Seven Generations Ahead introduced the Illinois Harvest of the Month (HOTM) program at the Illinois School Nutrition Association Summer Conference in Tinley Park, making it available to school districts across the state.
The HOTM program helps schools buy and serve more local food, while teaching students about healthy eating, nutrition, and agriculture. Each month, participating schools can feature a different local item on their cafeteria menus. This brings more money to local farmers and puts more nutritious food on student’s plates. Harvest of the Month foods come with activities and resources that make it easy for schools to participate in farm to school.
Illinois Farm to School Network (IFSN), led by SGA, has really started to promote the Harvest of the Month program and is working with eight partner organizations and 17 school districts, says Diane Chapeta, Farm to School Network Coordinator.
"What sets Illinois Harvest of the Month apart from other programs is the HOTM extension kit, which focuses on promoting monthly featured vegetables to school families right at home, as well as, in the stores where these families shop,” Diane explains. “By incorporating school-branded HOTM signage and home recipe cards displayed at local retailers and stores, schools can quickly draw the attention of parents and care givers. The extension kit increases exposure to the monthly featured veggie by encouraging families to shop for the item locally, and then cook the item at home using our kid-friendly recipes. Parents have the option of filling out an online survey, or a written survey, sharing their child's veggie experience with the school program director."
This was the first year that IFSN gave trainings at the conference, which brings together school food service personnel from all over the state. Diane conducted three trainings at the June conference: “More on the Tray, Less in the Trash: Learning to Like Veggies With Farm to School”; “Marketing Fruits and Vegetables So Students Will Eat Them,” and “Sourcing Local Produce – It’s Easier Than You Think.
To date, 455,642 students will be exposed to HOTM at 1,016 sites starting in September. IFSN expects this number to increase throughout the month of August. Program registration runs through August.