NCAT Southeast Helps Arkansas Grow Healthy Communities

"Put your hands in the air if you love urban farming!" Tri Cycle Farms Director Don Bennett gets Summit attendees excited about their farm tour.
“Put your hands in the air if you love urban farming!” Tri Cycle Farms Director Don Bennett gets Summit attendees excited about access to healthy, local food. Photo by Rachel Spencer.

FoodCorps Arkansas Fellow Rachel Spencer, FoodCorps Service Members Destiny Schlinker and Cecilia Hernandez, and Southeast Regional Director Margo Hale participated in the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention (ArCOP) Regional Summit held in Fayetteville, Ark., on Wed., March 19. The Fayetteville event was one of several summits held around the state to give citizens the training they need to help their communities be healthier.

More than 100 people attended the summit, including school nurses, school health coordinators, teachers, and representatives from community organizations. Topics covered during the one-day training included worksite wellness, the Cooking Matters program, coalition building, and many more. Fayetteville’s Mayor Lioneld Jordan gave a welcome address in the opening session. Nicole Zammit, the Farm to School (F2S) Lead for the USDA Southwest Regional Office, spoke during the first breakout session.

Rachel organized and facilitated the “Access to Healthy Foods” track of the Summit, which included workshops on school and community gardening, farm to school programs, and farmers markets. Rachel also helped lead a field trip to Tri Cycle Farms, a sustainable, community-based farm in the heart of Fayetteville.

Cecilia Hernandez (left) and Destiny Schlinker speak about FoodCorps' role in helping kids make healthy food choices.
Cecilia Hernandez (left) and Destiny Schlinker speak about FoodCorps’ role in helping kids make healthy food choices. Photo by Margo Hale.

Destiny and Cecilia, who serve at elementary schools in Springdale, Ark., spoke during the Early Childhood & Schools: Nutrition & Physical Activities Toolkit session. Destiny and Cecilia shared stories and photos of their work—which includes nutrition education, building and maintaining school gardens, and working to get local food in the cafeterias—in schools where over 90 percent of the students receive free or reduced meals, yet over 40 percent of those students are overweight. Margo also spoke about the FoodCorps program in Arkansas.

 For more information about FoodCorps Arkansas, you can read their blog and follow them on Facebook.

 Farmers interested in selling to schools can find more information in the ATTRA publications Tips for Selling to Institutional Markets and Bringing Local Food to Local Institutions.

 The USDA has a website devoted to Farm to School information and resources, including contact information for state F2S coordinators.

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