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  • This week’s featured Farm to School Interview
  • Resources: HealthierUS Schools Challenge

Featured Interview: Healthy Food and Garden Therapy Help Residents at the Bucks County Youth Center

Congratulations to the Bucks County Youth Center (BCYC) on becoming  the first school in Pennsylvania to earn the Gold Award of Distinction in the HealthierUS School Challenge! A thriving Farm to School program plays an important role in making nutrition top-notch at BCYC, a Residential Child Care Institution. Deputy Director of Operations, Jacqueline Froehlich and Cook and Garden Manager, Val Arocho took time to share their insights about this program during this week’s featured interview.

Meals prepared at BCYC are made from scratch using as many ingredients as possible from the large school garden and from local farmers. To make meals as nutritious as possible, Arocho and the BCYC staff have begun freezing herbs, which provides a year-round source of seasonings that are used as alternatives to salt and other commercially produced seasonings. In addition to contributing to a well-balanced meal, cooking from scratch and using herbs grown on site helps to keep food costs low.

At BCYC, the garden does more than provide nutritious foods. Gardening provides residents with a unique form of therapy. All of the residents at BCYC have committed crimes. They stay there as part of their rehabilitation, and gardening has become a mandatory part of this process at BCYC. “They come in to us with shields on … we do a lot of therapeutic things, and it’s just a matter of getting that shield to come down, and then you start to see that transformation in them; the smiles on their faces and that wellness begins.” said Froehlich.

Froehlich and Arocho readily admit that their program differs greatly from most schools in the state, giving their Farm to School program distinct advantages. For example, BCYC’s rather unique requirement that students participate in garden therapy establishes a year-round gardening work force of twenty students. Similarly, all schools are not eligible for some of the grants that subsidize the costs of BCYC’s meals. However, these innovative professionals encourage their colleagues to explore how a Farm to School program could be integrated into their own schools.

At Project PA, we encourage you to take a look at the Farm to School programs at BCYC and across the state and consider what can be applied to your school.

On the Project PA website, we’ve added interview clips, and photos from both of these projects – check them out today and explore the possibilities that Farm to School programs can offer! 

Resources: HealthierUS School Challenge

< HUSSC Graphic >Sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture, the HealthierUS School Challenge is a voluntary award program that BCYC is participating in. If you are interested in applying for an award, you will find the resources invaluable on the HealthierUS School Challenge website. The “Energizing Students” and “Getting Started” pages are two great places to start within this site – they provide tips from schools that have already received awards.

Support for the HealthierUS School Challenge is also available through the Project PA website. On October 13, 2011, Project PA hosted a webinar about this program, which featured a presentation from Steven Bergonzoni, a Nutritionist at USDA who reviews Challenge applications. There were also representatives from two of the school districts in PA that have already earned Silver Awards, and from Froehlich, about how their schools prepared to meet Challenge goals.

Schools from the North Pocono, Southern Lehigh, Loyalsock Township and Williamsport Area School Districts have earned Bronze or Silver awards from the HealthierUS School Challenge.

< Let's Move Graphic >Though the HealthierUS School Challenge was introduced in 2004, in 2010 it was integrated with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign. Visit the Let’s Move! website to learn more about this project as well as the important role that school nutrition plays in children’s wellness.

 Ways to Stay Involved with Farm to School

For resources about Farm to School right here in Pennsylvania please check the Project PA Farm to School website.

Project PA Farm to School Promising Practices
< Project PA Graphic >Access the Project PA Farm to School Promising Practices pages to read and hear about successful Farm to School programs in Pennsylvania. If you have a success story to share, please let us know about it by submitting a Promising Practice through the Project PA website. (On the main Project PA page, see the Promising Practices submission link on the right side of the page.)

Resources are also available at the National Farm to School Network’s site. The Farm to School Network has put together quite a few resources that can be used to promote your school’s Farm to School projects.


Finally, the Farm to School discussion continues on Project PA's Farm to School Facebook page! Connect with your colleagues here to share < Facebook Graphic >your ideas, discuss what you've learned from the interviews, or answer one of our daily Farm to School Month questions.