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Cultivating Food Justice with Farm to School

NFSN Staff Wednesday, April 08, 2015
By Anna Mullen, Communications Intern

What does it mean for food to be just? And what factors must be considered in cultivating food justice? These questions were on the table at Just Food? A Forum on Justice in the Food System, recently held in Cambridge, Mass. Hosted by the Harvard University Food Law Society and Food Better Initiative, the event brought together activists, scholars and practitioners to explore the complex legal, political, health and environmental aspects of building a just food system. 



Food justice is interconnected with many other social justice causes, including farmworkers rights, racial justice and the environment. This multidimensional understanding of food justice requires that a plurality of voices be included in creating our vision of a just food system. Indeed, food is everyone’s issue, because everyone eats! Therefore, everyone has a hand in cultivating food justice. 

So, what’s the role of the farm to school movement in helping create a more just food system? 

  • Farm to school educates the next generation of conscious eaters: As Dr. Molly Anderson reminded listeners in her keynote address, the road to food justice is long, and will require years of activism. Farm to school is working today to help educate the next generation of food advocates. In classrooms, school gardens and cafeterias, more than 23.5 million students are engaged in farm to school across the country. By teaching kids about where food comes from – who grows food, how it is harvested, how to prepare delicious meals – farm to school is cultivating conversations about just food among our nation’s youngest eaters. 
  • Farm to school builds a spirit of inclusivity: Food is a bridge between people, communities and cultures – everybody eats! As a panelist at Just Food, Sunny Young, our Mississippi State Lead, shared how Good Food for Oxford Schools has partnered with other local organizations and churches to make healthy food a community affair. Their annual Gospel Choir Showcase in front of Oxford City Hall features local gospel music, dancing, healthy food samples and farm to school presentations from students and staff. The event brings the wider Oxford community together to celebrate the connections between the farm and their forks. Creative community collaboration can bring food change from the classroom out into the streets, and even to the steps of City Hall.
  • Farm to school can connect all students to healthy, local food: Many of our nation’s children eat two of their meals at school every day, so what better place to level the playing field on access to good food? Our Policy Associate, Natalie Talis, explained to the audience of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization workshop how the Farm to School Act of 2015 will expand and improve the popular USDA Farm to School Grant Program to reach more schools nationwide. And not only more schools, but also more preschools; critically important summer food service sites; after school programs; tribal schools and producers; and beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Collectively, these programs offer millions of children access to healthy, local food, irrespective of race, socioeconomic status or geographic location. Farm to school can connect all students to good food, and Congress has an opportunity to expand the programs supporting these efforts with the Farm to School Act. 
  • Farm to school supports small farmers: Student presenters from The Food Project emphasized that we need small-scale farmers in our communities to help know our food. Farmers make great food educators, and they’re also valuable contributors to local economies. Farm to school activities open the doors to an institutional market that spent an estimated $385 million on local food for schools during the 2011-2012 school year. Furthermore, farm to school facilitates farmer-community relationships, diverse markets and encourages grower cooperatives. It’s a win for farmers and the communities they help feed.

The National Farm to School Network is bound together by the vision that vibrant local and regional food systems are essential to the health of our children, farms, environment, economy and communities. It’s a vision that we believe is integral to the work of food justice. Join us





This week in farm to school: 4/7/15

NFSN Staff Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Every week, we share opportunities, action items and a selection of media stories that relate to the farm to school movement. To submit an item for consideration, send us an email. To be considered, content should be of national interest to the farm to school community. 



Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: Colorado Farm to School Task Force, Wednesdays, April 8 - May 6, 5 p.m. EST

Evaluation Made Easy: How to Evaluate your Farm to School Activities

The fourth (and last) five-week training series on the Farm to School Evaluation Toolkit from Colorado Farm to School Task Force and Spark Policy Institute starts tomorrow. The series is free and made possible by a USDA Farm to School Grant. Participation in the live webinars includes the following benefits: eligible for five contact hours of continuing education credits, participation in the F2S Evaluation Toolkit Forum for peer-to-peer learning, and up to four hours of free technical assistance to plan/implement your F2S evaluation. Register here.


2. The Chef Ann Foundation Webinar, April 14, 1 p.m. EST
Your Guide to the Lunch Box 
This webinar will feature a guided tour of the newly expanded school food resource website “The Lunch Box” and a Q&A with national school food expert Chef Beth Collins. The Lunch Box is dedicated to supporting school food service teams with technical assistants for shifting their food programs from a reliance on processed foods to developing whole food-based, scratch-cooked meals. Sign up here

Policy & Action

1. Second Bi-Annual Farm to School Census 

The USDA Farm to School Census is a crucial tool for gathering information about the state of the farm to school movement. The first census was conducted in 2013, and USDA is now seeking updated information through the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census. The Census questionnaire was distributed to school districts through state agencies the week of March 16. School district submissions must be received by May 29, 2015. Questions about the Census? Please contact matthew.benson@fns.usda.gov.

2. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015.

Jobs & Opportunities
1. Kid Chefs: Join the Fourth Annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge!
First Lady Michelle Obama is teaming up with PBS flagship station WGBH Boston, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to host the fourth annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge to promote cooking and healthy eating among young people across the nation. The challenge invites kids ages 8-12 to join a parent or guardian in creating an original recipe that is healthy, affordable, and delicious. One winner from each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia will be selected and have the opportunity to attend a Kids’ “State Dinner” here at the White House this summer where a selection of the winning recipes will be served. Visit pbs.org/lunchtimechallenge to learn more about the Heathy Lunchtime Challenge and submit your recipe by April 30.

2. Garden Manager, Slide Ranch, Muir Beach, CA
Reporting to the Director of Operations, the Garden Manager is an integral member of the Ranch Operations Team.  Specific responsibilities include all aspects of maintaining a certified organic garden, native plant restoration, teaching and training Slide Ranch Teachers-in-Residence (TIRs), work with program staff to utilize the garden as a teaching environment for youth education, train and manage garden volunteers, and provide sufficient produce for daily program lessons as well as for resident staff consumption. This position requires living on-site in housing provided by Slide Ranch. For more information, visit the Slide Ranch website

3. Director of Development, Slide Ranch, Muir Beach, CA
Slide Ranch seeks a Director of Development who will manage all aspects of Slide’s Development Office: Annual Fund, Major Gifts, Special Events, Grants, Capital Campaign  and Communications. The Director of Development reports to and works closely with the Executive Director to create and implement development strategies and practices that will help Slide Ranch sustain and grow its operations and fulfill its mission. For more information, visit the Slide Ranch website

4. Request for Applications, Southern Regional Learning Lab Evaluator 
The Food Options for Children in the United States (FOCUS) Southern Regional Learning Lab (SRLL) engages seven school districts to leverage their combined buying power and redirect purchasing practices to access more wholesome food. The SRLL has just entered Phase One of a three-year implementation and is beginning work in two food categories: chicken and produce. FOCUS seeks an evaluation contractor (individual or team) that will work closely with program participants and staff to refine and implement an evaluation protocol designed during the SRLL Assessment Phase. The contractor will conduct evaluation activities for Implementation Phase One (April 2015 - June 2016) and ideally will continue over the duration of the project. Click here to download the SRLL Evaluation Contractor Request for Applications. Applications are due Sunday, April 19.  

5. Food Services Director, Austin Independent School District
This position is the chief administrator for supporting the facilitation and implementation of program areas within Food Services. Incumbent provides instruction and technical supervision to staff on non-routine and policy matters, especially in areas requiring oversight to ensure compliance. More information can be found on the AISD careers website

Farm to school in the news
Why 2015 is a big year for child nutrition
The new Farm to School Act and the proposed renewal of federal child nutrition programs should make this an important time for kids and healthy eating. (via Mother Nature Network)

How One Visionary Changed School Food in Detroit 
With a focus on healthier foods and local farms, National Farm to School Network Advisor Betti Wiggins has led Detroit Public School’s +55K students through a food revolution. (via Civil Eats

Helping Food Hubs Connect Local Farmers To VT Schools
A new online tool made possible with a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School grant connects new Vermont farmers and food producers with their local communities using food hubs. (via My Champlain Valley)

Read past editions of This Week  for more funding opportunities, webinars and events, jobs, and ways to take action to support farm to school growth across the country. 





Encouraging Future Farmers in North Carolina

NFSN Staff Friday, April 03, 2015

By Laura Fieselman, Executive Assistant

“I hope people will learn to revere farmers. And farmland too.” 
-North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler  

Farm to school doesn’t just happen in the cafeteria; it takes place in the classroom too. That was the case recently when North Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, visited the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as part of the university’s new Carolina Cooks, Carolina Eats initiative. The event afforded students an opportunity to interact with farm to school on a policy level, asking the Commissioner about North Carolina’s ports and the Department of Agriculture’s budget. It was also a chance for Commissioner Troxler to share what he’s most passionate about: farming. 


North Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, speaks to students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

A farmer himself, the Commissioner is no stranger to teaching and instilling ag excitement in young people. Commissioner Troxler encouraged the class to consider agriculture as a career – and not just farming, but also processing, transportation and the science of crop development. As the local food movement continues to take hold with schools, colleges, hospitals, and other institutional buyers across the country, opportunities for new farmers and food businesses are expanding exponentially.  

The North Carolina Farm to School program has been serving fresh, local produce in the state’s lunchrooms since 1997. Originally a pilot project with strawberries, today the program has grown to serve tomatoes, zucchini, collards and sweet potatoes, along with blueberries, cantaloupes, apples, peaches and sprite melons. During the 2013-2014 school year, nearly a million dollars worth of North Carolina produce was served to the state’s students in farm to school programs. That’s a lot of food dollars reinvested in local and regional agriculture. 

The National Farm to School Network believes that vibrant local and regional food systems are essential for building healthy kids and healthy communities. In North Carolina, Troxler is helping students learn this in the classroom, and encouraging them to taste it too. 

Learn more about how farm to school is a win for kids, win for farmers and win for communities here.   






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