MSLOC Projects Encourage Local and Organic Foods in Illinois Schools

MSLOC Projects Encourage Local and Organic Foods in Illinois Schools

MSLOC Farm-to-School project
Four projects led by graduate students in the Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change program are benefiting organizations working to increase locally grown and organic foods in Illinois schools. As they partner with organizations advocating for child health and the local economy, the students are applying action learning in a graduate school format.

One project is a major statewide survey for the Illinois Farm-to-School organization. This survey developed by MSLOC students will help Illinois Farm-to-School learn more about the sources of foods in Illinois schools and will equip the organization to foster the use of local and organic foods in schoolchildren's diets. All Illinois residents who are K-12 parents, teachers, administrators, food directors and farmers are asked to take the survey here by May 25

The Illinois Farm to School movement started to fight childhood obesity, create local jobs, connect farmers with consumers, serve healthy meals in schools and support local farmers. The Illinois Farm-to-School survey has broad support across the state, including the backing of Governor Pat Quinn, who writes in a letter supporting the project that the survey "will serve as a vital first step of gathering information from our local farmers, parents, school superintendents, principals, teachers and food service directors. Please take a few minutes to share your opinions and insights about this important issue."

Two of the other MSLOC projects benefit Seven Generations Ahead, an Oak Park, Illinois, nonprofit whose work includes a unique Fresh from the Farm program serving Chicago area schools. Fresh from the Farm incorporates a healthy eating curriculum, school food procurement support, parent engagement and teacher training in an integrated effort to improve access to healthier foods in schools. One MSLOC Foundations project for Seven Generations Ahead involved writing and designing a new e-book for third graders that supports the Fresh from the Farm curriculum. A second project focused on improving knowledge sharing among Seven Generations Ahead and its many stakeholders.

Another MSLOC project team focused on weaving together the know-how of two leading organizations focusing on children's health and nutrition into a prototype event and toolkit for parents who wish to organize action in their local schools. Resources and experts from Illinois Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) and Melissa Graham's Purple Asparagus - a nonprofit focused on healthy eating for families - worked with the team to design and run a prototype event at Kenneth Murphy Elementary School of the Beach Park School District in northern Illinois. The MSLOC project team is refining the toolkit to guide other organizations in similar efforts.

All four projects emerged from MSLOC's Foundations course, which introduces students to key concepts vital to the development of leadership expertise in facilitating organizational effectiveness initiatives. The course includes an action learning project, which spans three quarters, to apply students' learning to organizational practice. The MSLOC program is designed to prepare leaders and professionals who want to experience a new way of thinking about organizational issues to more successfully drive transformational and strategic change.

Photo caption:
An MSLOC project team developed a prototype event and toolkit for parents who wish to organize action in their local schools at Kenneth Murphy Elementary School of the Beach Park School.


By Jeff Merrell and Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 5/20/10