I work in a school district where over 75% of the children are on the free and reduced lunch program. To be eligible for such a program, family income must fall below 130 percent of the Federal poverty guidelines for free meals, or family income must fall between 130 and at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty guidelines for a reduced price meal. The current Federal Poverty Guideline is $21,200 for a family of four. Most of the children on this program eat both breakfast and lunch at school. Unfortunately, the nutritional quality of these meals is poor, as they are packed with processed foods.
Malnutrition is usually a consequence of poverty. Farm to School programs have the ability to combat this negative effect of poverty by providing children two healthy meals a day from a local farm:
Farm to School brings healthy food from local farms to school children nationwide. The program teaches students about the path from farm to fork, and instills healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. At the same time, use of local produce in school meals and educational activities provides a new direct market for farmers in the area and mitigates environmental impacts of transporting food long distances.
More than 30 million children eat a school lunch five days a week, 180 days a year. If school lunch can taste great, and support the local community, it is a win-win for everyone.
According to the World Bank:
Because having good health condition is important precondition for escaping poverty and because improved health and sanitation contribute to growth, investment in people's health and nutrition status is fundamental to improving a country’s general welfare, promoting economic growth, and reducing poverty.
Using Farm to School programs to improve the nutritional quality of meals in our schools will give children living in poverty a greater chance escaping these living conditions as adults.