“Some students had never tasted a carrot before," a Head Start cook told AFSC recently. Her school participated in the Great Carrot Crunch Campaign in October, an idea director Sayrah Namaste created after being inspired by the Great Lakes Apple Crunch in the Midwest. The campaign connects small scale organic farmers with preschools, mostly Head Start programs, as well as elementary schools like the Native American Community Academy. Our motto is Kids Win When Farmers and Schools Work Together.
"I think that they are developing a better attitude towards eating real unprocessed food, particularly fruits and vegetables," the cook added. "They used to be fairly resistant to trying things, and throw fresh food out, but I am seeing them change and have a more open attitude.”
With the national epidemic of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes, and access to healthy food often out of reach for low-income families, the AFSC New Mexico program began a partnership this year with 19 Head Start programs, which serve low-income children. Small-scale family farms, which struggle to be economically viable in the US food system since it subsidizes agribusinesses, also benefitted from the campaign by having a new market for their vegetables.
Children are challenged to crunch on a local carrot, and each child who participates gets a sticker. AFSC worked with local organic farms to provide organic carrot seeds and paid a fair price for the carrots. We also created a “Crunch Guide” for teachers to use activities around healthy eating in the classroom, and we arranged for the farmers to give presentations to the schools.
“The kids loved eating the carrots! Most of them asked for another one,” an Albuquerque kindergarten teacher told us. “They also enjoyed meeting farmer Fidel and asking him questions about his profession--that was special for us.”
The Great Carrot Crunch campaign was so successful that schools and farmers are asking us to continue to connect them throughout the school year, rotating other local vegetables and fruits. “I loved growing carrots for my son’s school, and he felt like a rock star when I delivered them to his class," a farmer in northern New Mexico told us. "Now his school has asked me if they can purchase more vegetables going forward. Can AFSC help me do that again?"