Brandy Orlando, Motsenbocker, Carl E. | 7/20/2015 9:54:41 PM
ALEXANDRIA, La. – Ninety educators from across the state gathered at the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center in downtown Alexandria for the Foodapalooza: Farm to School Edition on July 14.
Carl Motsenbocker, LSU AgCenter professor of horticulture and sustainable agriculture, said the farm-to-school program supports healthy eating, educating the community to understand where their food comes from and emphasizing the importance of agriculture in society.
The LSU AgCenter and the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance sponsored the event, which served as a regional follow-up to Louisiana’s Farm to School conference in May. The meeting was funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School grant.
John Cotton Dean, director of regional innovation for the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, said the primary goal of farm-to-school is to get local, healthy food to people in the community and into schools.
“The healthiest communities and healthiest economies have something in common: healthy people. That is what we are trying to accomplish here in central Louisiana and across the state,” Dean said.
Darnella Winston, cooperative field specialist for the Indian Springs Farmers Association in Mississippi, agreed.
“We needed to do something to get involved with the schools, to better the health of our kids and the community,” Winston said
The City of Alexandria’s historic trolleys transported attendees on a tour of several locations – youth gardens, Gray-Walk Farms, Inglewood Farms and the new Alexandria farmers market on Jackson Street, which features the Food Bank of Central Louisiana’s Nutrition on Wheels truck.
Attendees heard presentations throughout the day, including during the trolley rides, which featured presentations on school gardens and nutrition education.
AgCenter family and consumer science regional coordinator Quincy Cheek used electronic tablets to demonstrate student nutrition lessons with an app called BodyQuest. Children also get to taste fruits and vegetables that the AgCenter brings to schools along with the lessons.
“BodyQuest is a 21-week program, and research shows consistent learning activities and tasting experiences will result in behavior changes,” said Cheek. “And that is what we are trying to accomplish here.”
The event also highlighted the Good Food Project and the Louisiana Harvest of the Month program. Harvest of the Month is working with three elementary schools around the state to introduce locally produced fruits and vegetables into school cafeterias and on the lunch menu each month, said Ann Savage, LSU AgCenter program director for Harvest of the Month. The program gets fresh, locally grown produce into the schools for students to taste and learn about.
Students of the Pineville Youth Center served as tour guides through their Good Food Project garden. Program director Frances Boudreaux said the youth volunteers are part of the garden club and do everything from seeding to weeding, watering and harvesting.