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Celebrating Farm to School with Head Start Gardening!

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 25, 2018
Guest post by the National Head Start Association



Gardens offer untapped potential in low-income communities
Head Start strives to provide at-risk children with the support they need to reach their full potential in school and in life. Head Start recognizes good health and nutrition as the foundation of school readiness and child development, and takes a comprehensive approach to supporting and promoting the health and well-being of children and families. This approach includes high-quality health and nutrition standards that are required to be culturally and developmentally appropriate, meet the nutritional needs of all individual children, follow the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and USDA recommendations, and served as family-style meals to promote staff-child interactions and healthy socialization. However, we believe there is untapped potential for garden projects in Head Start and Early Head Start programs which can further improve the health and development of children in vulnerable communities, where fresh foods are most scarce. 

Recognizing the importance of strong health and nutrition in early childhood and understanding many at-risk children and families suffer from lack of access to fresh foods, the National Head Start Association (NHSA) has partnered with the National Farm to School Network to celebrate National Farm to School Month and to spread awareness on this critical issue. In celebration of National Farm to School Month, NHSA is expanding our reach, resources, and partnerships with organizations related to farm to early care and education, with the overall goal to increase access to gardening and its many benefits to low-income communities.

Numerous benefits to starting gardening early
Gardens and the fresh foods they provide in early care and education programs offer numerous benefits, ranging from increased access to nutritious and local foods for children in their vital years of development, to improved physical activity and hands-on learning related to agriculture, health, and nutrition. But not only does gardening contribute to positive child health outcomes, it also fosters healthy interactions and social skills between children, teachers, and families. Additionally, when schools and communities support local food systems, the surrounding economy thrives. 

Research to support these many benefits has grown in recent years and as a result, local fresh foods and gardens have spread through communities and schools. However, most families in vulnerable communities are still food insecure and often live in areas with little to no access to fresh foods, or “food deserts.” Far too often, low-income children and families lack access to basic fresh foods.

So in addition to the National Farm to School Network, NHSA has also joined forces with The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation.
Through our partnership with Scotts Miracle-Gro, we will work with Head Start programs across the country to support children, families, and communities in the growing of their own fresh produce for life. This multi-year initiative will make garden grants, garden kits, educational curriculum, and garden training available to all Head Start programs, with the goal of creating more edible gardens for young children and their families. The partnership also includes a webinar series, as part of NHSA’s Year of Whole Health, to share information about how to create and sustain a successful Head Start garden program and the benefits for children, families, staff, and the surrounding community. 

By partnering with the National Farm to School Network and Scotts Miracle-Gro, NHSA’s goal is to expand access to gardens, fresh foods and nutrition education materials for children, families, and staff across the Head Start field. NHSA hopes that each new garden grown or current garden maintained will stimulate healthy child development, family and community engagement, and sustainable locally sourced foods. 

How can you help?
Through these partnerships, NHSA encourages all families, teachers, and program leaders in Head Start and across the early care and education field to share educational materials and resources with your communities and find ways to incorporate gardens into your programs and schools. 

  • Visit the NHSA & Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Garden Grants Initiative website to apply for a grant for your Head Start or Early Head Start program and learn about future webinars and resources. 
  • Join us in celebrating National Farm to School Month! Check out NFSN’s Celebration Toolkit for ideas on how your community, school, or program can spread awareness and support locally sourced foods. Did you know that October is National Head Start Awareness Month, too? Head Start programs can celebrate both by raising awareness of Head Start’s impacts and the ways they’re growing healthy kids and healthy families through farm to school activities. 
  • Read through NFSN’s Growing Head Start Success with Farm to Early Care and Education report to understand more about the role Head Start can play in promoting farm to ECE.   
  • Read through the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey produced by NFSN and Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems. This information is easily shared with families, teachers, and communities through the Fact Sheet, Infographic, and Sharing Toolkit provided in the above link. 
  • Search other helpful resources in NFSN’s resource database to understand more about the benefits of gardening and supporting local fresh foods and how you can spread this initiative to all children and families in need.
To stay up-to-date with the National Head Start Association’s work, follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Happy Farm to School Month!

This Week in Farm to School: 10/23/18

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 23, 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. USDA FY 2019 Farm to School Grant RFA
The FY 2019 Farm to School Grant Program Request for Applications (RFA) is now open to applicants. Due to additional funding made available to the Farm to School Grant Program through the FY 2018 Omnibus Bill, the Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS) seeks to award approximately $7.5M in FY 2019 funding.  Applications are due Dec. 4, 2018. Learn more and apply here

2. 2019 Youth Garden Grant
Any nonprofit organization, public or private school, or youth program in the United States or US Territories planning a new garden program or expanding an established one that serves at least 15 youth between the ages of 3 and 18 is eligible to apply. The selection of winners is based on demonstrated program impact and sustainability. The top 5 programs will be awarded grant packages worth $2,100. Grant packages worth $500 will be awarded to 20 additional programs. Applications are due December 17. Learn more here


Webinars & Events
1. National Farm to School Month - Share How You're Celebrating, Enter to Win!
How are you celebrating National Farm to School Month? The National Farm to School Network wants to know! Share what actions you're taking for farm to school this October by adding your name to the Take Action Pledge. Everyone who completes the pledge form will be entered to win farm to school prizes for a school of their choice! Eleven (11) winners will be randomly drawn, and prizes include a "Build-Your-Own Blueberry Day" from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, assets from the Captain Planet Foundation Project Learning Garden™ program, organic dairy products from Organic Valley, and seed packets from High Mowing Organic Seeds. Whether you’re hosting a taste test in the cafeteria, harvesting school garden produce or making a new farm to school connection, no action is too small! Take 2 minutes to add your name to the pledge and enter to win by Oct. 31, 2018. Learn more at www.farmtoschool.org/pledge.  

2. NFSN WEBINAR Trending Topics: NFSN Seed Change in Native Communities Cohort
November 1, 2-3pm ET
In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, our November Trending Topics webinar will feature partners from the National Farm to School Network's Seed Change in Native Communities project. Since 2017, the Seed Change project has helped to create dozens of school gardens in Native communities, put local and indigenous foods on the plates of hundreds of children, and supported the inspiring work of five school communities dedicated to expanding and sustaining farm to school programming for the next generation of Native youth. Register here.

3. NFSN WEBINAR Farm to School and 21st Century Food Service Programs
November 15, 7-8pm ET
In 2018, National Farm to School Network teamed up with National Education Association as its National Partner of the Year. Growing from this partnership is a movement to challenge schools to build 21st Century food programs. We want to enrich the connection between schools and fresh, healthy, and locally sourced food. Additionally, we will build a new school nutrition workforce that will anchor this lofty project in our school communities. Join this webinar to hear from participants in this new partnership that are already reaping the benefits. Register here

4. Massachusetts Farm to School Farm & Sea to School Conference 
December 6, 2018 // Leominster, MA
On December 6, 2018, Mass. Farm to School will hold its fifth statewide conference, The Massachusetts Farm & Sea to School Conference. This year’s theme is Setting the Table: Communities Creating Change.  The conference seeks to amplify traditionally underrepresented voices in the Massachusetts food system and identify strategies and resources for promoting racial equity and social justice as we grow the farm & sea to school movement. Register here

5. Farm to Cafeteria Canada National Farm to School Conference - Call for Proposals
Farm to Cafeteria Canada's (F2CC) National Farm to School Conference will be held in Victoria, British Columbia, May 15-17, 2019 and we are now accepting proposals. Building on the success of the 2015 Changing the Menu conference, this event is designed to advance activity to bring more healthy, local and sustainable foods into the minds and onto the plates of students in preschools, schools (K-12) and campuses across Canada. We invite you to join your colleagues from across Canada as they INSPIRE, INNOVATE, and organize for IMPACT. Deadline to submit is December 20, 2018. Learn more here.


Research & Resources
1. Native Farm-to-School Resource Guide
First Nations Development Institute has released a Native Farm-to-School Resource Guide, a comprehensive manual for planning and implementing farm-to-school programs in Native American communities. The Native Farm-to-School Resource Guide was developed by identifying existing Native and non-Native farm-to-school programs and analyzing best practices, lessons learned, biggest challenges and case study examples of programs that achieved high-level impact and long-term sustainability. The result is a process guide for planning Native farm-to-school programs as well as a guide for tribal officials to engage their leadership and create buy-in for the farm-to-school process. Learn more here

2.  USDA Seeking Nominations for Beginning and Minority Farmer Advisory Committees
The USDA has reopened nominations for both the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee and the Minority Farmer Advisory Committee. This who applied in the last nomination period (which closed last June) do not need to reapply. Consideration will be given to nominations received on or before November 1, 2018. Applications and nomination packages can be downloaded here.


Job Opportunities
1. Farm to School Planning Consultant, City of Providence (Providence, RI)
The City of Providence has re-opened the Request for Proposals for a Farm to School Planning Consultant. This consultant will lead the City and Providence Public Schools in developing an Action Plan to better integrate local foods, school gardens, and food systems/nutrition education into our school district. Proposals are due by 2:15 pm on October 29th. Learn more here or contact Rachel Newman Greene at Rnewmangreene@providenceri.gov with questions or for more information.

2. Member and Strategic Partnerships Manager, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (Location Flexible)
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) amplifies the impact of philanthropic and investment communities in support of just and sustainable food and agriculture systems. SAFSF seeks a full-time Member and Strategic Partnerships Manager to support, mobilize, and expand SAFSF’s membership and secure new revenue in support of its strategic direction. Learn more and apply here.


Farm to School in the News
Betti Wiggins recognized in 50 Most Influential People in Health Care
Betti Wiggins, officer of nutrition services for Houston Independent School District and NFSN Advisory Board member, has been named one of Time Magazine's 50 most influential people in health care in 2018. Read Betti's profile here. Congratulations, Betti! 

Michigan teacher runs farm to cafeteria program powered by students with disabilities
They might not know it, but when hundred of Detroit students eat a school lunch, they are consuming vegetables grown just a few miles away by one of the city’s most innovative programs for students with special needs. Last week, for example, schools in the city’s main district received hundreds of pounds of butternut squash that were grown and packaged at Drew Transition Center, a school where students with severe disabilities prepare to enter adult life. (Chalkbeat)

How schools are fighting back against obesity in Mississippi
With salad bars and vegetable gardens, the Tupelo Public School District exposes its pre-K and elementary students to healthy food sources and eating habits. Yet even as the district fights back with education and farming experience, obesity in Mississippi is a public health crisis. Across the state, poor examples set by adults and entrenched advertising campaigns promote cases of childhood obesity that set the youth on a path toward life-threatening chronic diseases. (Daily Journal)

Massachusetts students’ garden bounty reaps awards at Topsfield fair
Tilling and tending the soil not only fosters the pride and confidence that comes from growing food with your own two hands, but this year, it also yielded Page youngsters an additional reward: several top honors at America’s oldest agricultural fair. (The Daily News)

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.

Newman’s Own Foundation is Focused on Fresh Food Access

NFSN Staff Friday, October 19, 2018
Guest post by Newman's Own Foundation
Paul Newman spent his life giving back and supporting others in their efforts to give back. He was particularly passionate about fresh food, which is why Newman’s Own Foundation is proud to highlight nutrition as one of its four focus areas.

At the beginning of October—National Farm to School Month—Newman’s Own Foundation announced $1.7 million in grants to nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting fresh food access. This adds to the more than $38 million Newman’s Own Foundation has donated since 2010 to healthy food and nutrition programs. 

This most recent set of grants went to 37 organizations involved with everything from healthy cooking for kids, urban agriculture, farmers markets, community gardens, and more. Let’s take a look at what a few of these organizations are doing to promote nutritional education and fresh food in schools across the U.S. 

Edible Schoolyard NYC: In support of their mission to offer edible education for every child in New York City, Edible Schoolyard NYC partners with the city’s public schools to cultivate healthy students and communities through hands-on cooking and gardening education. 

Wellness in the Schools: Wellness in the Schools partners with public schools to provide nutrition and fitness education, healthy scratch-cooked meals, and active recess periods. Their goal is long-term change by shifting school cultures and teaching kids healthy habits to learn and live better. 

Jones Valley Teaching Farm: Good School Food is Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s primary program. It encourages hands-on learning with food as the main teaching tool. Read more about Newman’s Own Foundation’s Road Trip to Jones Valley Teaching Farm

Healthy Schools Campaign: Cooking Up Change, part of Healthy Schools Campaign in Chicago, “puts student voices front and center in the national dialogue about school food.” The program challenges students to create their own healthy, great-tasting meals that satisfy the requirements for the national school meal program.  

“Newman's Own Foundation is proud to support the people and the nonprofit organizations they represent who each and every day work to improve access to fresh foods in their communities," said Bob Forrester, President and CEO of Newman's Own Foundation. "Through their diligent efforts, they are making a significant difference in the lives of thousands of children and families around the country and an overall contribution to the health of our nation.”

In addition to offering aid to other organizations, Newman’s Own Foundation formed its first Nutrition Cohort in 2014 to address challenges around nutrition. The Cohort consisted of six nonprofits and a research university which all gathered to share best practices, coordinate their efforts, and brainstorm ideas for improving nutrition. Working together gave the organizations the opportunity to make a larger impact. 

Get involved!

Here are a few ways you, too, can take action for farm to school in your own community.
  • Volunteer at your local school or community garden
  • Get in touch with schools and encourage them to serve local meals
  • Thank your school nutrition staff
  • Participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and support local farmers
  • Take the family to a farmers market
  • Support Newman’s Own Foundation nutritional grantees
Don’t forget to share your story and encourage others to get involved during National Farm to School Month and throughout the year. 

National Farm to School Network thanks Newman's Own Foundation for being a sponsor of our 2018 National Farm to School Month Celebrations!

This Week in Farm to School: 10/16/18

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 16, 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. USDA FY 2019 Farm to School Grant RFA
The FY 2019 Farm to School Grant Program Request for Applications (RFA) is now open to applicants. Due to additional funding made available to the Farm to School Grant Program through the FY 2018 Omnibus Bill, the Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS) seeks to award approximately $7.5M in FY 2019 funding.  Applications are due Dec. 4, 2018. Learn more and apply here. For more information, join OCFS for a special two-part webinar on Oct. 16 and Oct. 17 at 1pm ET.  These webinars will review the important details of the FY 2019 Farm to School Grants and walk candidates through the application process.

2. One Earth Award 
There's an exciting, new opportunity for teens! The One Earth Award provides four students whose creative works encourage the awareness of, and meaningful responses to, pressing issues of human-caused climate change with $1,000 scholarships. In addition, special awards are also available for students and educators from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. All students in grades 7-12 (ages 13 and up) are eligible to participate. Visit artandwriting.org for more information, and visit the deadlines and guidelines page for information on when and how students can submit their work.

3. 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 November 1. Learn more and apply here.


Webinars & Events
1. October is National Farm to School Month!
National Farm to School month is here! The National Farm to School Network has free resources, planning materials, activity ideas and a new calendar of events for ways you can get involved in October. Share how your celebrating National Farm to School Month by signing the Take Action Pledge and you'll be entered to win farm to school prizes for a school or early care and education site of your choice! Visit farmtoschool.org/month to get involved. 

2. NFSN WEBINAR Trending Topics: NFSN Seed Change in Native Communities Cohort
November 1, 2-3pm ET
In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, our November Trending Topics webinar will feature partners from the National Farm to School Network's Seed Change in Native Communities project. Since 2017, the Seed Change project has helped to create dozens of school gardens in Native communities, put local and indigenous foods on the plates of hundreds of children, and supported the inspiring work of five school communities dedicated to expanding and sustaining farm to school programming for the next generation of Native youth. Register here.

3. Webinar: Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior - Journal Club 4: A Plate Waste Evaluation of the Farm to School Program
October 22, 1-2pm ET
Program evaluation is an important part of determining any intervention’s success. In this presentation, we will discuss the study design and methodologies used to evaluate a new farm to school program. Specifically, the benefits and drawback of the quarter-waste method will be discussed within the context of evaluating school-level nutrition interventions. Register here.

4. NH Food Alliance Webinar: Farm to School as a Catalyst to Local Food System Change
October 23, 12-1pm ET
Since October is National Farm to School Month, we thought it was fitting to have an opportunity to learn about the New Hampshire Farm to School (NHFTS) Program and how they are facilitating connections between food producers, K-12 schools, and the broader community as a whole. NHFTS began in 2003 and has found tremendous success in bringing local food into over half of the public schools in the state! Register here.

5. Celebrate National Farm to School Month in Early Child Care and Education Settings: Farm to CACFP
October 25, 2-3pm ET
Learn more about Farm to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) during this interactive webinar brought to you by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Participants will learn how Farm to CACFP efforts big and small can be successfully implemented in a variety of settings; how early exposure to gardening, farming, and local foods can benefit young eaters; where to find free Team Nutrition materials focused on garden-based nutrition education that can be used in early care and education sites; and how California-based North Bay Children’s Center’s Garden of Eatin program is helping to change the way children think about food through hands-on experiences. Register here.

6. Equity & Access in the School Garden Movement Webinar
October 30, 1-2pm PT
School gardens can be a powerful tool for promoting racial and social equity, but equally important are the ways school garden organizations and school garden educators approach equity and access. Please join Suzannah Holsenbeck of Common Ground, Ida Sobotik of Community Groundworks, and Sam Ullery of the DC Office of State Superintendent of Education as they discuss what equity in school gardens means to their organizations. They will share case studies and offer suggestions for how your organization can tackle issues around equity and access in your work. Register here.

7. Farm to School and 21st Century Food Service Programs
November 15, 7-8pm ET
In 2018, National Farm to School Network teamed up with National Education Association as its National Partner of the Year. Growing from this partnership is a movement to challenge schools to build 21st Century food programs. We want to enrich the connection between schools and fresh, healthy, and locally sourced food. Additionally, we will build a new school nutrition workforce that will anchor this lofty project in our school communities. Join this webinar to hear from participants in this new partnership that are already reaping the benefits. Register here


Research & Resources
1. Farm to Childcare: An Analysis of Social and Economic Values in Local Food Systems
Farm to childcare (F2CC) is a next step in developing farm to institution links between local producers and organizations. F2CC can reach young children at a critical point in their habit formation and biological development, as well as provide economic opportunities  for local farmers. In a qualitative case study, researchers from North Carolina State University investigate the social and financial tensions in F2CC work. In doing so, they provide strategies that can be used to better achieve the social goals of farm to childcare programs. Read more here.


Job Opportunities
1. Maine Harvest of the Month Program Coordinator,  Maine Department of Education (Augusta, ME)
The Harvest of the Month Coordinator will develop and oversee the Maine Harvest of the Month Project and will actively recruit schools to participate. The position will develop marketing materials for school nutrition programs and conduct trainings and technical assistance to schools to ensure they have the tools for success. For interest and more information please contact Stephanie Stambach at stephanie.stambach@maine.gov

2. Local Food Program Manager, North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)
The Extension Local Food Program Manager provides program management and coordination for NC Cooperative Extension’s Local Food Program. This position will work with other local food leadership groups to build Extension’s statewide capacity in local food systems. This will happen mainly through resource development, managing the local food web portal and online courses, participating/ leading cross disciplinary curriculum and training development teams, co-chairing the Local Food Program Team and delivering training. Learn more and apply here.


Farm to School in the News
School Lunch Day recognizes Iowa farm sources
Apples and honey from Iowa orchards and apiaries, sweet potatoes from a farm in Grinnell and pork from Iowa Select Farms will create Thursday’s meal for Ottumwa’s school children. During National Farm to School Month, the I Department of Agriculture, using grant money from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, is bringing attention to Iowa-grown food to school children around the state. (Ottumwa Courier)

North Carolina students learn about food at Agriculture by the Slice
Fifth-grade students at Lexington City Schools had a chance to learn about the science, math, agriculture and other processes that go into making a pizza during the Agriculture by the Slice program at the Davidson County Fairgrounds on Tuesday morning. (The Dispatch)

Kentucky farm to school program is a win-win
October is Farm to School Month, and Kentucky has plenty of reasons to celebrate. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture staff has recruited 907 schools in 77 school districts to participate in their Farm to School program. Some school districts are the largest food procurers in each county, so this program provides many benefits to Kentucky farmers and students alike. (Surf KY News)

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.

There’s Lots (of Local Foods!) to Love in Your School Cafeteria!

NFSN Staff Monday, October 15, 2018
Guest post by Gay Anderson, SNS, President of the School Nutrition Association (SNA)

Schools from coast to coast are celebrating National School Lunch Week with the theme “School Lunch: Lots 2 Love,” and indeed, there are so many reasons to get excited about school lunch! School meals, which meet federal nutrition standards, support efforts to improve students’ diets and combat food insecurity for America’s most vulnerable children. And we all love how school lunch has helped introduce young people to foods grown and raised in their local communities.

In fact, a recent national survey of school meal program directors shows schools are serving more locally grown foods and utilizing farm to school programs to increase student consumption of healthy meals. SNA’s “School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2018,” based on survey responses from 1,550 school districts nationwide, reveals the farm to school movement has taken firm root in school cafeterias:

  • 60% of responding districts offer locally sourced fruits and vegetables
  • More than half include preferences for local or regional sourcing of foods in solicitations or purchase specifications
  • Nearly half have implemented farm to school initiatives, and 
  • 34% utilize school gardens to promote healthier food choices
With updated nutrition standards requiring larger servings and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables with each school meal, school nutrition professionals have worked even harder to ensure students are eating and enjoying all that fresh produce. Through farmer visits, garden activities, Harvest of the Month initiatives and taste tests to promote locally sourced produce, schools are gradually turning finicky young students into eager fruit and veggie eaters. Schools across the country are utilizing these tactics not just during National School Lunch Week and Farm to School Month, but year round from Indiana to Georgia and New York to Washington

Even in my home state of South Dakota, where long winters challenge efforts to source locally, we are proud to report that some local producers and nearby school meal programs are finding ways to overcome these hurdles. USDA recently profiled a partnership between Huron Public Schools and Fairacre Farm, which utilizes a high tunnel greenhouse to supply Huron schools with a variety of fresh produce throughout the school year. Thanks to these efforts, students were introduced to okra and cauliflower, sweet potatoes and peppers in the cafeteria and through summer meals and classroom snacks. South Dakota’s school nutrition professionals are even working to locally source school meal entrees. Burke Public School District is finalizing plans to begin serving locally raised beef next semester.

As president of the School Nutrition Association, I have been excited to see school nutrition professionals networking with their colleagues in other districts, sharing successful tactics to increase local sourcing and teach children the benefits of eating local foods. One of the many advantages of working in the school nutrition industry is the spirit of collaboration – instead of competing for customers, school nutrition professionals are all working together to help raise healthy eaters – and it’s that spirit that has fostered the growth of farm to school.

SNA is pleased to partner with the National Farm to School Network and USDA to host education sessions and share resources to help school nutrition professionals improve their procurement practices, connect with local growers, launch school garden initiatives and market locally sourced foods. We look forward to continuing that partnership and sharing new ideas throughout the year ahead. 

Bringing Farm to School Into Breakfast

NFSN Staff Friday, October 12, 2018
By Elizabeth Esparza, Communications Intern

October 15-19 is National School Lunch Week, which offers great opportunities to highlight local food in your school lunches. But let’s not forget about breakfast! National Farm to School Month is a time to find ways to expand outside of your current activities and try new things, such as introducing local foods into your breakfasts.

The importance of breakfast is no secret, and the benefits of breakfast for students are numerous: students who eat breakfast do better academically, are more attentive in school, are less prone to acting out, and have a lower risk for developing diet related diseases. Integrating fresh, local ingredients into the most important meal of the day can only serve to stretch these benefits even further! 

There are so many delicious ways to implement farm to school into your breakfast program. You can try scrambling local eggs for a protein-filled, hearty breakfast burrito, and add a side of salsa featuring farm fresh tomatoes. Scrambled eggs are also a great place to feature school garden-grown herbs! Local berries, yogurt, and granola can make for a sweet and delicious breakfast parfait in the morning. Whole grain bread and potatoes can add some much needed heartiness to your breakfasts to keep students full and attentive. 

Here are some great examples of schools finding fresh and fun ways to add farm to school into their breakfast menus:

Iowa: For Iowa Local Food Day 2018, Des Moines Public Schools served up a sausage and egg breakfast pizza and sunny corn muffins with ingredients sourced from Iowa producers. This healthy breakfast pizza packed with protein is a student favorite, and makes an easy Grab n’ Go meal that fuels up bodies and minds for the first classes of the day. 

Rhode Island: A few years ago, a Rhode Island baker started incorporating local zucchini, carrots, and apples into breakfast bars and muffins he makes for Providence schools. Those items are packaged and used in Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab n’ Go breakfasts. Though apple bars and muffins are a natural favorite of students, a couple years of experience has taught the schools that peeled zucchini and fun names for the bars and muffins can make the other options much more kid-friendly. 

Texas: Austin Independent School District’s Breakfast in the Classroom program includes breakfast tacos featuring local eggs. Eggs are a great lower cost meat alternative that offers students filling and tasty protein, and they are such a versatile breakfast option that pairs well with so many other foods.

Massachusetts: Boston Public Schools also offers a healthy muffin that includes local apples, zucchini, and carrots, which was selected specifically for its ability to work well for Breakfast in the Classroom. Muffins are a hearty and quick breakfast option, making them perfect for Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab n’ Go breakfasts, or Second Chance Breakfast. Just outside of Boston, Cambridge Public Schools makes oatmeal using local apple cider as the cooking liquid. Apples are a common favorite fruit among students, and finding ways to taste them in new and creative ways is a great way to not only incorporate local foods into different meals, but also to show students the versatility that their favorites can offer in every meal!

If adding to your breakfast program feels like just too big a leap right now, fear not! You can always plan for the future. National School Breakfast Week is March 6-10, 2019. Mark your calendars and get thinking about how you can get farm to school into your breakfast soon! 

3 Steps for a Positively Bluetiful School

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 11, 2018

Guest post by US Highbush Blueberry Council

Celebrate National Farm to School Month the bluetiful way with highbush blueberries! From their great taste to their added health benefits, highbush blueberries are the berry that loves you back making them a fruity favorite of cafeteria managers across the country. With the help of these little blue dynamos, you can teach your students that nutritious, healthy foods can also be absolutely delicious. Here are 3 easy ways to incorporate highbush blueberries into your farm to school activities this October (and all year-round!) making your school Positively Bluetiful:

1. Boost Your Blueberries
A little change like adding more highbush blueberries to your menus can have a big impact on your students’ interest in eating more foods that meet school nutrition standards. And with increased emphasis on healthful options and a lot of little mouths to feed each day, what schools need are tasty, nutritious items kids will love. Here’s how highbush blueberries can help: 

  • NUTRITIOUS + DELICIOUS: When it comes to flavor and health benefits, highbush blueberries are proof that good things do come in small packages! Providing fiber, vitamin C, manganese and – of course – deliciousness, highbush blueberries will add a burst of flavor to your students’ day. 
  • NO-FUSS FRUIT: For cafeteria managers, highbush blueberries are a low-labor fruit making them easy to add to school menus. No peeling, slicing, or dicing—simply wash and explore all the ways to enjoy their goodness from smoothies to salads, dipping sauces to pizza! 
  • YEAR-ROUND AVAILABILITY: From local fresh highbush blueberries to USDA Foods frozen highbush blueberries, your district can enjoy blueberries on menus no matter the season, learn how!
2. Explore the Playbook 
Searching for a resource that can help transform your school’s nutrition program from good to Positively Bluetiful? Look no further than the Highbush Blueberry Farm to School Playbook! From kids’ activities, nutrition guides, blueberry inspiration and more, the Playbook is packed with resources that will excite your students, inspire your staff and celebrate with your local community. Whether you’re just starting a farm to school program or your nutrition education is proclaimed nationwide, we promise the Highbush Blueberry Farm to School Playbook will be your new go-to resource making nutrition – and blueberries! - fun for all. 
 

3. Join in the Fun 
In honor of National Farm to School Month, one lucky school district will win a “Build-Your-Own Highbush Blueberry Day!” Easy as 1, 2, 3…here’s how you can enter: 

  1. Explore the Highbush Blueberry Farm to School Playbook 
  2. Enter the National Farm to School Month Sweepstakes 
  3. Cross your fingers and toes, while you snack on some blueberries! 
Wondering what “build-your-own” means?  If your school is the lucky winner, you’ll have the opportunity to customize a special “Highbush Blueberry Day” with the support from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and its marketing experts to help you plan, execute and promote the perfect event for your district, students and community. Host a highbush blueberry taste test with your students? Invite a local grower to discuss the life cycle of highbush blueberries from little seed to plump berry? Explore the versatility of highbush blueberries in a cafeteria cooking demo? Let your blueberry dreams run crazy! 

Now, what are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on the fun! Explore the Playbook, enter the sweepstakes and bring buckets of blueberry fun to your school today! 

National Farm to School Network thanks the US Highbush Blueberry Council for being a sponsor of our 2018 National Farm to School Month Celebrations!

Putting the CRUNCH in Farm to School Month

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 10, 2018

By Elizabeth Esparza, Communications Intern

National Farm to School Month is a time when schools, farms, and communities come together to share and celebrate the fantastic work being done to build farm to school throughout the country. No matter where you are in the country, National Farm to School Month offers opportunities for everyone to share in the festivities in some way! 

One way that many states and regions come together each year is by hosting “crunch” events. By encouraging schools throughout a state and region to crunch into a local food on a specific day, at a specified time, or even simply anytime during the month of October, crunch events create a unifying experience and a sense of camaraderie amongst National Farm to School Month celebrators. (Plus, it’s a tasty way to celebrate!) 

How do you host a crunch event? 

First, find out if your state or region already has a crunch that you can participate in. Check out our calendar of Farm to School Month events to see if there is a crunch in your area. North Carolina, Iowa, Utah, Alabama, California, Montana, Florida, Hawai’i, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio are some of the many who are hosting crunch events this month. 

Pick your produce.
While apple crunches are most common, feel free to crunch into any local item you choose. Carrots and cucumbers are also great choices that give a great crunch sound! 

Get the whole school involved. Make sure that your crunch event really celebrates all of your hard work in farm to school. Invite a local farmer, invite families to participate, celebrate your food service staff and administrators that make farm to school happen in your school. Everyone can be invited to enjoy the crunch of a fresh, local food! 

Set a time for the crunch. One of the best things about a crunch event is the collective noise you can all make to celebrate farm to school. So whether you crunch to start out lunchtime or get everyone gathered to crunch in some other way, setting a time is another way to truly make your crunch an event to remember! 

Make it more than a crunch. Incorporate your crunch item into a meal or taste test. Once you’ve crunched, keep the tasting going! Work with food service staff to bring that item into breakfast or lunch, or try a taste test of that food cooked in several different ways. 

Print some stickers. Get students even more excited to crunch by giving them the opportunity to wear their tasting accomplishment with pride. Whether you want a National Farm to School Month sticker or a taste test specific sticker, we have a few to choose from here.

Spread the word. 
A crunch event is a great opportunity to share your farm to school story with local media outlets. Download our National Farm to School Month Celebration Toolkit for media pitch ideas and suggestions for connecting with local reporters. 

Share the celebration! No matter where or how or when you crunch, be sure to share it with the wider farm to school community by posting to social media with the hashtags #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool. Scan these hashtags now to see how others are crunching this National Farm to School Month! 

Are you participating in a crunch event at your school this October? Does this list inspire you to organize your own? We want to hear about it! Tell us how you’re celebrating National Farm to School Month this October - with a crunch event, or any farm to school activity! - and we’ll enter you to win a package of farm to school prizes for a school of your choice. This year's prizes include a "Build-Your-Own Blueberry Day" from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, assets from the Captain Planet Foundation Project Learning Garden™ program, organic dairy products from Organic Valley, and a collection of seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds. No action or crunch is too small - take the pledge today

Need a little bit more inspiration to get your CRUNCH on? Check out these highlights from recent apple crunches in Virginia and Washington. Happy CRUNCH-ing! 



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