PEPPERELL -- Fourth-grade students at Varnum Brook Elementary School will celebrate National Farm-to-School Month with a special Market Day.

Several vendors from the weekly Pepperell Farmer's Market along with other local farms will set up at the Town Field on Oct. 7. During the short walk to the event, students will have the option to include some fun exercises like hopping or jumping-jacks -- so keeping fit is top of mind.

Next, students will browse stands and discover more about local agriculture as well as learn the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet.

Eric Reardon, certified nutritionist with Crossroads to Health, will talk to the group about healthy eating habits and the value local produce brings to communities.

"The more we can do to educate and encourage a healthy lifestyle in our children, the better chance they have to lead healthier lives as adults," he said. "Our surrounding farms are one of the best sources for fresh nutrient-rich foods, many of which are committed to organic or very low pesticide management."

In 2010, Congress officially designated October as National Farm-to-School Month. According to National Farm to School Network, an estimated 5.7M students in 12,429 schools benefited from Farm-to-School during the 2011-2012 school year, and close to $13M was spent on local products in schools. Schools across the nation are encouraged to celebrate the connections made between schools and local food with related activities during October.


Advertisement

The NFSN broadly defines "Farm-to-School" as a program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Each region is free to develop a unique program that best fits the needs and resources of its community.

Recent statistics strongly suggest the need to focus on educating youth about nutrition. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2010. The CDC also reports that most U.S. youth do not meet the recommended daily intake of fruits, vegetables or whole grains. However, empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40 percent of daily calories for 2-18 year olds, affecting the overall quality of their diets.

The event is designed to raise awareness of the National Farm-to-School movement as well as inspire appreciation for the robust local agricultural community. Accompanying activities for children will show the importance of farming and open space for neighborhoods and the local economy. Students can also take home a few samples of things they'd like to try and might not otherwise have access to, inviting the dialogue to continue at home.

Organizers hope that the take-away will include the desire to strive toward a healthier lifestyle. For example, incorporating fresh-versus-processed foods into daily meals and exercising on a regular basis. Poor diets have shown to contribute to energy imbalance which impacts attention span and learning capacity. Whereas proper nutrition promotes the optimal growth and development of children.

For questions regarding this event, or if you would like to participate as a vendor or sponsor, please email vbmarketday@charter.net.