Farm to School has been a growing movement in the state of Illinois for over a decade, with many dedicated people and groups working together for our students. Now more than ever before, Farm to School is growing across the country. Illinois is a part of that growth. With every new school garden, every new food tasted, and every farmer now able to sell local products to school districts, we are creating a better food system. In 2014, Illinois lost a pioneer in the farm to school movement, University of Illinois Extension educator and Illinois Farm to School Network State Lead, Julia Govis. She coordinated partnerships and headed the Illinois Farm to School Network. Seven Generations Ahead, a non-profit working in the farm to school field, was selected by the National Farm to School Network in early 2015 to continue her work growing a powerful Farm to School Network statewide. SGA will convene monthly call-in meetings with the goal of disseminating resources and best practices to make Farm to School more accessible and easy.

So what is already happening in Illinois Farm to School? Quite a lot, actually! In 2011, The USDA conducted a census-style survey of all school districts to find out what farm to school activities were going on (click here to see the data). In Illinois, we found that over 57 districts were getting into school gardens – and that doesn’t even tell the full story about the over 100 individual school gardens in Chicago Public Schools alone. There are many non-profits and community organizations working with schools to build and support their gardens and garden-based curricula.

In Illinois, there are a 59 districts procuring food locally. This is very impressive! While only 15% percent of our food dollars are currently being spent on local food purchases, there is significant interest on the ground in buying food from local farmers. The Illinois Farm to School Network will be a resource for interested districts who want to learn more about how to prioritize local in their food purchases.

The Illinois Farm to School Network will amplify the work of districts and partners. This data about our programs is used to fight for good legislation and to spread awareness to the general public about why Farm to School is so great. Over the course of the year, you’ll hear from us about Farm to School Month (October!), the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, and the upcoming Farm to School Census in March.

If your organization wants to be involved, please sign up here for monthly phone call opportunities and email newsletters. Email us if you have any questions about membership.