the W.J. Kellogg Foundation to design and build a “Farm to Early Care and Education” program that could be replicated across our state. Together, we are working to increase access to healthy, locally-grown foods and opportunities for good nutrition and physical activity in ECE settings.
Our programs and initiatives in this area include:
- Policy research to inform systems transformation
- Education and advocacy
- A Farm to ECE 18-site pilot and evaluation
Policy research to inform systems transformation. Voices is leading a broad variety of research initiatives to inform the strategic opportunities in Georgia for farm to ECE.
- Farm to ECE literature scan: Georgia has been a national leader on farm to school for years, and a number of states have made substantial progress in farm to ECE. A national scan of the literature on farm to school and farm to ECE initiatives, best practices, and data informed the first steps of Voices’ farm to ECE policy work in Georgia.
- Alternative Procurement Study: ECE providers face a number of barriers when it comes to purchasing fresh foods locally, including smaller purchasing power, lack of storage space, and capacity to prepare and/or serve fresh foods. In order to explore possible “workarounds” for these barriers, Voices has teamed up with Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Economics Department to study the feasibility and analyze costs related to ECE centers procuring purchases on their own, versus “alternative” procurement models, such as partnering with K-12 school systems, food banks, and meal service non-profits.
- WIC Farmer’s Market Pilot: Young children may have access to nutritious foods while they’re at school, but what happens when they go home? In order to connect low-income children and their families with an equal opportunity to access nutritious, local foods, Voices has partnered with the Georgia Family Connections Partnership to pilot the concept of hosting WIC farmer’s markets on-site at Head Start locations. Additionally, Voices and GaFCP are working together to explore opportunities for farm to ECE and WIC to mutually reinforce each other’s early childhood nutrition goals.
Farm to ECE education and advocacy. Along with its partners, Voices is working to educate policymakers, ECE center directors, teachers, and parents about the benefits of and possible avenues for farm to ECE. Voices’ work in this area focuses on educating legislators and other policy makers on farm to ECE generally, and policy opportunities to promote it; connecting ECE directors with knowledge and resources; and working collaboratively with the Department of Early Care and Learning in order to embed farm to ECE in multiple systems components, including Quality Rated Improvement System (QRIS) and Preschool Development Block Grant Needs Assessment.
Farm to ECE “Learning Collaborative” pilot
18 ECE providers are piloting a range of farm to ECE activities within their centers.
Goals of FTECE:
- Help children develop healthy lifelong eating habits through exposure to gardening, hands-on nutrition education, cooking and local foods.
- Increase access to locally grown, healthy foods.
- Provide gardening opportunities to enhance the quality of the early childcare education experience.
- Create a healthy eating environment which enables children and families to make healthier choices.
Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black visits Little Ones Learning Center
Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black stopped by Little Ones Learning Center during October to celebrate Georgia Pre-K Week. While there, Commissioner Black took a moment to read Click Clack Moo to one classroom and Our Community Garden to another. He also got a first-hand look at the learning center’s on-site garden and took part in a taste test with the kids.