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NFSN launches Programs and Policy Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool

NFSN Staff Thursday, August 16, 2018

The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is pleased to share a new equity assessment tool, the Programs and Policy Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool, which aims to help NFSN staff and partner organizations assess the implications of specific programming and policy advocacy on advancing racial and social equity.

The National Farm to School Network is committed to advancing racial and social equity in all aspects of our work, and our strategic plan highlights this commitment. NFSN’s strategic plan states, “advancing racial and social equity is at the core of the farm to school movement, and serving as an equity promoting organization is a core value of NFSN.”  NFSN has taken steps to integrate racial and social equity analysis into our programs and policies, including efforts to formulate the Farm to School Act asks to include support for farm to school in Native communities, creating a farm to early care and education cultural relevancy subgroup in the summer of 2016, and translating key fact sheets and resources into Spanish. Building on these efforts, this new Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool will allow the network to make significant strides in equitable policy advocacy and programming by assessing all policy and program developments through a racial and social equity lens. We aim to maximize our impact on breaking down inequities in the food system.  

The NFSN Policy and Programs Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool has two principal goals. The first section of the tool is intended to help NFSN staff refine their racial and social equity priorities through a set of questions that assess NFSN staff and stakeholder priorities as well as stakeholder engagement in formulating policy and programmatic proposals. The second and third sections in the guide assess the implications of specific programming and policy advocacy on advancing racial and social equity, ensuring these opportunities are being maximized. Specifically, the tool contains questions that assure that policies and programs are aligned with the NFSN equity priorities, that identify and address common shortcomings in developing racially and socially equitable policies, and that assure proposals are creating meaningful long-term change and are accountable to racially and socially disadvantaged communities.  

The Assessment Tool was developed collaboratively with NFSN staff and NFSN partners.  NFSN staff led the research and analysis to produce this toolkit, with feedback from Tes Thraves (Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina Core Partner) and Wendy Peters Moschetti (LiveWell, Colorado Core Partner).  

The National Farm to School Network is confident that the comprehensive approach to policy and programmatic assessment present in its Policy and Programs Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool will allow the organization and its partners to make meaningful strides to advance racial and social equity in farm to school work across the country. Though the tool was developed primarily for use by NFSN, NFSN Core and Supporting Partners and members are encouraged to adapt it to their own organizational needs, in a movement-wide effort to advance equity. 

New to considering how your work advances equity? Check out the Racial Equity Tools Glossary, the dictionary of equity terms NFSN uses; understanding terms is essential and foundational to then considering what it looks like in your programming and policy advocacy efforts. Learn more about NFSN’s commitment to equity and find more resources for advancing racial and social equity in your farm to school work here

Getting school gardens ready for back to school

NFSN Staff Wednesday, August 15, 2018


By Elizabeth Esparza, Communications Intern


Back to school: a season of crisp new notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils, and often, overgrown, untended school gardens, wilting from the summer heat. Whether you’re trying to get your garden in shape before school starts or want to plan your first few class garden days to get ready for the year ahead, here are some simple reminders to get you growing in the right direction.


Make a plan. It’s hard to plan ahead, but it’s even harder to plan while juggling everything else that the school year brings. Try to put aside a little time to set some goals for your garden this year: What do you want to plant? When? Where? What can you improve upon from years past? What is a dream you have for your garden this year? Don’t feel pressured to stick rigidly to your plan, but put it somewhere you will see it often and use it as an inspiration and a guiding post when the year gets hectic.


Pull some weeds! I have a love/hate relationship with weeds. I have been known to say of my school gardens: “Who cares what the garden looks like, as long as we’re learning!” Having said this, I have to admit that pulling weeds does make a garden look nice and fresh, and there’s something about getting things in order that just feels right at the beginning of the school year. Start or end each time you’re in the garden with a few minutes of rigorous weed pulling and slowly chip away at any summer weeds that may have taken over your garden. Or better yet, if you don’t get to those weeds before the school year starts, implement some weed pulling contests in each garden class or at recess time until your problem is gone (or at least temporarily managed).


Plant something new. Once your weeds are pulled and your gardens are looking fresh, decide which of the remaining plants you want to keep and which are ready to go. Then, use your plan to get something new growing. Depending on where in the country you live, planting at the beginning of the school year may not yield your best harvests, but just like pulling those weeds, getting something planted sets a good intention for the year ahead.


Include your gardens in Back-to-School Night. Back-to-School Nights are a great time to show off your gardens and engage with families. If you work better with a deadline, the pressure of Back-to-School Night might be just the kick you need to get your garden looking spiffy in a timely manner! And if the garden isn’t looking its prettiest by then, that just might help your case in recruiting volunteers.


Relax! Most importantly, remember that your school garden does not have to look perfect when the school year starts (or ever)! Perfect is rarely fun or interesting. Gardens are living things, and as such, they are constantly growing and changing. Even though you may have a long list of garden tasks you want to complete before your garden is “ready” for students, take comfort in knowing that those tasks you feel piling up are fun and interesting learning opportunities.


Looking for more ideas to keep your school garden growing strong? Find garden lesson plans, garden to cafeteria guides, garden assessment tools and more by searching the “School Garden” topic in our Resource Library.

This Week in Farm to School: 8/14/18

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 14, 2018
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. NFSN WEBINAR State Farm to School Month Proclamations
September 20, 2pm ET
In addition to the federal Congressional resolution NFSN championed in 2010 to establish October as National Farm to School Month, many states have passed resolutions declaring a Farm to School Week or Month. Similar language can usually be used in your state legislature or for a proclamation by your governor. Join us to learn from NFSN Core and Supporting Partners how they: 1) advocated and obtained these proclamations, 2) used these farm to school weeks/months to celebrate farm to school, and 3) used these celebrations as a springboard for more farm to school policies. Guest speakers will include NFSN Arkansas Core Partner, Emily English, of Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, and NFSN Hawaii Core Partner, Natalie McKinney, of Kokua Hawaii Foundation. This webinar will be recorded and available for future viewing. Register here.

2. Food Systems Leadership Retreat
October 28-31 // Kansas City, MO
Hosed by the Wallace Center’s Food Systems Leadership Network, this 2.5 day facilitated convening will dive into the tools of systems leadership and systems thinking for social change/ Join 25 of your fellow food systems leaders in Kansas City, MO for hands-on experiential workshops to learn and practice tools for seeing the whole system and skills for effective facilitation. Applications close August 22 (12 pm EST). Learn more and apply here

3. Food Systems Leadership Network: Innovations in Leadership - Part 1: Cultivating Emergent Leadership from Within
August 21, 3pm EST
The first webinar in this three part series will feature two organizations committed to empowering staff and training up new leadership within their organizations. Red Tomato’s and Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation will share their values and practices around continuous improvement, building an ecosystem of opportunity in their community and internally, and more. Learn more and register here.


Research & Resources
1. Chart of the Week: Michigan's 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids and Farms program promises to boost health equity   
Last month, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill that expands the 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids and Farms program. The program, which began in 2016, provides participating school districts with up to 10 cents in match funding per meal to purchase and serve locally produced fruits, vegetables, and legumes. A 2016-2017 report on the program’s pilot found that it promoted both health and gave a boost to the local economy. Read more here.

2. Food System Leadership Network: Visionary Voices podcast
In this episode of the Food Systems Leadership Network’s Visionary Voices podcast, NFSN Executive Director and Co-Founder, Anupama Joshi discusses her progression into the food movement, recounts how mentorship and peer support have helped her balance the ups and downs of food systems work, and what her vision for the future of the F2S Network is. Listen to the podcast here.


Job Opportunities
1. Development Director, National Farm to School Network (Remote)
National Farm to School Network seeks a Development Director to lead the organization in strategic growth and diversification of its funding base. The Development Director manages all development tasks; he or she will 1) expand public contributions, explore social investment donors and implement earned income strategies, 2) develop, leverage and support fundraising partnerships, and 3) create, track and evaluate a development plan. Deadline to apply is September 7, 2018. Learn more and apply here.

2. Farm to School and EFS Professional Learning Educator (Shelburne, VT)
This position is responsible for supporting K-12 educators in Shelburne Farms’ EFS, Farm to School, and place-based professional learning programs, working collaboratively with the Director of Professional Learning to create high quality professional learning experiences for educators to transform their practice and connect them to a growing network of educators. This position is also a core staff for Vermont FEED, a farm to school project of Shelburne Farms and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. Learn more and apply here.

3. Director of Online Programs, Chef Ann Foundation (Boulder, CO)
Chef Ann Foundation is seeking a skilled program operator with experience in managing and growing online initiatives. The Director of Online Programs will be responsible for managing the operations, strategic growth and evaluation of the School Food Institute and The Lunch Box. Learn more and apply here.

4. AmeriCorps Farm to School Coordinator (Newport, VT)
The primary responsibilities of the AmeriCorps Farm to School Coordinator will be to develop, grow, present, and evaluate Green Mountain Farm to School’s farm to school programs. This is a full-time, year-long AmeriCorps position. The Farm to School Coordinator reports to the Farm to School Program Manager. Learn more and apply here.


Farm to School in the News
Washington, D.C. student co-op works to improve food desert
A youth-led cooperative in Washington D.C., is working to expand access to fresh, healthy foods. High school students who are part of Mighty Greens help educate the community about healthy eating  and last year produced 1,200 piinds of fresh food, which is sold or donated. (PBS)

Alabama family adopts “live-off-the land” lifestyle
With the number of young farming families steadily decreasing, fewer children are experiencing life on the farm.
Jesse and Jessica Murphy own and operate a small family farm in Danville where they and their children have adopted a live-off-the-land lifestyle where their children get a taste of the hard work that goes into farming. (Decatur Daily)

Wisconsin garden interns are key seasonal presence at Cambridge’s school farm
Two former Cambridge High School students are this summer’s interns at the Severson Learning Center, Cambridge’s 82-acre school farm. In its third summer, the internship program has proven a valuable seasonal effort to keep the farm running from year to year. (Cambridge News and Deerfield Independent)

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.

Policy Review: Farm to School and the 2018 Farm Bill

NFSN Staff Wednesday, August 08, 2018
In the first half of 2018, the National Farm to School Network, as the leading policy voice for farm to school, advocated to advance three important federal farm to school priorities:   

  • Adopting the Farm to School Act of 2017 to increase mandatory funding.  The Act expand access for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program to fully incorporate 1) beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, 2) early care and education sites, summer food service program sites, and after school programs, and 3) native and tribal schools.
  • Amending the Geographic Preference provision in the existing farm bill to allow the use of “location” as a product specification when procuring school food. Current law does not allow schools to explicitly require “local” or “regional” as a product specification in a food procurement request. 
  • Continuing and expanding to more states the Pilot Project for Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables and allow participating states more flexibility in procuring fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. 
Given the benefits farm to school has on farming communities and economies, NFSN looked to the farm bill as the best legislative vehicle this year for moving these priorities forward. In fact, two of the priorities - geographic preference and the pilot program - had been taken up in previous farm bills. 

Over the the past year, NFSN and its partners worked tirelessly to recruit cosponsors for the Farm to School Act of 2017, and also highlight the other two priorities aforementioned. Many of our Core and Supporting Partners helped NFSN make connections with their respective federal “decision makers” and their staff. Through these efforts, we were successful in gaining 13 bipartisan House cosponsors and 13 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, and we educated many more policymakers on the benefits and opportunities of farm to school in their respective districts and states. 

Although the House bill did not include farm to school priorities, NFSN recognized opportunities remained with the Senate. The Senate Agriculture Committee version of the farm bill also did not include any of NFSN’s three farm to school priorities when it passed out of committee. However, the farm to school message was received on Capitol Hill when two of these priorities were filed as amendments to be considered by the full Senate in its final vote on the bill: 

Amendment #3179 - Geographic Preference Provision
Co-Sponsored by Senator Brown (D-OH), Senator Collins (R-ME), Senator Tillis (R-NC) & Senator Hassan (D-NH)

Amendment #3129 - Pilot Project for Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables
Sponsored by Senator Wyden (D-OR)

The inclusion of these two priorities as amendments was a major step forward for farm to school being part of the federal policy making dialogue, and it was a direct result of tireless advocacy efforts from farm to school champions across the country. There were over 150 amendments scheduled to be considered by the full Senate, however, ultimately, Senate leadership only allowed a handful to be voted on before closing the amendment process. This meant that many amendments, including these two farm to school amendments, were not voted on and thus not included in the final version on the Senate farm bill, which passed with a 86-11 vote.  

Despite not crossing the farm bill finish line, there are reasons to be proud of our farm bill advocacy efforts: 

  • NFSN and the farm to school movement gained new, bipartisan Congressional champions for farm to school - most notably the amendment champions listed above.
  • Together, we increased exposure to farm to school with Senators on both sides of the aisle, thanks to advocates calling, emailing, and using social media to contact  your representatives, asking for their support of farm to school in the farm bill.
  • NFSN forged new coalitions with national organizations, such as the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
As the farm bill process concludes, we now turn our attention towards other federal legislative opportunities to advance farm to school. While the National Farm to School Network continues advocacy at the federal level, it’s important to remember that federal policy is just one policy approach to advancing farm to school. State farm to school policy can be equally - if not more - important in fostering and growing farm to school programs in your communities. Our State Farm to School Legislative Survey: 2002-2017 shows that state and territory legislatures are proposing farm to school policies in record numbers. So even as things slow down on the federal level, there are still ample opportunities to keep up our advocacy work in state, local, and school policies. Don’t forget the significant of your voice in helping creating change at every level of government! 

To learn more about the National Farm to School Network’s policy advocacy and to find resources to help you shape farm to school policy in your community, visit our policy webpage

This Week in Farm to School: 8/7/18

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 07, 2018
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. 

Grants & Funding
1. Annie’s Grant for Edible School Gardens
Want a school garden? Annie’s believes that showing future generations how sustainable food is grown changes their lives. Connecting kids to gardens helps them to start thinking more holistically about their food, their communities, and the planet. Applications are due Nov. 1, 2018. Learn more and apply here.

2. Lowe’s Toolbox for Education® Grants
Each year, the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grants program contributes more than $5 million to fund improvements at public schools in the United States. Projects should fall into one of the following categories: technology upgrades, tools for STEM programs, facility renovations and safety improvements. Toolbox grant requests can range from $2,000 to $5,000. The Fall Grant Cycle is open through September 28, 2018. Learn more and apply here


Webinars & Events
1. NFSN WEBINAR State Farm to School Month Proclamations
September 20, 2pm ET - note date change
In addition to the federal Congressional resolution NFSN championed in 2010 to establish October as National Farm to School Month, many states have passed resolutions declaring a Farm to School Week or Month. Similar language can usually be used in your state legislature or for a proclamation by your governor. Join us to learn from NFSN Core and Supporting Partners how they: 1) advocated and obtained these proclamations, 2) used these farm to school weeks/months to celebrate farm to school, and 3) used these celebrations as a springboard for more farm to school policies. Guest speakers will include NFSN Arkansas Core Partner, Emily English, of Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, and NFSN Hawaii Core Partner, Natalie McKinney, of Kokua Hawaii Foundation. This webinar will be recorded and available for future viewing. Register here.

2. It's National Farmer's Market Week!
August 5-11
National Farmers Market Week is a great opportunity to show the nation how much value markets bring to their communities. With fun events, specials, contests, and activities, the week helps to boost market attendance and visibility – while at the same time being loads of fun! Farmers Market Coalition has resources, tools, and fun activities for market managers, vendors, and attendees alike to use for planning and participating in national Farmers Market Week. Learn more here.


Research & Resources
1. Albuquerque Public Schools School Garden Video
Albuquerque Public Schools has created a new video highlighting their school garden program. This multi-lingual video profiles the depth and breadth of the district’s school gardens, and shares interviews with students about why gardens are important to them and the community. Watch here.

2. Got examples? Local Wellness Policies and Farm to School

Have you successfully made the case that Local Wellness Policy can be an impactful tool to promote farm to school within districts and schools? If so, the Tisch Food Center would love to know. They are looking for model policy language, case studies, or informal anecdotes about how state, district, or school-level wellness policies have increased support for Farm to School. If so, send your information along to Helen Dombalis, National Farm to School Network Senior Director, Programs & Policy, at helen@farmtoschool.org.  


Job & Leadership Opportunities
1. Farm to School Liaison, School District of Sarasota County (Sarasota, FL)
The Farm to School Liaison will: promote and maximize the use of locally grown foods, especially food grown on school grounds, in the National School Lunch program and National School Breakfast program; develop and maintain day-to-day operations of sustainable school farm programs in partnership with school sites and community groups; and, write and maintain Standard Operating Procedures for school farm projects and educate and train students and adults on small farm best practices. Learn more here.

2.  Associate Director Culinary Education and Training, Institute of Child Nutrition (Oxford, MS)
This position provides leadership and direction for the culinary education and trainings for child nutrition programs for the Institute of Child Nutrition. The incumbent manages and directs the development of culinary curriculum and training materials, implements the culinary training and professional development program, and provides guidance and leadership to the staff. Learn more and apply here

3. Community Food Systems Mentorship Program, Food Systems Leadership Network
The Food Systems Leadership Network is now accepting applications for the second round of the Community Food Systems Mentorship Program. This is a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a leading food systems professional on a range of food systems topics, chart out a plan for professional development, and get expert feedback and guidance on your programs and organizations. Learn more and apply here.


Farm to School in the News
New York children become one with nature in nursery’s garden
At the Riverdale Presbyterian Church Nursery School, it’s the season for Explorations in Nature, an eight-week program geared for children between 2 and 5. The children not only work in the garden, but also learn about animals and insects, play in the water, and eat food from their surroundings. (Riverdale Press)

Georgia schools bringing nutrition into the classroom
Hosted by the Baldwin County School District’s nutrition department, professionals based in a range of related fields came together for a Farm to School symposium to discuss ways to expand school nutrition out of the cafeteria and into the classroom. The symposium was attended by school nutrition employees, teachers, and some current as well as prospective community partners that can assist in the nutrition-to-classroom integration. (Union Recorder)

California students to soon get long-awaited new district farm
In just a few short months, Santa Paula students of a all ages will be able to care for livestock, traipse through an orchard, study soil and water samples, and much more at the school district’s all new farm. District officials say it will offer students an opportunity to get out of the classroom and apply different science, math, and business lessons in the real world. (VC Star)

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.

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