As the school year gets underway, you might be grappling with how to make sure your kids continue to eat healthy, sustainable and local foods once they go back. With your schedule getting busier, you might also find it more difficult to make your weekly trek to the farmers’ market or find the time to work in your garden.
Luckily, there is an option that is increasing in both popularity and availability; a CSA for schools. Last year, I wrote about this sustainable option for school fundraising, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) school fundraiser program. A CSA is a program where participants purchase a share of local, seasonal produce and fruits.
With this model, schools are the communities that support particular farms and at the same time, raise money for the school or PTA. It is a win-win for all, benefiting the farmers, the local economy, the school, and the kids, encouraging them to eat better.
Typically, PTA members and students sell subscriptions of locally grown produce boxes to parents, teachers and even community members. Boxes can be ordered weekly and CSA members can pick them up at a predetermined place, usually the school. Each box provides a week’s worth of local produce that’s enough to feed a family of four for one week or a single/couple for two weeks.
Usually, CSA members do not get a choice of produce since it contains whatever is in season in the local area and whatever is harvested at the farm on the morning of the delivery. The best part is that the produce will contain varieties not commonly found at supermarkets.
That’s why many farms also include a weekly newsletter with recipe ideas for what to do with that box of produce and news from the farm. Which might be just the thing you need to add a little excitement to your school lunches.
The school and/or PTA receives a percentage of the sales of CSA boxes and for every box sold, the PTA or school receives anywhere between $1 – $5 and the farm receives the rest. If CSA subscriptions are renewed each growing season, the program can offer a steady stream of funds for the schools and the farm.
While the school can use the funds for whatever program or service it might want, some schools are actually using them specifically for their garden and/or nutrition program.
One of the most successful school CSA programs is offered by Tanaka Farms in Irvine, California. Tanaka Farms’ CSA program started just three years ago with only one school, they are now at more than 70 schools and other locations, and still growing.
Some farms, including Tanaka, even have “CSA days” at the farm where the kids can come and visit “their” farm and pick their own fresh produce and see where it is grown.
If your local school doesn’t have a CSA program, you might want to contact a local CSA farm in your area and approach them about adding your child’s school. You can find a CSA near you on Local Harvest.