MEET Ashley Rouse: mom, farm-to-school advocate and healthy food farmer
If you have visited any of Atlanta’s organic farms, it is likely that Ashley Rouse has been there too. From seed bombing the soon-to-be city hall community garden, helping care for the Oakleaf Mennonite Farm, to assisting Georgia Organics with farm to school programs, Ashley really gets around the local organic food movement. We visited Oakleaf one warm morning to discover what inspires her dedication to such a tasty cause, and of course to test out some fresh veggies straight from the farm!
Tell us about your project:
The APS Parents’ Farm to School Coalition is a group of parents who believe it is important to promote the benefits of local, fresh food for our children’s eating and learning, and to advocate for APS policies and leadership that will support a sustainable, district-wide farm to school program.
We envision schools that improve students’ health by offering them more fresh food choices; grow their minds with hands-on gardening and food activities; and enhance the livelihood of their families and communities by reconnecting them with where food comes from and supporting the local food economy.
How did you get started?
I started learning about farm to school in Atlanta in 2007 when my daughter started a Pre-K program at Mary Lin Elementary. The Pre-K program was not only housed in the basement of the school, but it was next to the cafeteria where the food was processed and poured straight out of a can. I wanted to find a way to get the kids outside more and engage them on where their food came from. I started investigating with the principal and he gave me the name of a 3rd grade teacher. I reached out to the 3rd grade teacher and from there the school now has 21 raised beds and many trained teachers who use the garden in their classroom.
What challenges have you faced?
Everything from lack of parent involvement, to non cooperation of school nutrition departments.
What inspires you to do this kind of work?
My 3 beautiful children. Also it’s my passion. I feel like one of life’s greatest challenges for most is finding a job they enjoy doing. This job has it’s challenges and upsetting days but no matter what nothing will change the way I feel about changing the way we feed our kids in schools. We as a nation are supposed to be the wealthiest. So why can’t our kids be the healthiest.
Who are you (and APS coalition) collaborating with?
I’m not an army of one, there are several other moms who I work closely with on a regular basis. We are partnered with Georgia Organics, Sodexo Food Management Company has been extremely cooperative, Farmer D Organics, Southeastern Horticultural Society, Will Harris- farmer/owner/operator of White Oak Farms and Atlanta Falcon Youth Foundation.
What kind of assistance or help does the project need to grow?
More parent support, community buy in, policy changes to help support the teachers and school nutrition directors implement aspects of farm to school without hesitation.
What are some of your favorite organizations around Atlanta?
How can interested readers get in touch with you?
Email me firstname.lastname@example.org
What are some of the biggest issues facing Atlanta?
Transportation and food access for those who need it the most.
What FEED’s your soul?
I FEED my soul with farm to school.