STATE

Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Receives Major Gift from Walmart Foundation

Robert Blackford/Editor

The Illinois agriculture industry's 29-year effort to teach school children about agriculture has received another major boost from the Walmart Foundation. Representatives from Walmart presented a check for $50,000 to Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom during Ag Day at the Illinois Sate Fair. This marks the second year of funding from the Walmart Foundation. 

As a result of this generous gift, Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC) will continue developing a program started with the initial funding from the Walmart Foundation.   After School Agriculture, a 9-week program to bring the concept of consumption agriculture to a non-traditional audience provides curricular resource materials focusing on health and nutrition and the important role farmers play, at no cost to after-school care professionals and summer recreation programs.

"The initial roll-out of these materials was very positively received," said Kevin Daugherty, Director of Education for Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom. "We were pleased to see a great number of after school programs and summer camps grabbing up materials to incorporate into their planned activities. The nutrition and health messages are really peaking the interest of programs we have not reached in the past through our traditional classroom resources." 

"Agriculture is the beating heart of the Illinois economy. At Walmart, we support local farmers. Our customers recognize the importance of buying local products, and we are proud to stock our stores with locally grown produce," said Jason Wetzel, Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Walmart in Illinois. "By supporting Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom, we hope to help the next generation understand the critical role that agriculture plays in all of our lives - especially as Illinoisans. We are thrilled to have this opportunity."

"Ag Education is more important now than ever before," said Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Tom Jennings, who also serves on the IAITC Executive Coalition. "We live in a time where more children are growing up in either urban areas or rural areas removed several generations from the farm, and may not have the opportunity to see how important agriculture is to our state or to our nation. We thank Walmart today for its dedication to help us teach the future Ag leaders of tomorrow."

IAITC has a rich history of being the agriculture education resource for teachers to utilize in classrooms. All of its lessons meet Illinois state learning standards and teachers use the program to enhance their existing curriculum. A network of county coordinators and volunteers deliver programs and materials with accurate agriculture content to teachers and children in all 102 Illinois counties. Universities and public school systems recognize the IAITC program as the source for training teachers and educating children about the importance of agriculture, including the role it plays in providing healthy food choices to achieve a nutritious diet.

Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom is the top funding priority of the IAA Foundation, Illinois Farm Bureau's charitable foundation. Funding from agribusiness and related industries, state government, commodity groups and individual donors helps the IAA Foundation reach its annual goals to raise funds to implement IAITC programming and provide teaching resources throughout the state of Illinois.