Originally posted March 26, 2020, updated with new resources and information as needed.
Keeping our families healthy, nourished, and learning are at the top of all our minds during this unprecedented time. Our schools’ food service staff and teachers are doing an amazing job right now to meet this goal, with the support of the VT Agency of Education, our Congressional delegation and many partners. Below are a few resources we hope will help while we all navigate this evolving situation together. The essential role that school nutrition plays in our communities and the value of a thriving local food system has never been clearer or appreciated!
School nutrition staff are true heroes in this time of need! They are moving mountains to make sure that all kids in their communities are well nourished during this uncertain time. Our biggest thank you for their swift action and commitment. Vermont districts are working to adapt their school meal distribution models in light of the recent school closures to make sure their students are fed and nourished.
In an effort to keep everyone informed about new and shifting plans, we worked with Hunger Free Vermont to create a database of schools' plans and schedules to distribute meals. We'll be continually updating the resource as needed:
In this stressful time, no one should be concerned about having enough food at home. If your family lost pay, you’ve been laid off, or work hours in your household have been reduced, you may now be eligible for nutrition programs that are designed to help your family and our local economy quickly in unexpected and emergency situations like this one. If you’ve never used any of these food resources before, please know they are there for you too. Hunger Free Vermont has compiled a number of important food resources available to help you and your neighbors @ hungerfreevt.org/coronavirus.
For families who have lost access to meals their children where receiving at childcare: all children 0–18 years old can now receive free meals through your local school district or supervisory union! Dial 2-1-1 for more information, or visit hungerfreevt.org/coronavirus. Download the flyer to share with families in your community.
Keeping kids busy, engaged, and learning at home during their time away from school is no small task. We have updated our curricular resources page to include a collection of activities and lessons from the Center for Ecoliteracy that are take-home or virtual-friendly:
Food & Culture Project - examine the food traditions of the world’s five major continents
Nourishing Students: Enrichment Activities Grades K-5 - enrichment activities engage students in exploring the bounty of fruits and vegetables in after-school, out-of-school, and summer programs. Some of these activities are ready to use right at home with little need for additional materials, using food you have or are receiving through a school meals program.
Understanding Food and Climate Change: An Interactive Guide - uses video, photography, text, and interactive experiences to help educators, students, and advocates learn how food and climate systems interact and how personal choices can make a difference. Ideal for grades 6–12 and general audiences, with connections to Next Generation Science Standards and the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies themes, the guide offers activities for student research and resources for further investigation. This guide is also designed to support self-guided and independent study, and is a boon for advocates seeking hopeful strategies and creative responses. This publication is part of a suite of resources from the Center for Ecoliteracy that explore the connections between food systems and climate change. Check out their Understanding Food and Climate Change: A Systems Perspective, which explores the links between food systems and our changing climate with an emphasis on systems thinking.
Starting with Soil - an iPad app from the Center for Ecoliteracy and Whole Kids Foundation that offers a playful, visually rich way to help kids understand that soil is a living system full of fascinating relationships. Designed for students ages 7-9 and their families, Starting with Soil allows users to plant seeds, build a compost pile, drag a microscope over different organisms in soil to get a better look, and view the symbiosis at work when corn, beans, and squash are planted together, as Native Americans have done for centuries. This requires you to download an app from the Apple Store or Google Play.
KidsGardening shared a resource list of Back to School Garden-Based Learning Resources:
- Lessons to Grow By is a FREE four-month KidsGardening program of weekly garden-themed lessons and activities for parents teaching at home, or for educators instructing via distance learning. These fun, engaging adventures are grouped around a monthly theme, featuring three hands-on activities for kids each week with supplemental suggested reading, videos, and more. Lessons to Grow By is aimed at learners in grades 3-5, but the activities can easily be adapted for younger or older audiences. Lessons to Grow By launches August 31 and is only available by subscription (see link above to sign up and gain access to these special learn-from-home lessons)
- Edible Education for the Home Classroom is a collection of lessons from the Edible Schoolyard that can easily be done at home. Many of their activities extend beyond the garden to the dinner plate, which means you’ll find recipes and guided reflections on mindful eating alongside germination experiments. Lessons are categorized based on central themes including imagine, create, support, learn, connect, and reflection.
- SGSO Webinars and Virtual Gatherings will allow you to hear from experts in the field or engage in peer to peer networking through an entirely online series hosted by the School Garden Support Organization Network. The fall series kicked off yesterday with a Virtual Gathering on garden care and management during Covid-19 (you should be able to find a recording of this event, along with past webinars and virtual gatherings in the extensive SGSO Archive). Future topics include distance teaching/learning, Covid-friendly outdoor classroom infrastructure, using your school garden to support food relief, and more.
- A Guidance Template for Gardening during Covid-19 created by the University of Minnesota Extension provides best practices for minimizing risk while working in a garden space. Originally created for community gardens, this template has sections that are most definitely applicable for schools interested in thinking critically about sanitation and safe social distancing protocols.
- Green Schoolyards of America’s Covid-19 Outdoor Learning Page serves as a compilation of resources to help teachers and administrators creatively and realistically navigate repurposing outdoor spaces as classrooms. Many of the resources listed here are not specially focused on school gardens, because the truth is you don’t need a growing space to have an outdoor classroom or to teach outside. That being said, many of the tips and strategies recommended by Green Schoolyards of America and their working groups are relevant to folks invested in school garden programming and infrastructure.
The Vermont Community Garden Network created a COVID-19 guidelines for safe community gardening that includes safety measures for maintaining your garden, how to stay healthy while sharing gardening tools, and practicing social distancing within your shared gardening spaces.
Educators have been expressing interest in incorporating gardening activities or lessons into remote learning plans, and in Vermont, Farm to School coordinators and educators were able to align with school nutrition staff's meal pick up sites to distribute seed packets to interested families along with student meals. Learn more and get the resources through the Vermont Farm to School Network.
If you’re wondering what you can personally do right now to maintain a viable regional food supply and support local farmers, NOFA-VT has shared these suggestions: