Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE)

Close of up variety of vegetables

Farm to ECE enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food by changing food purchasing and education practices in early care and education settings.

The three core elements of farm to ECE are local food purchasing, gardening, and food and agriculture education.

  • Local Food Purchasing: Local foods are purchased, promoted, and served. 
  • Gardening: Children engage in hands-on learning through local gardens. 
  • Education: Children and staff participate in education activities related to agriculture, food, health, and nutrition. 

Local Food Purchasing


Purchasing local foods not only supports the community and local economy, but provides centers and homes with fresh, nutritious, and seasonally produced foods. Farm to ECE empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthing the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities.

Farm to ECE research is beginning to show positive results for children and their families. Meals in centers that focus on serving local food have been found to be more nutritious than non-local meal service, especially in fruits and vegetables. 

 

 

    CACFP Reimbursement

    Using local food is considered a best practice under CACFP meal patterns. Institutions should maintain receipts for items purchased at farmer's markets. If donations are received from local gardens or farms, make sure the donations are documented using the donation receipt form

    Match-making Service

    The CACFP is offering individualized match-making services for farmers/producers and CACFP child care centers and homes. 

    Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Shares

    A CSA share is an investment in a local farm at the beginning of the growing season. This investment ensures that our local farmers have funding to begin the season with full fields. As a shareholder, you will receive up to 13 weeks of produce. Each week's shares will consist of the produce that is ready for harvest during that season. Children in care will have the opportunity to try seasonal local produce.

    Find a CSA in Colorado 

    Resources 

    Gardening

    The benefits of green spaces in early childhood care centers are endless. Gardens create positive learning environments, increase children's willingness to try new fruits and vegetables, and serves as a valuable tool for engaging students in a number of academic subjects. Gardens empower everyone, even little ones, to contribute to the process of growing food from seed to harvest. 

    CACFP Reimbursement

    Did you know that CACFP funds can be used to purchase items to grow a garden? Contact your Nutrition Consultant or see USDA CACFP Procedure Memo 11-2015 for more information.  

    CHOP

    CHOP was a three-year program for child care providers, funded by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Team Nutrition Training grant. CHOP’s goal was to get kids in care eating more seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables and/or on-site garden produce. The CHOP grant ended in September 2018, but the resources are still informative, fun, and full of great ideas.

    Check out this promotional video for our collaboration with Livewell Colorado: Farm to Preschool is Possible.

    CHOP on Colorado Public Radio: To Keep Kids from Dodging Veggies Colorado Wants to Hook 'em Young.

    For providers

    10/16/2019 - Let's talk about Squash and Snow!

    09/17/2019 - CHOP September Newsletter 2019

    08/16/2019 - CHOP August Newsletter

    07/18/2019 - CHOP & LiveWell Colorado Present: Quickbite Videos

    07/10/2019 - July CHOP Newsletter, Quick Bite Video Release!

    06/05/2019 - June CHOP Newsletter 2019

    05/08/2019 - CHOP May Newsletter

    04/25/2019 - CHOP April Newsletter

    03/20/2019 - CHOP Webinar Reminder!

    03/13/2019 - CHOP's March Newsletter

     

    For parents

    09/07/2018 - September is the last month of the Grant! Let's wrap it up with some fun family time.

    08/03/2018 - Let's learn about Peaches and Tomatoes!

    07/06/2018 - CHOP July Family Newsletter

    06/08/2018 - CHOP Grant Family Newsletter, June is all about Carrots!

    05/11/2018 - May Family Newsletter from CHOP

    04/23/2018 - Welcome to the CHOP Parent Newsletter, April 2018

     

    Resources

    Planning your garden with Master Gardener Julie Pfankuch.  

    Serving vegetables on the CACFP.  

    Webinar on serving vegetables on the CACFP.

    Funding opportunities for gardens

     

    Education

    Not only is farm to ECE a wonderful way for children to learn about the environment and how food grows, but it also teaches self-reliance, the importance of community, and hands-on STEM concepts. Learning about growth and renewal builds optimism and positivity. 

    Farm to ECE has shown a positive impact in the following areas:

    • Child engagement and development. 
    • Academic achievement. 
    • Family, educator, and staff engagement.