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Lt. Governor Simon helps teach students the importance of agriculture 

Learns more about farm to school, issues facing rural EMS providers

CARBONDALE – October 28, 2011. Acting as chair of the Governor's Rural Affairs Council, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today celebrated Farm-to-School Month today by joining third graders in a lesson on one of Illinois top agriculture products, before discussing rural emergency management issues with a local service provider.

At Giant City Elementary School, Simon team-taught a lesson on pumpkins to third graders as part of the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC) program administered by the Illinois Farm Bureau, with the support of the Illinois Agriculture Association Foundation,  University of Illinois Extension, Commodity Groups and others interested in agriculture. Illinois is in the top three pumpkin growing states, and more than 90 percent of the nation's processed pumpkins are grown here.

“Programs like Agriculture in the Classroom connect students to local farmers and chefs, and cultivate the idea that you should know where your food comes from and how it is prepared," Simon said. "Starting this education early will help create the kind of consumers needed for a sustainable local food economy.”

IAITC provides educational resources, training and support related to agriculture to teachers throughout the state in an effort to increase children’s understanding of the food system. In the 2010-2011 school year, 31,581 teachers utilized IAITC materials. Educational materials for the program are developed by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Some of the Agriculture in the Classroom activities that students at Giant City have participated in include pizza-making, where students not only cook but learn the details of each ingredient and its farm origin. Students also take field trips to local farms and pumpkin patches.

“Students are naturally curious about where their food comes from,” said IAITC Education Director Kevin Daugherty. “Ag in the Classroom provides links, based on Illinois Learning Standards, to show students how food goes from the farm to their plate.”

Simon, the only constitutional officer from Southern Illinois, has worked with GRAC members on expanding access to local foods across Illinois as a way of spurring economic development. Illinoisans spend roughly $48 billion annually on food, but only $2 billion of that amount on food grown in Illinois.

Simon also toured the Jackson County Ambulance Service facility and met with staff about the barriers that exist in providing adequate EMS service in rural areas. Among the challenges facing providers are long ambulance response times that put patients at risk and recruiting and retaining the qualified emergency medical service personnel necessary to provide life-saving care to citizens in need.

“Having Lt. Governor Simon take time to visit and see what the issues are for the rural EMS providers is gratifying to all of us,” Jackson County Ambulance Service Director Dottie Miles said. “She has a great understanding of the complex issues that rural EMS providers face every day, and we look forward to the opportunity to work with her and the GRAC.”

To help identify solutions to these issues, Simon is creating an EMS subcommittee as part of the GRAC. The subcommittee will also join GRAC members and Simon in participating in legislative hearings on EMS issues held by the House EMS Taskforce.

“Rural Illinois faces many challenging obstacles in an effort to provide timely and necessary emergency response services,” Simon said. “This subcommittee will bring together a devoted group of volunteers that will ensure all Illinois citizens have access to the care they require.”