The United Sorghum Checkoff Program’s commitment to the health of America’s children took an exciting step in July when it debuted its first-ever farm-toschool curriculum. The curriculum is an agricultural education initiative that aims to integrate the science and production of sorghum, in addition to its nutritional value, into classrooms across the United States.
The curriculum is a user-friendly resource for teachers as it can be incorporated into various subjects from STEAM to Language Arts. This initiative underscores the sorghum community’s commitment to agriculture education with a goal to inspire the next generation to recognize and utilize the potential of sorghum in their lives and the world around them.
The focus on farm-to-school is an exciting addition to the existing educational outreach. It serves as a remarkable resource for teachers, providing lesson plans and activities that conform to National Science and Common Core State Standards. The Sorghum Checkoff believes this curriculum will not only spark students’ interest in sorghum but also inspire them to explore careers in agriculture. This early exposure aims to foster a new generation of consumers who are well-informed about the source of their food and cultivate a love for sorghum-based foods.
The curriculum provides educators with an array of engaging resources that introduce students to the importance of sorghum as a sustainable, versatile and flavorful grain that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. The program also aims to ignite the passion for agriculture in the next generation, cultivating an understanding and appreciation for sorghum.
The Sorghum Farm-to-School curriculum engages students of all grade levels from Kindergarten to 12th grade through experiential learning. Tailored modules for elementary, middle and high school students offer rich, multisensory experiences. Students not only grow and taste sorghum, but they also explore various subjects by writing about and applying their knowledge of this versatile grain. These learning experiences cover a wide spectrum of educational content from understanding sorghum’s crucial role in global food security and world nutrition to exploring its potential as a renewable energy source. The program is further enriched with an interactive video, promoting an engaging and comprehensive learning environment.
The curriculum was debuted by the Sorghum Checkoff at the annual School Nutrition Association conference where more than 6,000 school nutrition leaders gathered. The introduction of the curriculum received an enthusiastic welcome from attendees representing schools, government, foodservice companies and consumer packaged goods brands.
Many attendees had never heard of sorghum prior to the conference and after learning about its nutritional profile, sustainability story and versatility, attendees were eager to begin incorporating it into their meals. In fact, one attendee commented, “Why isn’t this on every menu?”
Sorghum Checkoff board members Kim Baldwin and Macey Mueller attended the conference and were able to share their unique perspectives having both worked in education, as well as growing sorghum, and being mothers of school-aged children.
“This is an exciting new market developing before our eyes. I’m excited to see sorghum served in schools as it benefits our producers while also providing huge nutritional benefits to school-aged children. It’s a win-win!” Baldwin said. “There was a lot of discussion regarding global food trends within school nutrition programs, and I can see sorghum fitting in really well as it offers flexibility for school menu development and a lower-cost, plantbased option for essential nutrients like protein and iron.”
Mueller added, “It was evident to see USCP staff and partners have been working hard to build relationships with key players who can help sorghum shine on the school nutrition stage, and it was very encouraging to see the genuine interest in sorghum from both distributors and school nutrition professionals who are looking for wholesome options to offer students. Sorghum is a nutritious, versatile and sustainable whole grain that checks the many boxes needed to meet USDA requirements … and it can be really fun to eat, too!”
The Sorghum Checkoff team continues to work with partners to continue to raise awareness of sorghum as a solution for school meals and increase the number of students across the United States who will benefit from it.
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2023 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine.