related experiential education; increase children’s acceptance and preference for healthy foods; increase children and family knowledge about healthy foods and local food systems; and positively influence child, family, and provider health behaviors. Farm to ECE includes a set of activities and strategies that include 3 core elements of farm to school – local food purchasing, gardens, and food, nutrition, and agriculture education – implemented with the goal of enhancing the quality of the ECE environment and the educational experience in all types of ECE settings. As farm to ECE is not a “one size fits all” strategy, the core elements adapt readily to different settings, geographic locations, enrollment numbers, and diverse ages and abilities of children. Farm to ECE aims to advance racial and social equity by increasing access to healthy, local foods and high quality education opportunities for all children.
Target Behavior: Healthy Eating
Intervention Type: PSE Change
Intervention Reach and Adoption
Setting: Community gardens, Child care (Learn), Gardens, Indian Tribal Organizations
Target Audience: Preschool (<5 years), Parents/Mothers/Fathers, Adults
- Local food procurement/purchasing: Purchasing and serving local and seasonal foods in meals and snacks can support adherence to Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal patterns and allows every meal time opportunity to be a learning opportunity.
- Gardening: Hands-on gardening opportunities, ranging from sprouting a seed on an indoor windowsill to maintaining large outdoor plots, allow young children to strengthen their understanding of how food grows and where food comes from.
- Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Education: Educational opportunities related to food, nutrition, and agriculture are expansive and diverse. Children can learn about how food grows by reading farm and garden books; engage in experiential education activities such as cooking and tasting local foods; or use local foods in literacy, math, science, and social studies lessons to support achievement of early learning standards.
- National Farm to School Network
- USDA CFSD Patrick Leahy Farm to School Program
- USDA Team Nutrition:
- Institute of Child Nutrition:
- Vermont FEED: Farm to Early Childhood Resource Library
- CDC’s Advancing Farm to Early Care and Education
- Pennsylvania Ready, Set, Grow – Multicultural book lists
- Enhancing Young Children’s Access to Local Foods and Farm to ECE: Federal Funding Opportunities and related webinar from September 2021
- MSU’s Everything in Good Season: Growing Farm to Family Care and Education
- CO’s Farm to Child Guide
- North Carolina’s Cherokee Elementary Pre-K farm to ECE program
- North Carolina’s Gibson Elementary Pre-K farm to ECE program
- Vermont Mix of Early Care Educators: Sharing the Value of Farm to ECE
Training resources and materials are available on the NFSN Resource Database. Examples include the following:
- Hands-on childcare garden intervention: A randomized controlled trial to assess effects on fruit and vegetable identification, liking, and consumption among children aged 3–5 years in North Carolina
- Impact of a Farm-to-School Nutrition and Gardening Intervention for Native American Families from the FRESH Study: A Randomized Wait-List Controlled Trial
- Harvest for Healthy Kids Pilot Study: Associations between Exposure to a Farm-to-Preschool Intervention and Willingness to Try and Liking of Target Fruits and Vegetables among Low-Income Children in Head Start
- Feasibility and acceptability of a gardening-based nutrition education program in preschoolers from low-income, minority populations
- Youth Gardens Increase Healthy Behaviors in Young Children
- Farm to Family: Increasing Access to Affordable Fruits and Vegetables Among Urban Head Start Families
- Overcoming Barriers to Vegetable Consumption by Preschool Children: A Child Care Center Buying Club
- Frequency of Eating Homegrown Produce Is Associated with Higher Intake among Parents and Their Preschool-Aged Children in Rural Missouri
- Nutrition-education program improves preschoolers’ at-home diet: a group randomized trial
- Farm to School, School to Home: An Evaluation of a Farm to School Program at an Urban Core Head Start Preschool Program
Evidence-based Approach: Research-tested
|Readiness and Capacity – Short Term (ST)||Changes – Medium Term (MT)||Effectiveness and Maintenance – Long Term (LT)||Population Results (R)|
|Individual||ST1, ST2||MT1, MT2,|
|Sectors of Influence||MT8|
- ST1a and ST1b: Children more willing to try fruits and vegetables. Increase child requests for vegetables. Increased child reported liking of fruits and vegetables. Higher nutrient content of served lunches.
- ST2a and ST2f: Parent plans to increase fruit and vegetable purchasing.
- MT1c, MT1d, MT1l, and MT1m: Increased child consumption of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat/fat-free milk.
- MT2a and MT2f: Increase in family shopping at farmstand/market. Increase in local food purchases. Increase in home gardening.
- MT5c and MT5d: Healthier meals served. Curriculum revisions. Edible gardens installed and maintained.
- MT8c: Increase in ECE sites participating in farm to ECE.
Farm to Early Care and Education Associate, National Farm to School Network
Phone: (949) 395-1666
Program Analyst, USDA CFSD Patrick Leahy Farm to School Program
*Updated as of August 23, 2023