South Carolina: Keeping Children Healthy with a Farm-to-School Program
In 2011, the Kaiser Family Foundation ranked South Carolina third among states for the number of children aged 10–17 years who were obese. Obese children are more likely to have high blood pressure, asthma, and other serious health problems. One way to combat obesity is to make sure children eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Having healthy foods available in convenient locations like schools can help children make healthier food choices. Schools are also a safe and supportive environment for children to learn about and practice healthy eating. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) used Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funds to create and manage the South Carolina Farm-to-School Program. The program gives schools small grants to support teaching students the benefits of eating and growing fresh food.
Fairfield County, South Carolina, was the first county in the state to try out the Farm-to-School Program. During the 2013–2014 school year, leaders from seven Fairfield County schools were trained on how to start and maintain this program. The schools then planted school vegetable gardens, promoted healthy activities to help reduce obesity, and taught cafeteria workers how to prepare and serve healthier food—reaching about 3,000 elementary, middle, and high school students across the seven schools.
Most schools were able to serve students locally grown fruits and vegetables at least twice a month. Four schools encouraged healthy eating through off-site activities, such as field trips to farms and food-tasting events. In addition to maintaining the Farm-to-School Program in Fairfield County, DHEC staff are planning to expand it to five other South Carolina counties that have high rates of childhood obesity.
Story year: 2015