Remember the days of sticky pleather school bus seats, mystery meat Mondays in the cafeteria, and field trips to the same museum year after year? September is back-to-school season! Whether you’re back in the classroom yourself, or sending your little ones off on the bus, there are many ways to live homegrown this school year. Wholesome peanut butter and berry-wiches? Yum! Waste-free lunch kits? Genius. After-school canning with kids? Piece of cake. Try some of these ideas for a homegrown school year for you and your kids.
Photo by Lynn S.
Whether lunch comes in a brown bag or on a school lunch tray, think about ways to make your meals more homegrown.
- The movement to change school lunch menus through Farm to School programs is changing the face of the cafeteria. Farm to School “connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.” Join the movement and get involved – it’s good for the farmers and good for your family! Farm Aid’s Farm to School Toolkit is chock full of great information to expand your school lunch programs and revitalize cafeteria food.
- We all got sick of the weekly chicken patties as kids pretty quickly, and so are some teachers! Fed Up With Lunch a blog written by the anonymous “Mrs. Q.” tells one teacher’s story of eating lunch in the cafeteria every day for a year with her students. She digs deepers into the school lunch system, provides her two-cents from a teacher’s standpoint on current education issues, and shares new resources for teachers, parents, and students.
Photo by Lynda
Take a family field trip to your local farmers’ market (Local Harvest can point you in the right direction), and stock up on the season’s bounty for your lunchbox. Then, take those ingredients and check out some great recipes from Epicurious.com and Whole Foods Market to make a local lunch!
- Epicurious has a great collection of recipes for school lunches from Tanya Wenman Steel, author of Real Food for Healthy Kids. Who could turn down the mini whoopie pies?
- Whole Foods Market and Chef Ann Cooper are building a better lunchbox with a daily lunchbox planner with price breakdown, money saving tips, recipes and more.
What do you pack all of these homegrown lunches in? Try to reduce, reuse, and recycle your containers, utensils, bottles, and napkins.
- One mom sends waste-free lunches for her son. It may sound like a lot of extra work when you’re busy getting those kids off to school on time, but check out her 5-Steps to a Waste-Free Lunch, adapted from Reuseit.com.
The 5 Steps to a Waste-free Lunch
- Replace paper bags with reusable lunch bags.
- Use reusable food containers to eliminate single-serve packaging.
- Switch from plastic baggies to reusable snack & sandwich bags.
- Reusable napkins, utensils and even straws replace their disposable counterparts.
- Kick the bottled water and juice habit with a reusable water bottle
- Reuseit.com’s waste-free lunch kit saves about $371 annually. Their site has tips on choosing the right styles, sizes, and materials for your lunch bags and containers. Join the Waste-Free Lunches in Schools Campaign, which reduces consumption on a daily basis, preserves natural resources, saves money, and encourages healthy eating habits! By committing to a waste-free lunch, you can even earn cash or prizes for your school!
- Instead of buying new notebooks and pens, try upcycling, recycling, or repurposing old materials you have around the house. If you do have to purchase something new, Rodale’s Nontoxic Back-to-School Shopping Guide is full of information for parents and students about the safest school products for humans and for the environment.
How do you teach your kids to live homegrown during the school year? Get their hands dirty and grow, cook, make, and do together!
Photo by HOMEGROWN
- Take a field trip with your family to local farms, markets, and demonstrations. Have them learn new homegrown skills at a local skillshare! Start a garden or get some livestock at your own home.
- Get everyone involved in the growing! Cultivate a school or community garden in your district.
- Visit the HOMEGROWN.org Discussions Forum for the HOMEGROWN 101’s. These handy guides can help you with all kinds of growing, cooking, making, and doing. Lots of projects are easy to do and are family-friendly – try the butter-making! Check out the Goodies – make your own seed packets, canning jar labels, and garden plant labels! Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, try the projects on the printable HOMEGROWN How-To Cards
- Teach your little ones about food, the environment, and sustainability on the day-to-day. Five tips from littlegreenblog.com:
- Grow something you all can eat
- Kitchen science with green products
- Be a detective
- Save water
- Get inspired by Project Homestead: Kids where the whole family is growing, cooking, maple tapping, and enjoying the land together
- Become a scientist in your own kitchen by canning with kids. This blog has great recipes and concoctionx to try at home.
- Take the Urban Land Scouts pledge and become a better citizen of the Earth by completing the 10 levels and living the values of the ULS. Earn badges and learn about the natural world. Visit the Urban Land Scouts blog and get scouting!
- If you’ve got a child interested in farming and agriculture, find out if there are Future Farmers of America chapters in your area.
- 4-H is another great way to get your kids involved with science, healthy living, and citizenship. There are many homegrown skills to be shared in 4-H chapters, and lots of fun at 4-H fairs!
- Find a local Slow Food USA chapter. There are tons of programs and events for the whole family, and many chapters have kid-specific workshops, like this “fresh from the farm” cooking class.
While the back-to-school season can be overwhelming, living homegrown through the year doesn’t have to be. Try a few of these ideas out, and figure out how best to live homegrown everyday. Share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences with all of us this school year!