Farm-to-school programs are nothing new. In fact, they date back to the early 1800s as a way for children to learn natural sciences and vocational skills.
Now support is growing in the state legislature for a program that would bring education and agriculture together to benefit Connecticut students and communities.
CT Grown for CT Kids is a program that would promote farm-to-school activities and help them more accessible. The General Assembly would need to pass House Bill 6618 this session to get the program off the ground.
“I think this bill is extremely important for not only the educational side of it and helping students to understand where their food grows but also helping to directors like me who might not have all of the resources,” said Lonnie Burt, Senior Director for Hartford Food & Child Nutrition Services.
Burt oversees meal programs for all of Hartford Public Schools and knows firsthand how important it is for students to get a nutritious meal and understand where their food is coming from.
"When they know it’s grown locally they are more apt to actually try it and actually consume it.,” Burt said.
If passed, the bill would award the Department of Agriculture $250,000 to run the grants program and distribute the money to any farm-to-school program.
A program such as the Keney Park Sustainability Project in Windsor, which provides 85% of it’s locally grown food to Hartford public schools.
In addition to getting healthy food on students' plates, the grant will also help teach students about the importance of eating nutritious, locally grown food.
Zania Johnson not only grows organic produce that is distributed to Hartford Public Schools, but she has also spent time in the classroom with kids.
“We really want to bridge the gap between the lack of knowledge between ‘ok where does my food come from,' and also, 'ok why should I eat an organic vegetable or fruit,'” Johnson said. “It can help decrease health disparities that are in this community and ultimately decrease the chronic diseases that our community faces because of a lack of nutritional foods.”
“It’s something that will teach a lifelong skill,” said Rep. Bobby Gibson, who represents Bloomfield and Windsor. “It’s something for kids for the rest of their lives.”
Gibson is hopeful that the bill will be brought up in session this week.
“It’s something good for the state of Connecticut,” Gibson said. “Everyone I talk to is excited for it. When the bill is called, I expect bipartisan support, so it’s good for everyone.”