By Richard Bogren, LSU AgCenter
BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU AgCenter will host a state conference dedicated to farm to school initiatives on Oct. 24 at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center with a focus on promoting farm to school activities, networking and increased awareness.
Farm to school programs are important for schools to respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods, increase the amount of Louisiana-grown products in school lunchrooms and expand marketing opportunities for Louisiana producers and food businesses, such as food processors, manufacturers and distributors, said LSU AgCenter professor Carl Motsenbocker.
In addition, farm to school activities support education efforts such as nutrition, food literacy, healthy eating, school gardens, field trips to local farms, school visits by farmers and cooking classes.
“The statewide conference is a forum for attendees to be more familiar with the three aspects of farm to school activities — school gardening, education and local food procurement — as well as have an opportunity to learn from successful programs in the state and provide a forum to network,” Motsenbocker said.
The conference will include two parallel tracks. The first will include sessions on best practices for school gardens, connecting menus with the seasons and education. The second track will focus on local purchasing, food safety, local sourcing and a buyers’ panel.
Two general sessions will be devoted to local, regional and national resources for farm to school programs, and a networking session will close out the conference, Motsenbocker said.
“The goal of the conference is to have sessions of interest to everyone and to have practitioners from across the state,” he said. “Everyone should have new information, resources, contacts and motivation on farm to school programs at the end of the conference day.”
The conference is part of a multi-year effort of collaborating stakeholders to support farm to school programming throughout the state, he said.
“The farm to school effort is expanding and is a benefit to children, our farmers and our local communities,” said Angelina Harrison, National Farm to School Network Louisiana lead. “This conference comes at an opportune time for Louisiana as we continue our efforts statewide in connecting schools with Louisiana agriculture and raising awareness about farm to school.
Online registration is available here. The cost is $24 per person. A limited number of waivers are available for those who need them to ensure participation of everyone that may be interested, Motsenbocker said.