Statewide Access Initiatives

Assessment Questions for Statewide Access Initiatives: Joint Use 

  1. Does your state allow or encourage joint use agreements?
  2. Does your state have special rules regarding liability, fees, insurance, joint use, or applicability to schools or universities/colleges?
  3. Does existing legislation in your state support or require joint use agreements?

Joint Use

One way to provide safe access for physical activity is through a joint use agreement, which is a legal agreement between two parties that establishes terms and conditions for the shared use of property or facilities. Typically, joint use agreements provide community members access to school recreational facilities after hours while protecting schools from liability due to injury. It may be somewhat challenging to learn about specific joint use agreements throughout your state without asking each individual school system. To find out if your state encourages or even requires schools to provide community access to their facilities after school hours through joint use agreements, go to

Key considerations:

  • Joint use agreements require careful planning. They require all parties involved to pay attention to detail, engage in open communication, and participate in up-front planning.
  • Joint use agreements can improve access to facilities and space for physical activity for both ECE facilities and members of the community. They are especially important for ECE facilities that have limited access to outdoor space and recreation facilities. A legal agreement with a local school district (either with the town/city/municipality or with the facilities directly) could provide ECE facilities with access to space for physical activity during non-school hours.
Assessment Questions for Statewide Access Initiatives: Farm to ECE

  1. Are there current farm-to-school/farm-to-ECE models in your state?
  2. Are ECE facilities interested in farm to ECE?
  3. Are there efforts to purchase local produce from a farmers’market in ECE?
  4. Are there efforts for ECE facilities to grow food their own?
  5. Are there efforts for ECE facilities to build direct relationships with local farmers?
  6. Are there efforts for ECE facilities to work together to form a purchasing cooperative?

Farm to ECE

Another approach to a healthy environment is through farm-to-ECE initiatives that connect ECE facilities with local agriculture, including farms and farmers’ markets. As with joint use agreements, it may be difficult to obtain information on individual farm-to-preschool efforts across the state. Start with the National Farm to School Network, which maintains a list of farm-to-school efforts across the country, as well as resources. An additional site focuses on solely on farm to preschool ( The service organization, Food Corps, provides AmericaCorps volunteers to limited-resource communities for a year of public service focused on nutrition education, school gardens, and improving school foods ( To assess interest among ECE providers in engaging in farm-to-preschool activities, you will likely have to ask them directly through a state survey or focus groups.

Key considerations:

Initiating farm-to-ECE efforts presents a few unique challenges. ECE programs may have difficulty identifying distributors who specialize in local foods, and the minimum order required by these vendors may be too high and too expensive. ECE facilities might not have the space to grow their own fruits and vegetables. However, creative solutions are available to help combat these barriers. For example, ECE facilities may be able to purchase produce from local farmers’ markets. Alternatively, distributors/aggregators who specialize in local foods may deliver to facilities with adequate purchasing volume and conversely, smaller facilities can form purchasing cooperatives with other facilities to collectively buy larger amounts.

5-1. Grow It, Try It, Like It! Preschool Fun with Fruits and Vegetables

In 2011, USDA published Grow It, Try It, Like It! Preschool Fun with Fruits and Vegetables. This garden-themed nutrition education kit for child care center staff contains seven booklets featuring hands-on planting and nutrition education activities that introduce MyPyramid for Preschoolers with a focus on six specific fruits and vegetables. It also includes a CD-ROM with supplemental information and a DVD with Cool Puppy Pup’s Picnic and Lunch Parties ( Resources/growit.html).

  • Preschool is an ideal age to engage children in experiential learning activities, especially around garden-based education. Gardening provides a number of benefits. It introduces children to fresh, nutritious foods, some of which will be new to them. Children are more willing to try foods they have grown themselves. Gardening also provides an opportunity for physical activity and can enhance character-building skills such as the satisfaction and pride when children see the fruits of their labors and the opportunity to practice nurturing and teamwork. An abundance of classroom activities can be used to teach about food and nutrition (see box 5-1 for details on a free garden-themed curriculum). An easy starting point is by introducing food tastings, especially of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables; cooking lessons also teach important life skills. In addition, food can be incorporated into math, science, health, literacy, and art lessons. Young children love to play in dirt, and are enthralled with the opportunity to grow their own food in gardens. Even when outdoor space is limited, very successful gardens can be grown in containers or in vertical planters.
  • Including family outreach in farm-to-ECE activities is critical. Families can reinforce the healthful eating concepts children are learning at child care, and conversely, children can carry home concepts they are learning at ECE to help influence their families toward healthy eating at home. Ways to communicate to families include workshops, cooking demonstrations, newsletters, or community-supported agriculture/market basket programs, where families can get locally grown produce directly from a local grower via the ECE facility. Families may also choose to serve on school garden committees to help develop and care for school gardens.
  • Training and professional development for ECE providers can help them incorporate farm-to-preschool concepts into daily classroom activities. Trainings can highlight curricula and activities for classroom and outdoor activities, and are most effective when they model the interactive nature of farm to preschool, such as providing tastings. Offering continuing education credits, take-home materials, or compensatory time helps to incentivize these trainings for ECE providers.



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