As a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit organization, AIM’s purpose is to educate the public about the health, environmental, and economic benefits of buying foods directly from farmers and other food producers. To help fulfill this mission, we have recently aligned our signature educational programs – Diggin’ the Market, Diggin’ the Classroom, and Diggin’ on the Farm to offer experiential learning opportunities to the next generation of eaters. In the 2017-2018 school year, AIM’s education team Tyler Thayer “Mr. Green Jeans” Thayer and Mimi Choudhury “Ziggy Stardust” taught 2,600 students about California-grown food either at the Market or on a farm through the Diggin’ the Market series. We’re also updating our educational Website to make it easier for schools and community groups to learn about these programs and how to enroll.
With the new school year upon us, our programs are in full swing! On almost any given Thursday, Mr. Green Jeans is leading school children and chaperones on a fun-filled, fact-finding tour at the Marin Thursday Civic Center Farmers Market. What better way to learn than to visit the farmers market where fruits and vegetables are directly sold? Or spend a day at the farm and see first-hand the connections between the environment, agriculture, rural living, and our food origins? Recently, students from San Domenico participated in a service project where they gleaned produce leftover from the harvest at Green Gulch Farm. To serve the entire Bay Area, AIM has also expanded its educational farm partners in the East Bay. We are excited to welcome to the Diggin’ on the Farm program: Chetwyn Farm, from our Hayward Farmers Market. Chetwyn is a small family farm located in the Hayward Hills that farms a variety of tree fruits, included delicious avocados year-round!
AIM has also formed a new partnership with Novato Unified School District, specifically with School Food Service Director Miguel Villarreal and Chef Emilie Green, to make Farm-to-School a reality in Novato! Novato Schools are participating in the Wellness in the Schools Program, where over 3,000 K-8 students will participate in cooking and nutrition labs. Nearly all the produce will be sourced each week from farmers at the Thursday Marin Civic Center Farmers Market. For instance, Novato’s schools purchased 17 cases of peppers, on average, each week from The Peach Farm, a farm located in Winters that participates in the Civic Center market. Additionally, the Allen Sports Club (ASC), a free after-school sports program for middle and high school students at Dominican University of California, has come to AIM for support in creating healthier snacks like sliced apples and vegetables, rather than chips and candy. Matt Gaulding, the ASC Director is now shopping the Sunday Marin Civic Center Farmers market to buy healthy produce options directly from farmers!
In addition to educating and providing local food access for school-age children, we also focus on meeting the older adults’ needs. Since July 2018, we have organized Diggin’ the Market tours senior housing and community sites, in partnership with the Interfaith Food Justice Collaborative. Participants in these tours learn how to navigate the farmers market to buy healthful, fresh foods direct from farmers. Older adults who receive Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks, a federal nutrition program, are eligible for “Bonus Bucks” redeemable for free fruits and vegetables at the Civic Center farmers market or Rollin’ Root stops. In the coming year, AIM will be working on strategies for creating senior-friendly Civic Center markets focused on accessibility to seniors (with more seating and shade).