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Celebrate the Week of the Young Child with Farm to Early Care and Education

NFSN Staff Monday, April 08, 2019
By NFSN Staff; Erin Croom, Georgia Organics; and Kelly Hanson, Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children 

The Week of the Young Child (WOYC) is a week-long celebration of our youngest learners and eaters. Hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), WOYC recognizes and celebrates the importance of early care and education (ECE) and the educators, families, and communities that contribute to each young child’s success. NFSN is celebrating  WOYC by sharing the abundant opportunities of farm to ECE to support ECE providers in creating high-quality learning environments and aligning with NAEYC Program Standards. While farm to ECE initiatives are an impactful approach for programs and educators, state-level farm to ECE initiatives can support positive systems level change. The collaboration and state-wide network building opportunities of farm to ECE initiatives can align with AEYC state affiliate strategic plans and goals. State affiliate farm to ECE initiatives and partnerships, like these examples from Georgia and Iowa, demonstrate the power of these partnerships and the benefit to providers, families, and children.  

Farm to ECE Training Delights and Empowers NAEYC Annual Conference Attendees
In 2017, Georgia Organics and Georgia AEYC partnered to host a farm to ECE pre-conference training for NAEYC Annual Conference participants. This workshop served as a fundraiser for the Georgia AEYC affiliate and offered the opportunity to highlight farm to ECE as a strategy to meet programmatic and early learning standards. The six hour training took a deep dive into farm to ECE with 25 participants from across the US and two other countries.

The session started with context setting from Lacy Stephens, National Farm to School Network Program Manager, who gave an overview of farm to ECE research and case studies. Next, participants explored hands-on activities from four of our favorite curriculums: they bravely reached their hand into a mystery bag and described what they felt (USDA’s Grow It, Try It, Like It); they organized toy animals and kitchen supplies (A Guide to Using the Creative Curriculum to Support Farm to ECE Models by the Policy Equity Group); they sang a garden song in English and Spanish (Our First Harvest from City Blossoms) and finally tasted a variety of colorful carrots (Harvest for Healthy Kids).  

And of course, they cooked! Participants created three simple and healthy recipes that young children could help make: veggie quesadillas, hummus dip and veggies; and a plant part salad.  The veggie-centered lunch menu highlighted local foods and also met CACFP meal standards! The session wrapped up with a robust discussion on how participants could replicate the training with their program staff, and they shared ideas and recommendations on how to start and grow farm to ECE.


Farm to ECE training attendees use all of their senses to explore a carrot in a lesson from Harvest for Healthy Kids. 

Training attendees prepare to share a plant part salad for lunch. 

Iowa AEYC and Farm to ECE Partnership Expands Healthy Opportunities 
In 2016, the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children (Iowa AEYC) received funds from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to lay the foundation for farm to ECE across the state of Iowa. They partnered with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, an organization that has made gains in community wellness and regional food systems through several touchpoints, including early childhood. Iowa AEYC launched their farm to ECE work by completing an environmental scan, engaging its association members in the process. The scan focused on identifying current healthy food access and physical activity initiatives, identifying gaps in program reach, and interviewing stakeholders on priority needs. 

From this, the Farm to ECE Learning Group model was born. Regional cohorts of early childhood educators meet monthly to explore farm to ECE concepts. These educators are given the tools they need to integrate farm to ECE into their ECE settings. Together, the educators also explore ways to engage families in order to drive healthy eating at home. The Farm to ECE Learning Group model emphasizes developmentally appropriate practices and supports the early childhood workforce by making gardening, nutrition education, and local food purchasing manageable within the demands of the early childhood sector today. The most important lesson learned—one size does not fit all. It is important work within the differences in age groups served, funding streams, geographic location, and family background. 

Farm to ECE blends seamlessly with the strategic plan of Iowa AEYC. Farm to ECE expands the focal point of the support system around young children. Beyond the parents, and childcare environment to society as a whole. It builds on community resources and partnerships recognizing that hungry, undernourished children are unable to meet their full potential. The program also operates within the affiliate’s core beliefs valuing innovation, transparency, and collaborative relationships. 

Learn more about the Week of the Young Child and find ways to celebrate on the NAEYC website. To learn more about connecting farm to ECE and AEYC state affiliates or to get started with farm to ECE, contact Lacy Stephens, NFSN Program Manager, at lacy@farmtoschool.org.

Small Changes Add Up To Big Impacts In ECE Meals

NFSN Staff Thursday, April 04, 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 



Guest Blog by Starr Morgan, Executive Director of Grand Rapids Early Discovery Center

“Farm to table is too expensive.” 
“I don’t have a commercial kitchen for scratch cooking.”
“I don’t have enough time.”
“The children won’t like the food.” 
“The teachers won’t support this.” 

These are just a few of the reasons that early care and education programs may be hesitant to change their current meal practices. But what if implementing a farm to early care and education (farm to ECE) meal service doesn’t have to be all or nothing? What if transitioning to local foods is no more expensive than most current food service budgets? What if children love the food, especially the funny colored carrots or purple potatoes? 

Over the last 15 years, I have made healthy options for children a priority in the early childhood education programs I have led. I am currently the Executive Director at the Grand Rapids Early Discovery Center, an inner city Reggio Emilia inspired early learning program serving children six weeks to kindergarten. With an ill-equipped, small kitchen I have transformed the food program into one that is locally sourced, providing scratch-made healthy meals for children. I have also transformed the food program at an ECE center with a large commercial-grade kitchen – one where meals were prepared and delivered by an outside source – and even one without a stove or oven! What I have learned is that changes can be made a little at a time or all at once. The budget doesn’t have to increase and a commercial kitchen is not required. Here are some small changes to begin transitioning to meals and snacks that are locally and intentionally sourced, scratch-made, and healthy!

Collaborations are Essential
It is essential that leadership in the program to find value in farm to ECE efforts. The board of directors, program director, kitchen manager and/or any other leadership positions must be on board and support the food service staff. All persons involved in procurement, menu planning, and cooking must also find this work important. Without the support of those making decisions and implementing the menus, the steam quickly pitters out. My first step as a program director included making my case to the executive director by sharing the benefits of transitioning our food service to one that values local, fresh, made-from-scratch healthy meals and snacks. I asked for an increased food budget for three months to track the cost, accessibility, and feasibility to maintain the changes long term. Once permission was granted, planning was essential before beginning the three month test phase.  

A local food hub in my area that supplies food from farms to restaurants at wholesale prices was our first connection. Through West Michigan Farm Link we were able to purchase fresh produce, large blocks of cheeses, yogurt, grass fed beef, non-GMO chicken, and other food items from local farms. A local bakery supplied us with bread and buns at wholesale prices.  

After three months, I learned that with careful planning our budget did not increase as we incorporated local, fresh, food made from scratch!



Time is on Your Side
It is helpful when programs acknowledge that a transition to local food sourcing doesn’t need to happen all at once. Implementing small, meaningful changes helps create sustainability in the long run. Start by identifying what produce can be easily swapped out for healthier or locally sourced versions. Let’s face it – in Michigan (as in many states) the short growing season will never allow us to transition to 100% locally sourced fresh produce. But when things are in season, start by making a few key switches – like fresh green beans instead of canned green beans. Explore participating in a CSA, purchasing from a local food hub, or even growing a center garden. Programs can also connect with local farm-to-table restaurants to ‘buddy up’ with purchasing at wholesale prices. Teaming up with other local businesses can also be helpful, such as a local bakery for slider buns. Taking time to develop relationships can lead to long-term, sustainable procurement opportunities. When identifying sources for procurement, it is helpful to be creative and think outside the ‘farm’!   

Details Matter
If you’re concerned about how procuring local foods might impact your budget, take a detailed look at your current expenses. Consider where you might be able to reduce spending in order to leave room for more local foods. What do you purchase pre-made that can be made from scratch? For example, locally sourced tomatoes and spices can be an easy alternative for pre-made pizza sauce, tomato soup, or spaghetti sauce. If you’re purchasing individually packaged items (snack crackers, raisin boxes, etc.), considering swapping to bulk packaging and use the savings for local food. Changing purchasing patterns can be an easy way to reduce waste, save money, and reallocate funds to healthier, local food. 
 
When leadership is on board, there are many steps programs can take to start the process of transitioning to a farm to ECE food service. Research tells us that providing a variety of healthy meals and snacks at a young age has lifelong benefits including the development of healthy lifestyles and greater school success. Involve leadership, start small, and connect with your community!  

Starr Morgan is the Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Early Discovery Center. She has worked in early childhood education for 22 years and has focused efforts in promoting healthy eating habits in young children for 13 years. Starr believes that when provided a large variety of healthy meals and snacks at a very young age, children can develop healthy habits that last a lifetime! 

This Week in Farm to School: 4/2/19

NFSN Staff Tuesday, April 02, 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. Salad Bars to Schools Grant Applications
Salad Bars To Schools has granted over 5,000 salad bars to schools since 2010—and yours could be next! The Salad Bars To Schools program is focused on donating salad bars to school districts so that every child across our nation has daily access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Learn more here.


Webinars & Events
1. EQUITY Webinar: Land-grant institutions and food systems: Acknowledging historical disparities and exploring present-day equity initiatives

April 17 // 3 pm EST
Participants will learn what organizations and administrators who work with land-grant institutions across the country are currently doing to address inequities present since the inception of land-grant institutions. Topics will include the historical disparities between 1862, 1890, and 1994 institutions as well as current efforts to create a more equitable food system through food and agricultural programs for historically marginalized groups. Register here.

2. Kids Garden Month
April 2019
April is Kids Garden Month, and KidsGardening is celebrating by encouraging kids to share what grows in their garden! From beans to zucchini, love to cooperation, or food for a hungry friend; kid gardeners, show what grows in your garden! Each week KidsGardening will choose a favorite entry to receive a prize package, and at the end of the month they will award two grand prize winners: one to an individual, and one to a group or class. Learn more and celebrate Kids Garden Month here.

3. Food Sovereignty Summit
September 23-26, 2019 // Green Bay, WI
Mark your calendars! The First Nations Development Institute and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin will be hosting the national Food Sovereignty Summit in September in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This is a great conference for those involved in Tribal and native food systems - native farmers, Tribal agriculture staff, non-profits, policymakers, and other leaders - to come together in collaboration to build healthier food systems. Learn more here.

4. Request for Proposals - 2019 Community Food Systems Conference
December 9-12, 2019 // Savannah, GA
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and Georgia Farmers Market Association are currently welcoming proposals for workshop sessions at its 2019 Community Food Systems Conference, to be held Dec. 9-11, 2019 in Savannah, GA. Proposals will be accepted until April 15, 2019. They seek submissions from leaders in food security, social justice, and sustainable agriculture. This conference is a great opportunity to feature the role of farm to school in broader community food systems efforts! Learn more here.


Research & Resources
1. Michigan Department of Education Legislative Report: 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms
Michigan’s innovative 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms program has released its 2018-2019 Legislative Report. This year’s 57 grantees purchased 93 different fruits, vegetables, and beans, grown by 143 farms located in 38 Michigan counties, and involved 20 additional businesses such as processors, distributors, and food hubs. Read the full legislative report here.

2. 2018 Vermont Farm to School Case Studies
What's happening with the farm to school movement in Vermont? In order to illustrate how Farm to School programming could work in early care and K-12 schools, the Vermont Farm to School Network chose five examples from across the state. They are diverse not only in experiences but also in terms of the size of the student population, grade level, socioeconomic representation, and approaches to Farm to School. Explore the case studies here


Policy Updates
1. NFSN SERIES Child Nutrition Reauthorization Listening Session Series
With the Farm Bill checked off of the Congressional to do list, policymakers are planning to pick back up their efforts to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR). National Farm to School Network is interested in hearing from farm to school advocates and stakeholders about what they'd like to see in the next CNR. If you're interested in learning more about farm to school opportunities in CNR or have thoughts to share about how CNR can support your farm to school efforts, please join our CNR Listening Sessions. Hear the latest CNR updates, share your ideas for farm to school in a new bill, and learn about ways you can get involved. The final sessions will be held Thursday, April 4, 1-2 PM ET - Register here.
 
 
Job Opportunities
1. Communications Interns, Intertirbal Agriculture Council (Remote)
The Intertribal Agriculture Council seeks a Program Communications Intern to support their role as National Farm to School Network Partner of the Year. While this intern will be hired by the IAC, the primary focus of their efforts will be committed to content development and dissemination of information and resources to membership of both organizations (IAC & NFSN). This uniquely designed internship position will offer an inside understanding of two national organizations that are improving the health of our Tribal communities. Application deadline: April 5. Learn more and apply here

2. Senior Policy Specialist & Policy Assistant, Good Food Institute (Washington, D.C.)
Good Food Institute is hiring a Senior Policy Specialist and a Policy Assistant.
GFI’s Policy department is focused on creating a clear regulatory pathway for cell-based meat, sometimes called clean meat or cultured meat, and leveling the playing field for plant-based meat, eggs, and dairy. Learn more and apply here

3. Research Analyst, Healthy Eating Research Program, Duke University (Durham, NC)
The Healthy Eating Research program at Duke University, Duke Global Health Institute seeks a 100% FTE Research Analyst. Healthy Eating Research funds research on policy, systems, and environmental strategies aimed at improving nutrition and preventing obesity in children (0 to 18 years of age) in the United states, with a priority on lower-income and racial and ethnic minority populations that are at-risk of poor nutrition and obesity. Learn more and apply here.

4. Planning and Research Associate, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, & Forestry (Augusta, ME)
The Division of Agricultural Resource Development has a current vacancy for a Planning and Research Associate II. This is professional services work developing and implementing a new local foods procurement program to increase the use of local food by state-funded and other institutions (such as hospitals, jails, and schools). Learn more and apply here.


Farm to School in the News
How garden-based learning helps students of color
Research has shown that school gardens are tied to a number of benefits, including higher science grades and better eating habits. And at schools attended largely by low-income students and students of color, school gardens can be particularly beneficial because they can help address some of the disadvantages students at those schools tend to face, including fewer educational resources. (NBC News)

Nebraska district looks to bring local beef to school lunches
Minden Public Schools introducing its new beef to school program that looks to connect ranchers and students with high quality beef, so they can learn what proper nutrition looks like. (NTV ABC)

Washington Farm to School program branches out
The Coupeville Farm to School program is on its way to planting even deeper roots. The Farm to School program is designed to integrate garden use for math, science, art and language arts classes. Long-term, the program’s leaders hope the growing site will be able to generate revenue to sustain its operations. (Whidbey News-Times)
  
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: 3/26/19

NFSN Staff Tuesday, March 26, 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. Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
Deadline: May 24
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) 2019 Request for Applications (RFA) has been announced and is now available. The purpose of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) is to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. The agency, commission, or department responsible for agriculture within any of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is eligible to apply directly to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for grant funds. Organizations or individuals interested in the SCBGP should contact their state department of agriculture for more information. Learn more here.



Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: Summer Programs at School Gardens and Farms
Tuesday, March 26 // 4-5pm ET
Looking for ideas to keep your school gardens tended and active during the summer? Are you thinking of new ways to bring garden-based learning to a community garden or farm site? Join SGSO for a webinar on the ins and outs of running kids day camp programs on educational gardens. Erin Jackson, Education Director at Gallatin Valley Farm to School, and Amy Carlson, Garden Education Director at Life Lab, will share their years of experience and resources for creating day camp programs. From promotions to post assessments and everything in between, this hour long webinar will provide you with inspiration and ideas to create or enhance summer programming on your educational garden or farm. Register here.

2. 2019 New England Farm to Institution Summit
April 2-4 // Amherst, MA
The 2019 New England Farm to Institution Summit is designed for food service operators, people who work at institutions, and local food advocates as well as farmers, processors, and distributors. The goal is to maximize collective impact and overcome challenges to buying more local food. The summit will feature programming that focuses on farm to school, farm to campus, and farm to health care, as well as cross-sector themes. Learn more here.

3. Georgia Farm to School and Early Care and Education Summit
June 7-8 // Macon, GA
The Georgia Farm to School and Early Care and Education Summit features in-depth farm to early care and education (ECE) and farm to school professional development for early care providers and staff, teachers, school nutrition staff, administrators, students, parents, farmers, distributors, and others working with Georgia students. Highlights include keynote addresses from Linette Dodson of Carrollton City Schools and Wande Okunoren-Meadows of Little Ones Learning Center, hands-on workshops, a Friday evening Expo, and delicious, locally sourced food! Register here

4. 2019 Iowa Farm to School Conference
June 21-22 // Pella, IA
Farm to school activities in Iowa are helping put local food on school meal trays, supporting Iowa farmers, and connecting students to local food systems through school gardens and nutrition education activities. Want to learn more about how farm to school works, or ready to take your farm to school activities to the next level? Join the 2019 Iowa Farm to School Conference, June 21-22, at Central College in Pella, IA. Hands-on workshops, keynotes, field trips and intensive courses will be offered over two days to help you build new skills in local procurement strategy, farm to school curriculum, and community partnerships and collaborations. Registration is now open! Learn more and register here



Policy Updates

1. NFSN SERIES Child Nutrition Reauthorization Listening Session Series
With the Farm Bill checked off of the Congressional to do list, policymakers are planning to pick back up their efforts to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR). National Farm to School Network is interested in hearing from farm to school advocates and stakeholders about what they'd like to see in the next CNR. If you're interested in learning more about farm to school opportunities in CNR or have thoughts to share about how CNR can support your farm to school efforts, please join one of our upcoming CNR Listening Sessions. Hear the latest CNR updates, share your ideas for farm to school in a new bill, and learn about ways you can get involved. Four sessions are available, and open to anyone interested in or involved in farm to school efforts: 


Job Opportunities
1. New Roots Program Coordinator, International Rescue Committee (Atlanta, GA)
The New Roots Program Coordinator leads the IRC’s New Roots program which works with IRC clients and community in two main areas: 1) youth gardening & food justice and 2) food security and nutrition. The program’s goals are to connect IRC clients and the community with access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food options; provide nutrition education in the U.S. context; and facilitate participation in gardening/food production programs. Learn more and apply here.

2. Youth Program Educator, New Haven Farms (New Haven, CT)
The Youth Program Educator will develop and lead the Youth Farm-Based Wellness Program on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the Fair Haven and Hill neighborhoods of New Haven, CT. The Youth Program Educator is responsible for creating and delivering weekly curriculum for a group of children and youth (ages 3 – 14 years old), supervising interns, and volunteers. Learn more and apply here.


Farm to School in the News
Nebraska district makes locally sourced food a priority
A Nebraska school district is serving more locally produced food to students, including vegetables, beef and pork. The district's food service manager, Janice Reynolds, says that as much as 75% of the meat and produce served for breakfast and lunch comes from local farms. (Kearney Hub)

New York district to participate in first Farm to School Day
Eight school districts in New York state's Buffalo Niagara region will participate in the area's first Farm to School Day will teach students about fresh, nutritious food and about where food comes from. (The Buffalo News)

Farm-To-Table Mindset Cultivated at Arizona High School
The Blue Sky Cafe farm-to-kitchen program at Sky Island Public High School in Tucson, AZ isn’t a standard culinary class that starts with hours of chopping onions and cutting carrots into brunoise; students gain experience in both growing the food and preparing it in the kitchen. (Tucson Foodie
  
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.

Local Sourcing for Childcare: A Recipe for Farm to ECE Success

NFSN Staff Monday, March 18, 2019
In celebration of National CACFP Week, the National Farm to School Network is launching a series of blogs devoted to the many ways that early care and education sites connect children and their families to local food and local food producers. The Farm to ECE Procurement Blog Series will feature guest writers highlighting farm to ECE procurement successes from across the country. Have a farm to ECE procurement story to share? Contact Lacy Stephens at lacy@farmtoschool.org


By Maire Dekle,  Common Market

Butternut squash and honeycrisp apple soup. Free-range chicken quesadillas. Fresh-baked rainbow carrot whole-wheat muffins. 

Hungry yet? This is just a sampling of the scratch-cooked, locally sourced food children at The Caring Center get to enjoy each day!

Chef Erica Lewis and her kitchen crew serve up morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack for about 170 children at this early care program, located in West Philadelphia. The Caring Center has long had a commitment to serving healthy, home-cooked meals, but as many food service professionals could attest, there can be all kinds of challenges: from limited cold-storage space for fresh produce and meat, to the additional prep time and labor required, to the legwork needed to identify quality ingredients (sustainably produced, minimally processed, and ideally, locally sourced). 

Erica and The Caring Center partner with The Common Market, a nonprofit local food distributor based in Philadelphia, to help lighten that legwork and source sustainable produce, meat, grains, and more. The Common Market works with a network of family-owned farms in the Mid-Atlantic, teaming up with producers to source, aggregate, and distribute their products to food service staff like Erica.

In just the last three months, The Caring Center has sourced more than 3,500 pounds of food from local producers, supporting dozens of small- and mid-sized family farms within our region. Ground turkey, chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, and the much-loved Honeycrisp apples have been among the top items, and feedback has been very positive. (One child even tried chicken for the first time…and discovered he liked it!)

How does The Caring Center make local sourcing work for them? Erica identifies where farm-fresh foods will have the greatest impact, be most cost-effective, and meet parents’ requests: antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken and turkey; produce in peak season; whole wheat flours. She sources other items from broadline distributors, bread and milk distributors, and occasionally retailers. The Caring Center participates in the Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), receiving reimbursement for meals. At this point, Erica and her assistant Tammy have mastered their CACFP-compliant recipes, recording, and reporting.

Additionally, thanks to grant funding, The Common Market is able to offer a discount to child care providers, with the goal of building capacity around local food sourcing and preparation. Chefs like Erica who have the skills and know-how to work with fresh ingredients gain new experience in local sourcing — and can pass those skills on to other ECE staff.

The Caring Center’s farm to ECE commitment continues beyond the kitchen. At family-style meals in their classrooms, children are encouraged to try new foods: from Brussels sprouts to blueberries, acorn squash to new apple varieties. Posted profiles of featured farmers provide more information for families and staff about where their children’s food is coming from. Farm to ECE programming on-site includes Erica’s cooking classes and gardening. (This past summer’s crop featured cantaloupes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, basil…and one watermelon!)

Erica and The Caring Center have demonstrated that they are local sourcing superstars. They consider quality food service to be an integral part of their program, with local foods as a part of their appeal. But what are their additional secret ingredients for farm to ECE success? For local sourcing to be a sustainable part of a center’s food program, food service staff and leadership must have the passion and intent to make healthier, more sustainable choices for the children they serve. 

We’ve also seen that this work needs to be built on a foundation of staff expertise around both nutrition and budgeting. Erica has been in food service for 25 years (at The Caring Center for 18!) and acknowledges that she has her cooking and administrative work down to a well-organized system, making the most out of the kitchen space and equipment she has. Having that experience gives her room to experiment and take on new challenges — and opportunities. 

Erica has recently started training other child care staff and directors through the Action for Early Learning Alliance in West Philadelphia. She’s sharing how to set up kitchens, where to source quality ingredients, and how to stay CACFP-compliant while offering nutritious, delicious food. Her ultimate goal? 

“I want to show that they don’t have to go the way of offering processed foods with lots of additives. We can get better food for our children in the city of Philadelphia.”

The Caring Center is an early childhood education provider for children 6 weeks to 8 years old, nationally accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and rated Keystone STAR 4. The Common Market Mid-Atlantic is a mission-driven distributor of sustainable, local farm foods, connecting institutions and communities with good food from over 200 producers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. 


Starting the conversation: House hearing on child nutrition programs

NFSN Staff Tuesday, March 12, 2019
 
By Chloe Marshall, Policy Specialist

On Tuesday, March 12, the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services within the House Education and Labor Committee held the first hearing of the new Congress on child nutrition programs, what could be the first hearing in preparation for the next Child Nutrition Act reauthorization (CNR). The “Growing a Healthy Next Generation: Examining Federal Child Nutrition Programs" hearing focused on the importance of these programs, including farm to school and how it helps children succeed in school and life.

Key topics discussed by committee members included the impact of nutrition programs on children’s access to food, regulatory challenges that school nutrition staff face, and the urgency of addressing children’s health early in life.

Witnesses included Dr. Eduardo Ochoa, the Principal Investigator for the Children’s HealthWatch Little Rock site at Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Cheryl Johnson, Director of Child Nutrition & Wellness for the Kansas State Department of Education; Donna Martin, Director Of School Nutrition Programs for Burke County Public Schools in Waynesboro, GA; and Nikki Berlew O’Meara, mother of two and member of Moms Rising. Witnesses were asked a number of questions ranging from how they’ve been navigating new nutrition standards to their thoughts on whole and flavored milk for children.

While no specific questions about farm to school were asked during the hearing, Rep. James Comer (R-KY) and Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) acknowledged the positive impacts farm to school has made in their home states. "As a farmer myself, I understand the importance of supporting local farmers by providing school access to local farm fresh ingredients,” said Rep. Cormer. In introducing Ms. Martin, Rep. Allen noted that he's visited Burke County schools for farm to school events on several occasions. "In fact, as a member of Congress, I've never missed that event and never will - obviously you can tell, I love good food!" he said. "I've seen first hand students growing their own food there - it's incredible."

As part of her testimony, Ms. Martin shared several ways that farm to school has been an important part of child nutrition programs in Burke County. "I'm incredibly proud of our farm to school program that provides farm fresh produce to our students. We found that when we started offering local fresh produce - like collards, berries, peaches - our fruit and vegetable consumption rates doubled,” Ms. Martin said. “We are fiscally sound because we offer seasonal fresh produce. We work with the Burke County farmers to provide local fruits and vegetables at very competitive prices. I've had local farmers beating down my door to set up contracts with me. In the school nutrition world we call this a win win win - a win for the farmer, a win for the kids, and a win for our local economy.”

Donna Martin shares testimony during the "Growing a Healthy Next Generation: Examining Federal Child Nutrition Programs" hearing.
While several representatives expressed concerns about how burdensome nutrition standards seem to be for schools, Ms. Martin noted that Georgia successfully implemented nutrition standards through farm to school activities: “If kids taste it, they will eat it. If kids grow it, they will eat it. If kids cook it, they will eat it. It's all about getting kids involved, and you have to do nutrition education.”

In closing the hearing, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) noted that with child nutrition programs, "Congress has consistently recognized through bipartisan support that a quality education includes making sure that every child has access to healthy and nutritious food." She specifically named farm to school as one of the programs that helps make this happen.

National Farm to School Network was pleased to hear praise for farm to school in the hearing. It’s a promising sign of opportunity for the farm to school movement as this critical legislation is developed. Additionally, the positive response to farm to school signals recognition of the important role it plays in the success of all of the other child nutrition programs.

While CNR is intended to be reauthorized every five years, it has been nearly 10 years since the last reauthorization. Known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the last (and current) CNR has provided monumental support for the farm to school movement by legislating the creation of the USDA Farm to School Program, which provides annual competitive grants and technical assistance to help schools, farmers, non-profits, state agencies and other entities implement and expand farm to school activities across the country. Since the first grants were awarded in FY 2013, demand for the highly successful program has been more than four times higher than available yearly funding. Opportunities to make the program accessible to more communities with an increase in annual funding is one of the policy initiatives the National Farm to School Network is exploring as we prepare for this next CNR.

What other ways can the next CNR support your farm to school efforts? We want to know! Join one of our upcoming CNR Listening Sessions, beginning March 19, to share your thoughts and ideas for our future CNR policy initiatives. And, make sure you’re subscribed to our e-newsletter to receive updates and action alerts as the CNR process continues.


The National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.

This Week in Farm to School: 3/12/19

NFSN Staff Tuesday, March 12, 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. Carton-2-Garden Contest
Deadline: March 25, 2019
Open to public and private schools, contest winners will be selected based on their implementation of an innovative garden creation featuring creative and sustainable uses for repurposed milk and juice cartons. Your school can get started by collecting at least 100 empty cartons from your home, community, or cafeteria. After gathering cartons, it’s time to design and construct purposeful garden items and structures using them. Learn more here

2. Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
Deadline: May 24
The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) 2019 Request for Applications (RFA) is now available. The purpose of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. The agency, commission, or department responsible for agriculture within any of the 50 States, DC, and US territories is eligible to apply directly to the USDA for grant funds. Organizations or individuals interested in the SCBGP should contact their state department of agriculture for more information. Learn more here.

3. FY 2019 Team Nutrition Training Grants
Deadline: June 2
FNS has announced two grant opportunities under the Team Nutrition Training Grant Program that will help State agencies implement job-skills training programs focused on addressing identified State and local needs impacting the quality of school meals. Up to $9 million dollars in grant funds are expected to be awarded in FY 2019. State agencies that administer the National School Lunch Program may submit an applications. Applications are due June 2. Learn more here


Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: Summer Programs at School Gardens and Farms
Tuesday, March 26 // 1-2 PM PST
Looking for ideas to keep your school gardens tended and active during the summer? Are you thinking of new ways to bring garden-based learning to a community garden or farm site? Join SGSO for a webinar on the ins and outs of running kids day camp programs on educational gardens. Erin Jackson, Education Director at Gallatin Valley Farm to School, and Amy Carlson, Garden Education Director at Life Lab, will share their years of experience and resources for creating day camp programs. From promotions to post assessments and everything in between, this hour long webinar will provide you with inspiration and ideas to create or enhance summer programming on your educational garden or farm. Register here.

2. Food Sovereignty Summit
September 23-26, 2019 // Green Bay, WI
Mark your calendars! The First Nations Development Institute and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin will be hosting the national Food Sovereignty Summit in September in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This is a great conference for those involved in Tribal and native food systems - native farmers, Tribal agriculture staff, non-profits, policymakers, and other leaders - to come together in collaboration to build healthier food systems. Learn more here.

3. 2019 Community Food Systems Conference: Request for Proposals
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and Georgia Farmers Market Association are currently welcoming proposals for workshop sessions at our 2019 Community Food Systems Conference. We will be accepting proposals until April 15, 2019 at 11:59pm EST. We seek submissions from leaders in food security, social justice, and sustainable agriculture. Learn more here.


Research & Resources
1. EQUITY 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge
April 1-21, 2019
Sign up for the FSNE 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge coming up in April! In its fifth year, the Challenge is a great way to learn about the history and impacts of racism on our current food system while inspiring participants with resources and tools to build racial equity in their work and lives. Coordinated by the Food Solutions New England network, the Challenge will help participants across the country raise awareness, shift attitudes and change outcomes. This year a Discussion Guide will be available for groups who want to do the Challenge together. Learn more and sign up here.

2. Article: Food Justice as a Dual Process, with Deep Roots in the Black Freedom Struggle
The struggle for food justice is often viewed as linear path to food justice that begins with dismantling oppression, followed by the building of sustainable solutions or community-based interventions. Yet, the struggle for food justice is a dual process related to power with deep roots in the historical arc of food politics in the Black Freedom Struggle in the civil rights era. A new JAFSCD article examines and explores this process. Read more here

3. Webinar Recordings: Network Weaving with June Holley and Yasmin Yonis
From the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future's Food Policy Networks project, this three part webinar series focuses on the different aspects of and approaches to network development. Webinar One is on the basic structure and governance of networks, Webinar Two discusses engagement and communications strategies, and Webinar Three is about self-organizing strategies and coordinating multiple projects. Check them out!

4. Rachel's Network Catalyst Award for Women Environmental Leaders of Color 
Rachel's Network is a community of women at the intersection of environmental advocacy, philanthropy, and leadership. This award recognizes women of color making an environmental impact in communities across the US, taking into account their service to a healthier natural world, positive impact on their communities, and their history of collaboration. Applications due April 14.  Learn more here


Policy Updates
1. NFSN SERIES Child Nutrition Reauthorization Listening Session Series
With the Farm Bill checked off of the Congressional to do list, policymakers are planning to pick back up their efforts to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR). National Farm to School Network is interested in hearing from farm to school advocates and stakeholders about what they'd like to see in the next CNR. If you're interested in learning more about farm to school opportunities in CNR or have thoughts to share about how CNR can support your farm to school efforts, please join one of our upcoming CNR Listening Sessions. Hear the latest CNR updates, share your ideas for farm to school in a new bill, and learn about ways you can get involved. Four sessions are available, and open to anyone interested in or involved in farm to school efforts: 
2. House Committee holds first CNR 2019 Hearing
On Tuesday, March 12, the House Education and Workforce Committee is holding its first hearing in preparation for the next Child Nutrition Act reauthorization (CNR). The “Growing a Healthy Next Generation: Examining Federal Child Nutrition Programs" hearing begins at 10:15am ET and can be live streamed here. Check the National Farm to School Network blog for a recap of the hearing later this week. 


Job Opportunities
1. EQUITY Racial Justice Fellowship, CoFED (Nationwide)
CoFed builds the leadership of young people of color to practice cooperative values, economics, and strategies for collective liberation. Their 6-month fellowship is a fantastic opportunity for young cooperators of color working to close the racial wealth gap by advancing community ownership of land and the food system. You'll work on a Fellowship project, participate in training opportunities, and build your network. Applications due March 15. Learn more here

2. Development Manager, Healthy Schools Campaign (Chicago, IL)
Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC), a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to making schools healthier places for all students, is seeking a full-time Development Manager who will support the mission and goals of the organization by helping to grow and implement a sustainable and vibrant fundraising program. Learn more and apply here.


Farm to School in the News
Farm to school day takes root in New Jersey school 
St. Gregory the Great Academy recently hosted a Farm to School Day, where local farmers came to the school to help teach students about how their food is grown. The young people also got to hear about the importance of locally sourced food from area farms from Douglas Fisher, New Jersey’s Secretary of Agriculture, and Carrie Lindig, the state conservationist. (The Monitor)

Virginia high school students earn grant for greenhouse project
Students enrolled in a Virginia high school's hospitality and tourism academy recently secured a $10,000 grant to support a project to help provide healthy food to the surrounding community. Part of the plan includes finishing construction of an on-campus greenhouse that could be used as a community garden and educational resource. (Daily Press)

South Carolina Students Treated to ‘Taste of Gullah’ 
Charleston County School District’s Nutrition Services Department recently teamed up with Chef GioVanni Richardson, founder of ‘A Taste of Gullah,’ to connect curriculum to the cafeteria during Black History Month. The students enjoyed a Gullah cuisine menu of okra gumbo, all meat pilau, rutabagas with greens, southern succotash, mandazi, and assorted fruit. "The Gullah culture is part of the academic curriculum," said Joe Pettit, CCSD’s Nutrition Services Field Officer. "By connecting the curriculum to the cafeteria, we’re completing that circle for the students and allowing them to taste what they are studying.” (The Charleston Chronicle
  
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.

FoodSpan: Teaching the food system farm to fork

NFSN Staff Monday, March 11, 2019

Guest post by Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

While public interest in where our food comes from continues to grow, there is a dearth of resources available for teaching young people about the food system. That’s a key reason the FoodSpan curriculum created by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has hit the mark with a lot of educators, especially those teaching social studies, science, and family and consumer sciences, but also health and language arts.

As of March 1, FoodSpan lesson plans had been downloaded nearly 57,000 times. This free online curriculum contains 17 lesson plans that span the food system from production through consumption and also includes lessons on food waste, food safety and food policy. It culminates with a food citizen action project, which gives students an opportunity to put their new knowledge to work by designing an intervention to address a food system problem.

“FoodSpan provides the materials and lessons necessary for our students to investigate critical issues surrounding public health, equity in food resources, sustainability, and the environment,” said Mike Wierzbicki, a social studies teacher at North County High School in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. “The lesson plans are filled with tremendous visuals that capture student attention and promote a deep understanding of material.”

FoodSpan dovetails well with the work of the National Farm to School Network, which works to empowers children and their families to make informed food choices.

This inquiry-based curriculum is designed for high school students but has been frequently adapted for use at both higher and lower education levels. It is written at a ninth-grade reading level. FoodSpan lessons also align with national education standards including NGSS, NCSS, CCSS for English Language Arts & Literacy, and NHES.

Teachers can use FoodSpan in its entirety, or pick and choose lessons they think will be most relevant or engaging for their students. The most downloaded lesson is the introductory “Exploring Our Food System.” It gets students thinking about food in a systemic way, for example by following food items through the supply chain, and by looking at relationships among myriad players in the food system, including people, institutions, and natural resources. Lessons on crops and on the industrialization of agriculture are also among the most popular.

The curriculum includes 140 activities, including 62 extension activities. Among many other things, students are challenged to:

  • Assess the food environment in their school
  • Create food maps
  • Devise educational and advertising campaigns
  • Develop presentations for policy makers
  • Investigate a foodborne illness outbreak
  • Debate controversial food system topics
  • Journal about their personal views after each lesson
  • Produce art projects (e.g., posters, infographics, videos)
  • Watch and discuss food-related films
Teachers who want to get up to speed on a food system topic before presenting it to their students can benefit from CLF’s Food System Primer, which offers short readings on many topics, along with links to further reading. Teachers can also point students to this resource, particularly if they have been assigned to write a report on a food system topic.

CLF also maintains a Food System Lab in a Baltimore greenhouse, providing “real-world examples of solutions to these pressing issues” in the food system, as Wierzbicki put it. The Lab uses its aquaponics and composting projects as jumping-off points to discuss larger food system topics.

The Center for a Livable Future (CLF) has been a leader in “food system thinking” for more than 20 years. CLF teaches about the food system, both at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and through online courses available to the public. It has produced a textbook called Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Public Health, Environment, and Equity.

Learn more about the FoodSpan curriculum here.

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