A new program designed to serve healthy, locally grown food to young children kicks off on Monday at 62 child care centers around Minnesota.
The farm-to-child care program is a collaboration between the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the child care provider New Horizon Academy.
Child care centers in the Twin Cities metro area, Rochester, St. Cloud and other cities will begin receiving healthy foods from nearby farms.
Erin McKee VanSlooten, program associate at the institute, said there's an increasing interest in reaching children earlier, in part because research shows they develop their taste buds between the ages of 3 and 5.
"If we can get these kids to try these fresh healthy foods from local farms at that time," she said, "our hope is that they will be set up to make healthy choices in their food going forward, and they'll be ready to join farm-to-school program once they're in the K-through-12 age as well."
The program will incorporate classroom lessons, hands-on activities and snacks, VanSlooten said.
"Reaching these younger kids, they're so excited and they have so much energy around the food," she said, "and when you get to see them, you can see that they are so much more interested in trying those foods."
About 7,500 children will participate in the program, which runs through the fall.