Oklahoma school children are learning more than reading, writing and arithmetic in their classrooms. The Farm to You exhibit is helping youngsters learn where their food comes from, nutrition, proper hygiene, physical activity and more.
Developed by Oklahoma State University Extension’s Community Nutrition Education Programs, since 2008 Farm to You has helped nearly 155,000 students in first through sixth grades across the state gain a better understanding of the link between agriculture, food and health, said Becky Brown, CNEP project coordinator.
Typically, Farm to You is a walk-through, hands-on exhibit, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that. A new virtual pilot program launched this fall will help get the valuable information and fun activity into Oklahoma classrooms.
“We love getting out across the state and sharing the Farm to You exhibit with schools, but COVID-19 brought us to a halt,” Brown said. “A change in programming was necessary. We’ve set up the exhibit on the OSU campus, and classrooms of students will use Zoom to view it from a live, walk-through perspective – just as they would if they were at Farm to You in person.”
It takes about 90 minutes to go through the exhibit’s nine stations. With the help of OSU Extension educators, students will complete activities and ask questions toward closing a gap in understanding where their food comes from and the role agriculture plays daily.
Jenni Klufa, CNEP assistant state specialist for youth, said many children know only that their food comes from a grocery store. The exhibit stations highlight steps from the farm to the market and to the table. The body’s dietary needs are also explained.
“In Oklahoma, one out of every three children are overweight. Poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles among Oklahoma youth indicate the need to provide education on the importance of eating healthy and being physically active,” Klufa said.
Healthy eating habits develop early in life, which makes nutrition education so important. Brown said she hopes students are able to resume on-site school visits in the future, but plans are being made now to offer Farm to You again virtually in the spring.
“Schools interested in signing up can reach out to their local OSU Extension office for more information,” she said. “We’re thankful to our schools and Extension educators for working with us during these unprecedented times. Our goal through this pilot program is to learn as much as possible so we can better serve our students virtually, yet we’re looking forward to the time when we can resume the in-person experience.”
About 1,300 students are expected to participate in Farm to You during the pilot program.
Farm to You was named the 2010 Children’s Health Champion and is a recipient of the Dr. Rodney Huey Memorial Champion of Oklahoma Health Award, the highest honor of the Champion of Health awards presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma.