top of page

About Local Food / Health Kids 

Linking Farmers, Food Systems, Early Childhood Education, and Healthy Communities:

Iowa Farmers Union Farm to Early Care Policy Initiative

The Iowa Farmers Union (IFU), in partnership with passionate organizations and individuals throughout Iowa, seeks to convene stakeholders to develop and promote policies and practices to improve access to healthy food for all Iowans, especially vulnerable children and their families, through enhancing local and regional food systems. These efforts aim to expand on and complement the work of the Iowa Farm to Early Care and Education Coalition, the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, and the Association for the Education of Young Children.


The project is designed to address many intersecting needs in Iowa.

  • Young children, but especially the most vulnerable children and their families, in Iowa communities need early education environments that promote learning and healthy lifestyles. In 2017, 242,970 children ages 0-5 in Iowa were receiving assistance to attend child care (Iowa Department of Human Services).

  • We have a large and growing problem with childhood obesity and preventable diseases. Iowa is the 10th highest ranked state in the nation for childhood obesity. 17.7 percent of kids and teens aged 10-17, and 14.7 percent of WIC recipients betweenthe ages of 2 and 4 are considered obese. (

  • Many Iowans, especially vulnerable children and their families, lack access to healthy local food in their communities. Between 1976 and 2000, Iowa lost more than half of its grocery stores. Only about 63 percent of census tracts in Iowa have a “healthy food” retailer within a half-mile, 9 percent lower than the national average (Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 3, 2019).

  • Rural, agricultural communities face significant economic challenges and farmers face growing barriers to find viable economic models. Expansion of local food production and distribution could be a boon to many communities across Iowa. Direct-to-consumer food sales generate over $320 million a year for Iowa farms. If Iowa farmers met just half the existing demand for locally grown food, it would create $1.67 billion in annual sales and support 12,000 Iowa jobs (Iowa Farmers Union).


This initiative will:

  • Generate. A picture of the current landscape of farm to early childhood policy and practice through research of national, state, and local best practice and identification of obstacles through individual interviews, stakeholder conversations, and secondary research.

  • Convene. Stakeholder discussions to help formulate policy recommendations and build the will to change the status quo through action.

  • Develop. Policy recommendations that encourage partnerships between farmers and early childhood providers that support healthy communities in the long-term.

  • Promote. Supportive policies by utilizing different networks across the state to build awareness and raise the profile of this issue and get people to change obstructive policies and encourage adoption of best practice.

  • Build. Develop and grow stakeholder relationships that build a foundation for continued support and action to promote collaboration between local food producers and childcare providers.

bottom of page