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Community Food Systems

Farm to Preschool

Last Published: 03/25/2016

Local Foods and Related Activities in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

Early childhood is the ideal time to establish healthy eating habits. Farm to preschool works to connect early child care and education settings to local food producers with the objectives of serving locally-grown, healthy foods to young children, providing related nutrition education, and improving child nutrition. Farm to preschool activities can increase children’s willingness to try new foods and help them become familiar with local foods they will see in school. Farm to preschool creates a reliable outlet for producers and the smaller purchasing volumes for early child care settings are a good fit for local farmers.

FNS Resources

  • Farm to Preschool: Local Food and Learning in Early Child Care and Education Settings (pdf) - This helpful fact sheet presents basic information about farm to preschool efforts, including tips and resources.
  • Local Foods in CACFP Policy Memo (pdf) CACFP 11-2015 - Incorporating local food and agricultural education into CACFP can play an important role in creating and promoting a healthy environment. In this new policy memo, FNS encourages program administrators and partners to use local food as a means to enhance CACFP operations.
  • Use of State Administrative Expense (SAE) funds to support farm to school programs (pdf) Policy SP 28-2015 - State agencies are key partners in helping bring local products into various child nutrition programs. As such, FNS recently made clear that state agencies can use their SAE funds, both as initially allocated and when reallocated, and State Administrative Funds (SAF) for state-level coordination of farm to school activities. This guidance applies to the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and Food Distribution Programs that provide USDA Foods to applicable programs.
  • Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs - This resource covers procurement basics, defining local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways child nutrition program operators can purchase locally in accordance with regulations.
  • USDA Farm to School Grant Program - Planning, Implementation, and Support Service grants can support the integration of local foods and complementary activities into school-based CACFP programs. 
  • USDA Farm to School Census - Locate school-based CACFP sites that serve local foods.
  • CACFP home page - FNS’s home page for all CACFP resources.
  • Financial Management, CACFP (FNS Instruction, 796-2, Rev. 4) (pdf) - FNS guidance on allowable costs in the CACFP program.
  • Grow It! Try It! Like It! - This garden nutrition education kit from Team Nutrition introduces preschool children to three fruits and three vegetables. Each set of lessons include hands-on garden based activities and nutrition education that introduce MyPlate for preschoolers. 
  • Wellness Resources for CACFP Providers - Farm to preschool is an important strategy to promote health and wellness in child care settings. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010 encourages child care providers to promote health and wellness through nutrition, physical activity and limited electronic media use. This web site provides a variety of resources for CACFP providers to meet wellness recommendations. 
  • Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program - This handbook includes a series of tip sheets addressing wellness recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 and Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education, 3rd Edition. 

Partner Resources

  • National Farm to School Network, Farm to Preschool Page - The Farm to Preschool page for the National Farm to School Network features facts sheets (Getting Started, Local Procurement for Child Care Centers, and Local Procurement for Family Child Care homes) and links to farm to preschool e-news and archives.
  • Let’s Move! Childcare - Let’s Move! Child care is part of the First Lady’s initiative dedicated to solving childhood obesity. This site provides healthy eating and exercise resources including menu planning tips and ideas for getting started.
  • Farm to Head Start - This website features Farm to Head Start activities from around the country to inspire you to incorporate the farm in your classroom!
  • Growing Farm to Preschool in Your State: A How to Guide (pdf) - This guide from Ecotrust outlines the approach to creating a statewide farm to preschool coalition.
  • Farm to Preschool - This website functions as a clearinghouse of resources from programs around the country and as a means to network with existing and emerging efforts.