Farm to School Month activities have been held in Arkansas schools throughout the month of October as part of celebrations taking place across the country. In 2010, Congress declared October National Farm to School Month, recognizing the important role farm to school plays in promoting well-being among children and strong local economies. In addition, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has designated October as Farm to School Month in Arkansas, highlighting the importance that this movement has in our state.

Locally grown produce is improving the nutritional value of meals prepared in the Danville Public Schools through increased access and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Black diamond watermelons, apples, okra, red potatoes, cucumbers and cantaloupes are among the fresh, local foods used by Danville schools.

These activities are supported through the Arkansas Grow Healthy Study, a USDA-funded pilot project that is coordinating farm to school programs in six schools. Arkansas Children's Hospital is committed to developing activities that help make kids in Arkansas healthier, including this study, which is run through the ACH Research Institute.

Growers in Rose Bud, Clarksville and Booneville are among the suppliers. According to Marcia Tramel, child nutrition director for Danville schools, working with the growers has been a positive experience, and the new foods have added flavor to old and new dishes.

"We purchased 20 pounds of okra to introduce to our students through vegetable soup and got a positive response from students," Tramel said. "We also got a few cucumbers to serve fresh on our salad bar. Red potatoes were turned into potato salad for our salad bar."

To raise awareness about locally grown foods, such products on the salad bar get a special designation – green salad tongs, Tramel said.

National Farm to School Month Contest

The National Farm to School Network is sponsoring a contest for schools that participate in National Farm to School Month. Schools can participate by entering information about their event into a share form at www.farmtoschool.org/ about/farm-to-school-month. The share form is a way to tell the story about a farm to school project at a school or organization, or to share an idea or resources. By entering the contest, one is automatically entered in a national drawing to win $1,000 to be spent on a farm to school project in one's community.

Arkansas Farm to School Month Contest

Arkansas schools that fill out a share form will also be eligible for one of two Farm to School Month prizes from the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention. A panel of judges will choose winners for the most creative Farm to School Month promotions in Arkansas. Schools from preschool through high school are invited to share their stories and ideas and are eligible for prizes. One is automatically entered in the Arkansas Farm to School Month Contest by filling out the National Farm to School Network share form at farmtoschool.org/about/farm-to-school-month .

Prize for Preschool, Middle or High Schools

Judges will select the most creative entry promoting locally grown produce from among the Arkansas preschool, middle and high schools which complete a share form. The prize for the winning school is a premium anti-fatigue floor mat donated by Krebs Brothers Restaurant Supply in North Little Rock. This original one-piece polyurethane floor mat measures 3'x2'x3/4". It features a non-slip top and bottom, is anti-microbial, and easy to clean and maintain. This prize has a retail value of $229.95!

Prize for Arkansas Elementary Schools

Judges will select the best entry among the Arkansas elementary schools which complete a share form. The prize for the winning school is hosting the Arkansas Farm to You exhibit for free! The value of the Arkansas Farm to You exhibit visit is $675.00!

Arkansas Farm to You is a traveling interactive exhibit for kindergarten through sixth grade that follows food from the farm to the market and through the body. Coordinated by the University Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, it explores the relationships between Arkansas agriculture, food and health.

The winning school will need a space large enough to accommodate the 40' by 40' exhibit. A maximum of 450 students can participate in Arkansas Farm to You in a school day. Eight to 10 volunteers (adults or high school students) are needed to set up and take down the exhibit. Ten volunteers per shift are needed to be station presenters. .

Over the past decade, the farm to school movement has exploded across the United States, reaching millions of students in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. From school gardens and farm field trips to local food on cafeteria trays, farm to school practices help children learn about where food comes from and make healthier choices while also creating new markets for local and regional farmers.

"Farm to school is an important tool for in the fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity," says Anupama Joshi, executive director of the National Farm to School Network (NFSN). "There are economic benefits as well. During the 2012 school year, local food purchases by schools returned over $385 million back to local economies."

NFSN has representatives in every state to help connect schools with local farmers. For more information about Farm to School in Arkansas, contact Andrew Carberry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 501-813-5646.

Arkansas Children's Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children from birth to age 21. Over the past century, ACH has grown to span 29 city blocks and house 370 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 95 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development. For more information, visit www.archildrens.org.

Friday the 22nd. .