Invest in local farmers, local food

Published 8:59 pm Monday, February 1, 2016

In the dead of summer, there’s nothing much better than cold, juicy watermelon.

Unless it’s chomping down into a fat, red tomato.

Or better yet, strawberries still warm from the sun.


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You get the idea. Although I readily admit to being a professional chocoholic, I am also a lover of fresh produce and a big believer in buying locally-grown foods whenever possible. They taste better and are healthier, and it’s good to support local farmers.

So I was happy last week to hear about a program, Farm2Childcare, that put nearly 500 pounds of locally-produced fall crops — broccoli, cabbage, collards, sweet potatoes and butternut squash — into local daycare centers and preschools last year. The program, organized by the Planning Council and funded with a planning grant from the Obici Healthcare Foundation, is designed to chip away at Suffolk’s high diabetes and obesity rates by starting kids — and their families — eating healthy foods at a young age.

Both growers and daycare providers called the program a success during a Planning Council meeting in Suffolk last week. The program got more kids eating vegetables; gave some hands-on opportunities helping scrub and prepare their foods; and was shared with the community by one North Suffolk preschool that bought extra sweet potatoes to sell as a fundraiser.

Farm2Childcare will continue in 2016. To grow the program, the Planning Council offered childcare providers opportunities to sign up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) baskets for $10 a week for four weeks this summer.

The Planning Council also recruited volunteers to serve on a task force to evaluate ways to promote Farm2Childcare and look for other ways to promote the use of fresh, local foods within the community.

Ultimately, the goal is for this project to be self-sustaining, with daycare providers and families willing to continue investing in Farm2Childcare.

I hope all step up to invest — and duplicate — these programs in our public schools and retirement homes. It’s far too easy for all of us to slide into habits of eating too much fast food and unhealthy food.