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New Policy Handbook for Farm to School Advocates

NFSN Staff Thursday, June 13, 2019


Farm to school legislation is a key strategy for making local food procurement, school gardens, and food education a reality for millions of children, farmers, and communities across the country. That’s why state farm to school policy, alongside statewide farm to school networks and state-supported farm to school positions, is one of the three core strategies National Farm to School Network prioritized in our 2017-2019 Strategic Plan to help partners advance and strengthen the farm to school movement in their states. We’re excited to share a new resource to help partners and advocates in these efforts: the State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018

Co-authored by the National Farm to School Network and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School, the State Farm to School Policy Handbook summarizes and analyzes every proposed farm to school bill and resolution introduced between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2018, from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. It enables users to search bills by both jurisdiction and topic, and includes analysis of trends, case studies, advocacy resources and more.

What’s new in this edition? 
The State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018 builds on a survey that was originally released in 2011, and updated in 2013, 2014 and 2017, and was previously called the State Farm to School Legislative Survey. New features in this edition include: new research, with farm to school policies from the U.S. territories; new scope, taking a targeted look at legislation that explicitly advances the core elements of farm to school; and, a new name, which better describes the robust content – including case studies, best practices, analysis and more – available in this resource. 

What are the highlights? 
Between January 1, 2002 and December 31, 2018:
  • 46 states, DC, and one territory have introduced legislation supporting farm to school activities. 
  • 453 bills and resolutions were introduced. Of those, 209 passed.   
  • The most common bill type has been one that provides funding for farm to school - 119 such bills have been introduced. These bills include annual appropriations, permanent funds, and other revenue streams. 
  • 25 states have passed comprehensive farm to school legislation, which includes funded grant programs, funded coordinator positions, or funded local procurement incentives. 
  • Best practices for structuring strong legislation include securing sustained funding, identifying the motivation behind the bill, and establishing an evaluation process. 


How can advocates use the Handbook? 
The time is ripe to leverage relationships and advocate to expand farm to school through state legislation, and the State Farm to School Policy Handbook is a valuable tool you can use to approach policy in ways that makes sense for your state. Whether your state is still working to pass its first farm to school legislation or ready to expand, you can use this Handbook to gain knowledge of the wide variety of farm to school policy options that exist and find inspiration and models that can be adapted to meet your states needs. The Handbook also allows you to compare your state’s farm to school laws, policies and programs to those of other states. And, check out the five case studies that analyze successful farm to school advocacy efforts and compare how different states have tackled farm to school policy opportunities with different approaches. These case studies provide a great snapshot of the stories and partnerships behind successful policy efforts – use them as a spark of inspiration to motivate your next policy idea! 

State-level farm to school policy work is driving a broader expansion of farm to school across the country. Simply put, strong laws facilitate strong programs. The State Farm to School Policy Handbook is designed to offer farm to school advocates like you a roadmap to learn about and compare existing, potentially replicable state farm to school laws, policies and programs in order to advance new legislation in your state. So dig in, and start exploring the opportunities! 

Have questions about this new resource or need a thought partner on how to connect with your state lawmakers? Don’t hesitate to contact our Policy team for support! We look forward to hearing how your advocacy efforts continue to grow the farm to school movement, state by state.

The State Farm to School Handbook: 2002-2018 is co-written by National Farm to School Network and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School (CAFS). This project is funded by the National Agricultural Library,
Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This Week in Farm to School: 6/11/19

NFSN Staff Tuesday, June 11, 2019
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. 

 

National Farm to School Network News
1. NCAT and NFSN Awarded USDA Cooperative Agreement
The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and National Farm to School Network (NFSN) are pleased to share their partnership with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS) to develop farm to school trainings for agricultural producers. This three-year cooperative agreement was announced by OCFS on May 21. The goal of the project is to help agricultural producers build their capacity to launch or expand efforts to market to schools. NCAT and NSFN will conduct a needs assessment among agricultural producers in collaboration with state agencies, develop curricula, and execute trainings that use a tiered, train-the-trainer approach. Read the full announcement here.

2. Lacy Stephens selected as 2019 Bloomberg Fellow
The Bloomberg American Health Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has announced its 2019 cohort of Bloomberg Fellows, each drawn from an organization working on health challenges facing the nation. Congratulations to Lacy Stephens, Program Manager at the National Farm to School Network, for being selected as a 2019 Fellow! Fellows receive a full scholarship to earn an MPH or DrPH, then use their new skills with the organizations for which they already work to continue tackling some of the toughest challenges facing US communities. Read more here.


Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: Kick off the Summer with Farm to Head Start and Early Care and Education
Tuesday, June 18 // 2PM ET
How can a Farm to Head Start/ECE partnership help your program serve fresh, local food? Learn how it works through presentations from national experts and Head Start program examples. This interactive webinar is brought to you by: USDA, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Head Start, and National Farm to School Network. Primary Audience: Head Start staff, child care and CACFP providers, and State agency CACFP and Head Start staff. Please spread the news about this webinar! Register here

2. EQUITY Webinar: Measuring Racial Equity in the Food System
July 16 // 3-4 PM ET
The webinar will provide an introduction to the newly published guide, Measuring Racial Equity in the Food System: Established and Suggested Metrics, including examples of metrics in four different themes and ways the guide can be used. Following this introduction, two food system leaders will share how they are using data and metrics to drive system change. There will be time in the webinar for questions, comments, and suggestions for related resources. This webinar is sponsored by the Racial Equity in Food Systems Working Group (REFS), a national workgroup coordinated by the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems. Register here.

3. American Horticultural Society's National Children Youth and Garden Symposium
July 10-13, 2019 // Madison, Wisconsin
The American Horticultural Society is hosting the National Children and Youth Garden Symposium, a three-day long symposium for educators, non-profit professionals and others working with children and youth in garden-based settings across the country. At this event, held on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the focus will be on providing the next generation the knowledge and tools to create a sustainable environmental future and finding ways to maintain and grow gardens with programs that nurture the youth. NCYGS will explore innovative sustainable gardening curriculum and practices, exploring "green" career resources, and highlighting model partnerships for attracting the human, financial, and intellectual capital needed to sustain youth gardening endeavors. Learn more here.

4. 2019 Maine Farm to School Conference
October 4, 2019  // Hinckley/Clinton, Maine
With the 2019 conference theme of "Innovations in Farm to School", stakeholders from across the state of Maine and beyond will convene for a full day of learning, best practice sharing, and networking. This event will be hosted at the Kennebec Valley Community College's Alfond Campus from 8:30 AM - 5 PM. Learn more here

5. Louisiana Farm to School Conference
October 22-23, 2019  // Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The Louisiana Farm to School Program will host the annual Louisiana Farm to School Conference on October 23, 2019 at the Pennington Biomedical Conference Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. During their time in the Bayou State, stakeholders will attend a special "Meet the Buyer, Greet the Grower" event to kick off the conference and explore networking opportunities between farmers and school nutrition staff. Some of the hot topics for this event will include school gardening challenges, barriers of farm to school, and sourcing local foods in school. Save the date and make a trip to attend! Learn more here

6. NFSN EVENT Save the Date: 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
April 20-24, 2020 // Albuquerque, New Mexico
The 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is coming to Albuquerque, New Mexico, April 20-24, 2020! Hosted by the National Farm to School Network, this biennial event will convene a diverse group of food service professionals, farmers, educators, students, representatives from nonprofits and government agencies, public health professionals and more to learn, network, and strengthen this important movement. Are you passionate about supporting local agriculture and fostering a culture of food literacy in your community? This event is for you. Visit farmtoschool.org/conference to learn more and start making plans to join us in Albuquerque!


Job Opportunities
1. NFSN JOB Senior Director, Programs & Policy, National Farm to School Network (Remote) 
The Senior Director of Programs and Policy will lead the strategic direction of programming and policy advocacy aimed at institutionalizing farm to school in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories. Responsibilities include successful implementation of programs and policy activities with an eye towards innovation, oversight of Core and Supporting Partner engagement and capacity building, and cultivation of strategic partnerships with national organizations and federal agencies to advance National Farm to School Network's mission. Learn more here


Farm to School in the News
New York school greenhouse advances agricultural learning, access to fresh food
School district officials unveiled Greenport’s first-ever outdoor greenhouse Friday to grow and harvest “hundreds of pounds” of fresh produce, officials said. The 20-by-50-foot structure west of the school building was created with help from a New York State Farm to School grant. “Ask a kid if he or she likes kale? No way. But if he or she grows the kale, ‘That’s my kale, and I grew this!’ There’s that wonderful relationship between farmer and food.” (The Suffolk Times)

Colorado school district turns old buses into mobile cafes to feed students during summer
In the past, the school provided lunches at school cafeterias during the summer, but getting to the school was a challenge for many students. Therefore, school officials decided to transform buses going out of service into bright, mobile cafés. “It is a small gesture, but it has a huge impact,” Bennett says. (ABC Actions News)

Pizza, hamburgers and ... local broccoli? School lunch in Arizona
Tucson Unified School District's farm to school program has brought locally-grown lettuce, asian pears and broccoli to students at different grade levels. “I’ve noticed this misconception that the farm to school program is just about giving students an opportunity to know what a local carrot looks like. And although that’s part of it, it’s also about educating adults about our food system, about where food comes from, the challenges of growing food." (Arizona Public Media

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.

NCAT and NFSN Awarded USDA Cooperative Agreement

NFSN Staff Thursday, June 06, 2019

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and National Farm to School Network (NFSN) are pleased to announce our partnership with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS) to develop farm to school trainings for agricultural producers.

The goal of the partnership is to help agricultural producers build their capacity to launch or expand efforts to market to schools.

Gwen Holcomb, director of the project for OCFS, announced the farm to school training and curricula cooperative agreement on May 21. She noted that this is an important project for the agricultural producers who can grow, produce, and distribute food for Child Nutrition Programs in schools and school districts. “With more than 30 million students participating in the National School Lunch Program each day, schools provide a large, stable, long-term market for producers,” said Holcomb.

To assist producers in entering this market, NCAT and NSFN will conduct a needs assessment among agricultural producers in collaboration with state agencies (SAs) and then develop curricula. We will promote and execute trainings that use a tiered, train-the-trainer approach. 

This national three-year, $1.8 million project will be co-managed by NCAT and NFSN. NCAT, headquartered in Butte, Montana, has over 40 years of experience providing training, education and technical assistance in sustainable agriculture, local food systems, and energy efficiency and conservation. NSFN is a national information, advocacy, and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing, school gardens, and food and agriculture education into schools and early care and education settings. Assisting with the needs assessment and project evaluation are independent evaluators from New York University.

“We are so pleased to be part of this national effort to help producers access and enhance their marketing to schools and to get more healthy, local farm products in school cafeterias,” said Devona Bell, NCAT’s Sustainable Agricultural Program Director.

“Schools across the country are eager to purchase from local producers and put more fresh food on students’ plates,” said Helen Dombalis, NFSN Executive Director. “This project provides a much-needed opportunity to educate and engage more farmers and producers in market opportunities with schools. When schools buy from local producers, it’s a win for kids, farmers and communities.” 

Read the full press release here.

This Week in Farm to School: 6/4/19

Anna Mullen Tuesday, June 04, 2019
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 Trending Topics In Farm to School: Child Nutrition Reauthorization and Federal Policy Advocacy - How You Can Get Involved
Thursday, June 6 // 1 PM ET
The next Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) is at the forefront of food policy discussions in Washington. A diverse community of voices should be heard in policymaking, but do you find it challenging to get involved? Join Chloe Marshall, National Farm to School Network Policy Specialist, to learn about CNR and how you can advocate with impact! Participation in this webinar in not considered lobbying. Register here

2. Webinar: Campus Dining 201: Trends, Challenges & Opportunities for Farm to College in New England
Wednesday, June 12 // 2PM ET
There are 200 colleges and universities with dining services in New England. Farm to Institution New England (FINE) estimates that those campuses spend between $110 million and $115 million dollars annually on local food. This webinar will highlight some of the key recommendations in FINE's Campus Dining 201: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities for Farm to College in New England report, and then feature two examples of work already being done to address those recommendations on campuses in New England. Register here

3. Webinar: Kick off the Summer with Farm to Head Start and Early Care and Education
Tuesday, June 18 // 2PM ET
How can a Farm to Head Start/ECE partnership help your program serve fresh, local food? Learn how it works through presentations from national experts and Head Start program examples. This interactive webinar is brought to you by: USDA, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Head Start, and National Farm to School Network.Primary Audience: Head Start staff, child care and CACFP providers, and State agency CACFP and Head Start staff : Please spread the news about this webinar! Register here.

4. School Garden Support Organization Leadership Institute
January 19-24, 2020 // Santa Cruz, CA
Hosted by Life Lab in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation, join 20 other School Garden Support Organization teams from across the nation to strengthen your organization’s goal of enhancing professional development and ongoing support for school garden programs in your region. Application deadline: August 2, 2020. Learn more here

5. Save the Date: 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
April 20-24, 2020 // Albuquerque, New Mexico
The 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is coming to Albuquerque, New Mexico, April 20-24, 2020! Hosted by the National Farm to School Network, this biennial event will convene a diverse group of food service professionals, farmers, educators, students, representatives from nonprofits and government agencies, public health professionals and more to learn, network, and strengthen this important movement. Are you passionate about supporting local agriculture and fostering a culture of food literacy in your community? This event is for you. Visit farmtoschool.org/conference to learn more and start making plans to join us in Albuquerque!


Resources & Research 
1. Call for Information: Farm to ECE State Survey/Evaluation Tools and Data
In recent years many states have conducted state level farm to ECE surveys and assessments. We are working to compile these tools and data to serve as a resource for others and supplement our learnings from the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey. If you have state farm to ECE survey/evaluation tools and data to share, please send to Lacy Stephens, NFSN Program Manager, at lacy@farmtoschool.org

2. EQUITY Call for Citations: 7th edition of Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism present in US Food System
MSU Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) is seeking help in identifying citations to update CRFS’s publication: An Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism Present in the U.S. Food System. They seek citations that refer to research, analysis, outreach, and commentary on BOTH structural racism AND the U.S. food system. Deadline for citation submission is August 5, 2019. Learn more here


Policy News
1. Minnesota legislators fund farm-to-school initiative
A final omnibus agriculture policy bill passed by Minnesota legislators last week included a $400,000 fund that can be used to reimburse schools that purchase local foods, and tasks a position at the state Agriculture Department with helping farmers and schools connect, among other duties. Read more about this state policy win here


Job Opportunities
1. Senior Director, Programs & Policy, National Farm to School Network (Remote) 
The Senior Director of Programs and Policy will lead the strategic direction of programming and policy advocacy aimed at institutionalizing farm to school in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories. Responsibilities include successful implementation of programs and policy activities with an eye towards innovation, oversight of Core and Supporting Partner engagement and capacity building, and cultivation of strategic partnerships with national organizations and federal agencies to advance National Farm to School Network's mission. Learn more here

2. Executive Director, Edible Schoolyard Kern County (Bakersfield, CA)
The Grimm Family Education Foundation is seeking a new Executive Director, to work in collaboration with the Foundation President, to create and implement a multi-year program development plan for Edible Schoolyard Kern County. This plan will be aligned with the Foundation’s and Grimmway Schools’ existing strategic plan for all ESY programs. Learn more here


Farm to School in the News
North Carolina farm teaches low-income kids about food deserts - and self-sufficiency
Sankofa Farms has developed a curriculum to teach 11-16 year old students about everything from team work to the problem of food deserts, plus beekeeping, chicken coop mending, operating tractors, tilling the land and building animal pens, to name a few duties. “They’re doing this because they love the work and they want to see changes in their community." (Forbes)

Kentucky schools serve local food in summer meal program
This summer, Bowling Green Independent School District will be serving locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and watermelon from Need More Acres farm in Allen County, as part of its summer meal program. (Bowling Green Daily News

From butternut squash to candy cane beets, students dig into Michigan-fresh foods
Now in their second year of the state-funded 10-Cent Grant program, Thornapple Kellogg Schools dining staff have been serving up fresh, locally-sourced fruits and vegetables to students in West Michigan. Each month, a different Michigan food is featured across the district. Through the 10-Cent Grant, schools receive matching incentive funding up to 10 cents per meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables and legumes. (School News Network

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.

Reflections from the Road: Power of Procurement Summit

NFSN Staff Monday, June 03, 2019
By Helen Dombalis, Executive Director


There could not have been a more invigorating way to spend my first few days as National Farm to School Network’s (NFSN) new Executive Director than with mentors, colleagues, partners and collaborators at the Power of Procurement: Good Food for our Future summit. Hosted by the Center for Good Food Purchasing with the generous support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the summit brought together food systems leaders from across the country to strategize on advancing institutional procurement that supports “good food” economies - ones that are healthy, ecologically sound, socially responsible and humane. While I did some live tweeting in Chicago (find me at @helen_dombalis), I want to share additional thoughts from the summit in a longer form. My mind is bursting with inspiration, and I’m buzzing with new ideas for NFSN’s next phase - which we’ll need your help to make happen. Here are the big picture themes I’ve taken home and my thoughts for how NFSN will continue to leverage its role in this wider “good food” movement to maximize the power of procurement.  

Have a vision and set a direction.
Visioning makes all the difference in realizing change. This was a theme shared over and over during the summit. Linda Jo Doctor (W.K. Kellogg Foundation) offered that through the process of visioning, we build “an awareness of what’s not working…but it doesn’t get caught there.” Visioning allows us to identify a direction to move in to create change. At NFSN, we envision a nation in which farm to school programs are an essential component of strong and just local and regional food systems, ensuring the health of all school children, farms, environment, economy and communities. It’s a vision that we work towards every day with support from people like you. And as we’re developing our next Strategic Plan for 2020 and beyond, it continues to be our goal to turn this vision into reality. 

Back up your vision with data. 
Good data helps prove that our vision matters, and illustrates the need for others to join and invest in our work. At NFSN, we know this is true: data helps tell the story of the opportunities and impacts of farm to school. But in order to create the systems change we seek, we need to keep pushing for more proof of concept across the movement. For example, I’m dreaming of the day we can say with data: Invest $5 million in farm to school now, and in two decades, we’ll see billions in savings in healthcare costs. Anecdotally, this is something that we already know is true. As Gary Cohen (Health Care Without Harm) noted at the summit, “Our food system is bankrupting our healthcare system.” Let me know if you want to invest in my data dream.

Words matter.
We were convened by the Center for Good Food Purchasing to talk about “good food” procurement. As Marion Kalb (Jefferson County Public Health Department and Co-Founder of NFSN) pointed out, when a producer or distributor is approached about getting involved, what does the language of “good food” convey to them? This is similar to a question that our NFSN team has been pondering. Just as there are underlying values in the phrase “good food”, what are the underlying values in “farm to school”? We recognize that the words we use (as well as the words we don’t use) signal our values, and we have to be more intentional about making sure our words match our values. For example, NFSN’s equity commitment statement is not embedded in our mission statement and is less-than explicitly included in our core values. This is something I’m eager to change. NFSN is committed to equity. Our mission and core values must express this without reservation. 
 
Programming matters, too. 
Another big takeaway for me at this summit came from Ricardo Salvador (Union of Concerned Scientists and NFSN Advisory Board member). In his keynote, Ricardo used an example of how programming efforts can flounder if they don’t go as far as possible to acknowledge injustices and work to address them. NFSN’s Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool for Farm to School Programs and Policy is a great way to check ourselves on maximizing impact to advance equity. For example, it’s one thing to kick off a meeting with a land acknowledgment, recognizing the traditional inhabitants of this place, who stewarded the land for generations before European contact and colonization. But the acknowledgment falls short if we don’t also tell the history of unjust structures and policies behind the land we meet on, such as the forced removal of Native peoples. (The policy was literally called the Indian Removal Act.) Janie Hipp (Native American Agriculture Fund) also reminded us that “we have to stop asking who’s missing and start inviting them to be here.” I’m committed to channeling these actions into future NFSN convenings. (Speaking of, save the date! We’ll be gathering in Albuquerque, NM, April 20-24, 2020.) Actions can speak louder than words, and that’s especially true in program design. As a movement builder, NFSN's actions serve as an important model for our state partners, and this extends into addressing racism and inequities in farm to school and the food system.
 
Investment spurs innovation.
Shifting the food system means shifting the spending. NFSN will continue working with schools and in early childhood settings to shift their purchasing power, but should also work with our partners at USDA to shift theirs. Envision with me: what could we accomplish if we embed good food values into the federal government’s commodity program purchases? As Haile Johnston (The Common Market and NFSN Advisory Board Vice Chair) challenged, “This is our money. So how do we hold decision-makers accountable [to spend that money in ways that] nourish our communities?” Here are a few more ideas: what if we regionalize USDA Foods so that school and other participating institutions aren’t just purchasing 100% American-grown, but 100% American-grown within their geographic region, from farms that support and invest in the land, the laborers and the local community? And, what if we leverage the public-private financial investment strategies of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to go a step further than just healthy food access, to ensuring that this healthy food is also “good food”? How can NFSN and the farm to school movement work with others in this space to shift the demand and change the food system together? This kind of big-picture, systems-change visioning is one of the ways that I’m excited to contribute and lead as NFSN’s Executive Director. Your investment in our work helps spur the innovation and action needed to make big change like this happen. 

Vision → Action
Paula Daniels (Center for Good Food Purchasing) elevated the importance of putting vision into action by quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt: “To reach a port we must set sail. Sail, not tie at anchor. Sail, not drift...We’re all in this boat together, so let’s set sail.” This sentiment perfectly aligns with NFSN’s tagline - growing stronger together - and encapsulates why I’m excited about NFSN’s future. I may be at the helm of NFSN, but I honor and appreciate those who set the course (like our Co-Founder and former Executive Director Anupama Joshi) and those who are in this boat with me. It takes all of us! We’re serious about the “Network” part of our name. Get to know our incredible partners, advisors and staff, and if you haven’t already, join our network. I hope that you’ll hop on board and join us in this important work - your voice, perspective and support are needed here! Check out what we accomplished together in 2018 and stay engaged as we continue growing stronger together

Farm to ECE Opportunities in North Alabama

NFSN Staff Wednesday, May 29, 2019
This post is part of our Farm to ECE Procurement Blog Series, which is devoted to the many ways that early care and education sites connect children and their families to local food and local food producers. Read previous posts in this series here. Have a farm to ECE procurement story to share? Contact Lacy Stephens at lacy@farmtoschool.org 


Strawberries. Sweet potatoes. Squash. Microgreens. These are just some of the Alabama-grown fresh fruits and vegetables that the Farm Food Collaborative (FFC) has been distributing to local restaurants, grocery stores, and schools across North Alabama since 2013. Now, Natalie Bishnoi and Carey Martin-Lane, FFC co-managers, are bringing these fresh fruits and vegetables to early care and education (ECE) settings. 

FFC offers a unique model for farm to ECE procurement as they are a food hub housed within the Food Bank of North Alabama. Originally established to support farmers selling “fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to Alabama schools, hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants and workplace cafeterias,” FFC helps farmers obtain GAP certification so they can sell their products in wholesale markets and distributes local foods to major grocery chains and school sites in North Alabama. FFC recently extended their local procurement service to ECE settings by launching a pilot project at 5 ECE sites in the Huntsville and Madison County region of Alabama.

The concept for the farm to ECE procurement pilot launched in 2017 when FFC connected with the Alabama Partnership for Children. The two organizations along with other ECE and food systems partners began building a statewide farm to ECE coalition. The coalition contributed to pilot planning by hosting focus groups and developing a survey to determine the interest and potential engagement level of ECE providers in the region. The pilot officially launched in spring of 2018 with weekly deliveries of strawberries to the 5 ECE sites, and quickly expanded to include cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, peaches, squash, zucchini, blueberries, watermelon, apples, and satsumas.

FFC had to overcome several challenges to bring fresh, locally grown food to these ECE sites. First, many ECE providers lacked equipment or staff to prepare fresh food on site. To begin to address this, FFC launched the pilot with strawberries, an easy snack that requires minimal preparation. This approach also helped FFC win over hesitant staff at the sites. The cook at one site in particular was very hesitant about local foods. After strawberry season, his whole perception and attitude toward serving fresh food had changed and he was very enthusiastic, especially about the quality of the produce.

FFC also found that the ECE sites needed additional support to both incorporate fresh, local food into their food budgets and encourage child acceptance of new foods. In the pilot, FFC targeted ECE sites participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and educated providers on using local foods within the CACFP meal pattern. In addition, FFC provided educational resources – book recommendations, coloring sheets, garden-related activities, USDA recipes, etc. – for ECE providers to use when introducing new foods to familiarize children with the food and teach them how crops are grown and harvested. These materials include a parent newsletter with program information, age-appropriate cooking activities, and explanations about WIC and SNAP eligibility requirements. “Again, part of our mission that is so important to us is [food] access. A lot of people qualify [for WIC and SNAP] without realizing it,” Natalie notes.



FFC also had to navigate the much smaller quantity of product required for ECE sites. Instead of asking farmers to deliver these microcases to the individual ECE sites, farmers deliver to the food bank, or in some cases, FFC will pick up the orders and transport them in a Food Bank-shared refrigerated van to the sites themselves. Their advice for tackling the transportation and logistics of Farm to ECE? Pair up with a food hub. “They have the procurement and distribution piece established already and pooling resources is imperative for sustainability,” Carey explains.

FFC sees their success not just in the increased amount of local foods served to and eaten by young children, but in the increased interest in and focus on healthy local foods at the ECE sites they are working with. One site is starting a garden with the help of Master Gardeners, and another will be connecting with an on-site farmers’ market for families and community members. FFC attributes much of the success of the pilot to the collaboration and support of the Alabama Farm to ECE Coalition. The work has also been heavily influenced and informed by farm to ECE networks and stakeholders in other states. “We are extremely grateful to states like Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina,” Carey says. “They have been so helpful and willing to share information. That really is just a part of the farm to school/ECE culture. We are all trying to make our kids as healthy as possible. That’s a wonderful thing.

With the support of the Alabama Farm to ECE Coalition and national partners, FFC is planning for growth and expansion of local food procurement in ECE sites across Alabama. FFC will be expanding to 12 sites in North Alabama this summer and will start reaching new areas of the state in subsequent years. Eventually, FFC would like to have its own processing capability to provide ECE sites with local, pre-chopped fruits and veggies, increasing opportunities for more ECE sites to serve local products in meals and snacks. Natalie notes that once an ECE site gets involved with serving fresh, local food to their kids, they are hooked – the ECE providers and kids alike. As demand continues to grow, FFC will be working hard this strawberry season to keep up with interest and to grow farm to ECE across the state. “Our local farmers are able to select varieties that are delicious and nutritious. When our prime harvest season is here, we want to make sure we are taking advantage of it for the kids, community, farmers and the local economy.”  

This Week in Farm to School: 5/28/19

NFSN Staff Tuesday, May 28, 2019
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. Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program
Due: June 4
USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) requests applications for the Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program (FASLP) for fiscal year 2019 to increase knowledge of agriculture and improve the nutritional health of children. The anticipated amount available to fund grants under this authority in FY 2019 is approximately $869,498. FASLP is intended to increase the knowledge of agriculture and improve the nutritional health of children and to bring together stakeholders from the distinct parts of the food system. The initiative is part of a broader effort to not only increase access to school meals for low-income children, but also to dramatically improve their quality. Learn more here.


Webinars & Events
1. NFSN WEBINAR Farm to School Resource Roundup: Resources for Implementing State Farm to School Strategies
Wednesday, May 29 // 3 PM ET    
Responding to the rapid growth and interest in farm to school, the National Farm to School Network’s 2017-2019 Strategic Plan prioritizes building the capacity of its partners to advance farm to school at the state level through three complementary strategies: (1) state farm to school networks, (2) state farm to school positions at state agencies and university Extension offices, and (3) state farm to school policies. To support these efforts, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) has developed an accompanying resource for each of the three strategies:
Join the National Farm to School Network and special guest State Farm to Vermont Law School, coauthors of the State Farm to School Policy Handbook,  to learn more about these resources and how to apply these strategies in your state. Register here
 
2. NFSN WEBINAR Trending Topics In Farm to School: Child Nutrition Reauthorization and Federal Policy Advocacy - How You Can Get Involved
Thursday, June 6 // 1 PM ET
The next Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) is at the forefront of food policy discussions in Washington. A diverse community of voices should be heard in policymaking, but do you find it challenging to get involved? Join Chloe Marshall, National Farm to School Network Policy Specialist, to learn about CNR and how you can advocate with impact! Participation in this webinar in not considered lobbying. Register here

3. Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group 2019 Call for Proposals
Deadline: June 8
The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) is seeking engaging session proposals for the 2019 conference. The conference will be held in Jersey City, NJ November 7-9. They look for sessions that tackle systemid issues of inequity in the food system with engaging activities and presentations that prioritize the leadership and voices of the most impacted by the issue discussed. Learn more here.


Research & Resources
1. Call for Information: Farm to ECE State Survey/Evaluation Tools and Data
In recent years many states have conducted state level farm to ECE surveys and assessments. We are working to compile these tools and data to serve as a resource for others and supplement our learnings from the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey. If you have state farm to ECE survey/evaluation tools and data to share, please send to Lacy Stephens, NFSN Program Manager, at lacy@farmtoschool.org

2. EQUITY Now Available in Spanish: Local Food for Little Eaters: A Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Guide to Local Food Purchasing
The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems is pleased to announce Spanish translations of Local Food for Little Eaters: A Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Guide to Local Food Purchasing and profiles of successful farm to Migrant & Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs nationwide. This guide gives step-by-step instructions and interactive tools that MSHS programs can use to begin purchasing and using more local foods. Download the Spanish translation here.


Job Opportunities
1. Strategy & Partnerships Coordinator, FoodCorps (New York, NY)
FoodCorps seeks a Strategy and Partnerships Coordinator to join our growing team. The Strategy and Partnerships Coordinator will provide increased efficiency across FoodCorps’ work on systems change through strong management of logistics and projects. Learn more and apply here.


Farm to School in the News
Mississippi middle school students sell veggies to the community from student-led garden
Jackson State University partnered with Blackburn Middle School to dig up their very first Learning Garden. Students displayed their hard work, sharing their fresh vegetables with the community. (WLBT 3)

How Black Farmers Are Trying To End Centuries Of Racism In America’s Food System
As a broader national reparations debate plays out, there are calls for the consideration of a more specific population: black farmers. (Huff Post)

Pennsylvania schools make meals more environmentally conscious
Some school districts in Pennsylvania are creating more environmentally conscious menus by buying local produce and meats, and planting gardens and orchards. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Can We Stop Kids From Being Shamed Over School Lunch Debt?
School lunches carry a small price tag, but for low-income families the cost can add up - and despite efforts to stop lunch shaming, some schools punish children who can’t pay. (Civil Eats)

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.

This Week in Farm to School: 5/21/19

NFSN Staff Tuesday, May 21, 2019
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. 

 

News from the National Farm to School Network
1. National Farm to School Network Names New Executive Director
National Farm to School Network has announced Helen Dombalis as its new Executive Director. Helen is a nationally recognized leader in cultivating equitable food systems through strategic farm to school partnerships and policy advocacy, and previously served as the Senior Director of Programs and Policy for the National Farm to School Network. As Executive Director, Helen will collaborate with stakeholders nationwide to explore and execute farm to school innovation, programming, and advocacy to advance racial and social equity and to grow and sustain the farm to school movement. Read the full announcement here

2. Save the Date: 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
April 20-24, 2020 // Albuquerque, New Mexico
The 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is coming to Albuquerque, New Mexico, April 20-24, 2020! Hosted by the National Farm to School Network, this biennial event will convene a diverse group of food service professionals, farmers, educators, students, representatives from nonprofits and government agencies, public health professionals and more to learn, network, and strengthen this important movement. Are you passionate about supporting local agriculture and fostering a culture of food literacy in your community? This event is for you. Visit farmtoschool.org/conference to learn more and start making plans to join us in Albuquerque!


Grants & Funding
1. USDA AMS Grants: Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP)
Due: June 18
The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) Request for Proposals is now open. LFPP supports the development, coordination, and expansion of local and regional food businesses to help increase access and availability to locally and regionally produced agricultural products. The National Farm to School Network is interested in partnering with applicants to provide training and technical assistance or evaluation services for grant proposals. If you would like to discuss NFSN contract services for grants or collaborative proposals, please contact Lacy Stephens, NFSN Program Manager, at lacy@farmtoschool.org by May 30th.


Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: Farm to School: Cafeteria, Classroom, Community
Wednesday, May 22 // 1 PM ET
Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers through the core elements of farm to school - local food procurement, school gardens, and food and agriculture education. This Webinar Wednesday session hosted by the School Nutrition Association will offer an overview to farm to school, including why it matters and how it supports the goals of child nutrition program, promoting successes, and evaluating your activities. Speakers include Helen Dombalis and Alena Paisono from the National Farm to School Network. Participants will be provided tips and tools for implementing successful farm to school activities. Successful completion of the webinar and quiz is awarded 1 SNA CEU, or 1 CPEU for RDNs/NDTRs. Register here.

2. Webinar: Developing a Food Procurement Policy or Profile
Tuesday, May 28 // 2 PM ET 
Hosted by the Chesapeake Foodshed Network, this webinar will provide guidance on how a school, college, or hospital can develop a food procurement policy or profile. Developing a policy or profile can institutionalize good food values that prioritize support for local farmers and food producers, sustainable or regenerative agriculture practices, and women and minority-owned farms and food businesses. Register here.

3. NFSN WEBINAR Farm to School Resource Roundup: Resources for Implementing State Farm to School Strategies
Wednesday, May 29 // 3 PM ET    
Responding to the rapid growth and interest in farm to school, the National Farm to School Network’s 2017-2019 Strategic Plan prioritizes building the capacity of its partners to advance farm to school at the state level through three complementary strategies: (1) state farm to school networks, (2) state farm to school positions at state agencies and university Extension offices, and (3) state farm to school policies. To support these efforts, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) has developed an accompanying resource for each of the three strategies:
Join the National Farm to School Network and special guest State Farm to Vermont Law School, coauthors of the State Farm to School Policy Handbook,  to learn more about these resources and how to apply these strategies in your state. Register here

4. Webinar: National Farm to School Network’s Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool for Farm to School Programs and Policy
Thursday, May 30 // 1-2 PM ET
In this upcoming webinar, hosted by the Michigan Farm to Institution Network and the Michigan Local Food Council Network, National Farm to School Network (NFSN) staff members will share their assessment tool that helps to identify inequities embedded within programs and policy and support decision-making to advance racial and social equity. Guest speakers are Helen Dombalis, Executive Director, and Alena Paisano, Program Manager of Seed Change in Native Communities, both from NFSN. Register here.

5. Webinar: School and Community Farm Stands Webinar
Thursday, May 30 // 3-4 PM ET
School gardens can be used to engage the community through school and community farm stands, which take on various issues centered around food access and education. Please join us in virtual panel discussion where we will dig into some different ways in which farm stands are being implemented, and impacting students and the community. This session will follow a unique format and will give a lot of time for audience questions. If you have a question for the panelists, please share in you registration so that they can seek to address it. Register here.

6. NFSN WEBINAR Trending Topics in Farm to School: Child Nutrition Reauthorization and Federal Policy Advocacy - How You Can Get Involved
Thursday, June 6 // 1 PM ET
The next Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) is at the forefront of food policy discussions in Washington. A diverse community of voices should be heard in policymaking, but do you find it challenging to get involved? Join Chloe Marshall, National Farm to School Network Policy Specialist, to learn about CNR and how you can advocate with impact! Register here

7. Course: Breakthrough Leaders for Sustainable Food Systems
May 20 - June 6 // Online & Burlington, VT
True leadership is about the capacity of people and communities to shape the futures they desire. This 3-week online and on-campus cross-disciplinary program develops visionary leaders by offering solutions to the social, environmental, diet, and health impacts of our food system. The University of Vermont is a recognized leader in the food systems movement, providing learners with unique access to hands-on learning and collaboration with scholars, activists, leaders, and professionals in the field. Learn more here


Job Opportunities
1. Farm to Community Programming Director, Farm Fresh Rhode Island (Pawtucket, RI)
Farm Fresh Rhode Island is seeking a full-time Farm to Community Programming Director. The Farm to Community Programming Director is responsible for supervising all of Farm Fresh RI’s Farm to School and Nutrition Education program activities by managing relationships with community partners, managing program staff, supervising performance measurement, and participating in Farm Fresh RI Farm to School and Nutrition Education program strategy. Learn more and apply here.

2. Farm to School Coordinator, Green Mountain Farm to School (Newport, VT)
The Farm to School Coordinator will work with school staff to develop, implement and evaluate Farm to School program activities such as taste tests, farm field trips, school gardens, nutrition education and more. This position is part of the Lyndon Economic opportunity AmeriCorps Program (LEAP). Learn more here.


Farm to School in the News
Warm Springs second-graders visit Sisters farm
In April, 40 second-graders from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs traveled on a school bus to Sisters, OR. They disembarked on ancestral lands of the Northern Paiute tribe, which is now the home of Seed to Table Farm. Seed to Table was invited by tribal members to help expand experiential, nutrition education through gardening and outdoor experiences. During last month’s visit, the students tasted food right out of the ground, planted seeds and learned about the five main things plants need to grow. Now a month later, the students returned to reap the harvest they’d planted in April. (The Nugget Newspaper)

Farm to table program nourishes students at Massachusetts high school
The concept of farm-to-table really hits home for students at Haverhill High School who plant vegetable and berry gardens each spring, harvest their crops to enjoy throughout the summer, then enter their bounty into the Topsfield Fair in the fall for judging. About 75 students in several different special education programs are involved in this program of hands-on learning. (The Eagle-Tribune)

Alabama students harvest knowledge in the garden
The harvest has been plentiful in the first year of the expanded raised bed garden at Maplesville High School. The raised beds have kept the agricultural science students busy and given them opportunities to teach some of the younger students at the K-12 school about plants. (The Clanton Advertiser)


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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