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A Big Year in Florida Farm to School

NFSN Staff Monday, December 02, 2019
By Lacy Stephens, NFSN Program Manager

2019 has been an exceptional year for Florida’s Farm to School Initiative. Farm to school momentum in the state culminated with two exciting events this November. First, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services release their first ever Farm to School Annual Report. The report details Florida farm to school product sales and uses economic impact modeling (using IMPLAN software) to estimate the economic contribution of farm to school sales in the states. The results are powerful! According to the report, approximately $64,106,312 of Florida products were purchased by schools in the 2018-19 school year. Those purchases contributed to 639 jobs, $30,429,315 in labor income, and $144,765,615 in total economic impact (total output – direct, indirect, and induced effect).

The first Florida Farm to School Conference, held November 8-9 in Orlando, was a celebration of the state’s accomplishments and evidence of the drive to expand the work. The conference included tracks for producers and a track for school nutrition service and farm to school coordinators. While content focused on the unique need of each stakeholder group, meals and networking events facilitated collaboration and the development of new partnerships. Presenters brought the origins of farm to school together with the hope for farm to school future, with sessions from one of farm to school’s original champions Glyen Holmes of the New North Florida Growers Cooperative and emerging leaders like Lane and Brett Singleton of Singleton Family Farms. National Farm to School Network Program Manager, Lacy Stephens, contributed to the joyful learning with a session on Advocating for Farm to School Support.

A strong contributor to Florida’s farm to school growth is the support and championing of the efforts by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner, Nicole “Nikki” Fried. Commissioner Fried articulated the goals of the Farm to School Summit and the Florida Farm to School Initiative in her welcome message to attendees: “Together we can ensure that every meal served is healthy, nutritious and Fresh From Florida.”

Photo: Lacy Stephens, NFSN Program Manager, and Beth Spratt and Andrew Smith, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, NFSN Florida Core Partners, at the Florida Farm to School Conference.

Native F2S Champions: Newcomb High School

NFSN Staff Wednesday, November 13, 2019
By Matthew Denetclaw, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Navajo Region


Photo Credit: Newcomb High School 
This blog is part of a series of profiles of Native Farm to School Champions, organized and collated by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, and we are excited to collaborate with IAC on this storytelling project to celebrate farm to school activities happening across Indian Country. These Champion profiles were written and submitted by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and these programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting. Learn more about the IAC at www.indianag.org.

Many miles from the nearest grocery store lies the community of Newcomb, New Mexico. Located on the Navajo Reservation, Newcomb High School is an institution full of opportunity. One unique individual providing the opportunity for students to see a future in locally grown food initiatives is agriculture instructor Augusta Ahlm.

Ms. Ahlm has been teaching at Newcomb High School for two years. She has taken the immediate initiative to find ways to revive the agriculture program which now makes an impact beyond campus borders. After observing little to no infrastructure in place for food production or available funding within the school district, she managed to pursue and receive many in-kind donations from producers near and far to create their current agriculture science center.

It all began by coordinating labor from the chapter house summer student work program, who used recycled materials to build animal housing facilities and box gardens with a hoop house for a controlled growing environment. In addition to growing produce, Ms. Ahlm later acquired several head of sheep and numerous chickens for animal protein production. Every year, the Newcomb High School agriculture program harvests a sheep using the traditional Navajo method to offer a meal for the community in addition to offering fresh vegetables annually. Students and community members alike enjoy and participate in the cooking demonstrations.

The local senior center also benefits by receiving eggs produced by the chickens. Recently, they have installed an aquaponics systems producing a successful harvest of herbs, and soon will be looking forward to adding radish sprouts and wheatgrass. They also help mitigate food waste by collecting cafeteria veggie scraps to add into their compost heap. Ms. Ahlm now looks forward to working with IAC Navajo Region to find the available resources through the National Farm to School Network to help take her program to the next level.

Learn more about Newcomb High School here: https://www.newcombhigh.org/

Farm to School Without Borders: Canada’s Farm to School Story

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Guest blog by Farm to Cafeteria Canada

The Canadian Context 
Founded in 2011, Farm to Cafeteria Canada (F2CC) is a pan-Canadian organization that was formed to work with partners across Canada to educate, build capacity, strengthen partnerships, and influence policy to bring local, healthy, and sustainable foods into all public institutions.

Across Canada we’re seeing and celebrating so much exciting activity to bring the local harvest into school classrooms and cafeterias. Just like in the US, farm to school in Canada is about closing the distance between field and fork and cultivating a generation of healthy eaters and critical thinkers who understand and value food and its role in personal, cultural, and planetary health. 

Some communities use the term Local Food to School (LF2S), where “local food” can include seafood, game and other “wild” foods, that connect schools with fishers, elders and other knowledge keepers who can harvest and prepare these foods safely and in a culturally meaningful manner. Check out this short video to see LF2S in action in a remote Indigenous community. 



Inspired by the US National Farm to School Network, the Canadian farm to school network championed by F2CC is over 5,000 members/followers strong, with representatives from nearly every province and territory. To date, 1,219 schools and campuses have shared their farm to school activity with F2CC so that it can be tracked on the Canadian Farm to School Map. Institutes report they are providing 864,579 students (about 10% of the national youth population, ages 5-24) with an opportunity to experience growing, harvesting, preparing and eating healthy local foods at school. We know there is much more grassroots activity happening and expect this number to grow as more become aware of the map. We’re also learning from the US and hoping to get farm to school questions embedded into our agricultural census. 

Farm to school has drawn the eye and support of the Canadian government. Since 2016, the federal government has partnered with F2CC, investing nearly $2 million in a pan-Canadian farm to school initiative - F2S: Canada Digs In! (F2SDCI). Federal funding has been matched by multiple partners, including Whole Kids Foundation. Thus far F2SCDI has enabled the development of pilot programs in nearly 100 schools, affording more than 35,000 students to experience farm to school. (Read / watch some of their stories here.) This project is significant in that it represents the largest ever federal investment in school food to date, and for the first time ever it has allowed us to evaluate the impacts of farm to school in Canada!


We’re working to paint a new chapter! 
As an interesting bit of context about Canada - many schools - especially at the elementary and middle school level - do not have cafeterias, and often lack cooking facilities of any sort. Instead, farm to school program are creative and unique to each and every school, often championed by dedicated teachers, school administrators and parent/community volunteers. Our work at F2CC is building on the amazing efforts of schools and communities at the grassroots level by evaluating and supporting schools to implement best practices in farm to school.

To do this, F2CC has been developing a Canadian farm to school framework and articulating the farm to school approach, within which there are multiple models

F2CC is not alone in our quest to paint a strong future for school food in Canada. There are many provincial and national groups with brush in hand. The Coalition for Healthy School Food representing more than 80 organizations, is advocating for a federal investment in a national school food program that would eventually ensure that all students have access to a healthy meal or snack at school every day. Many farm to school champions are at that table influencing the development of a set of strong principles that align with those underpinning the farm to school approach (including the need for such a program to be universal, community-driven, and include conflict of interest standards). In addition to ensuring that students can access a meal so that they are ready to learn at school, farm to school champions seek a program that closes the distance between students, their food, and their land while supporting the sustainability of regional food systems.  

Our vision? Every child has an opportunity to experience the joy of farm to school! The momentum is building!


Resources of Interest
Farm to Cafeteria Canada has developed a number of resources that may be of interest.


Farm to School Month!
And how are we celebrating Farm to School Month? Our theme in Canada this year is Healthy People Healthy Planet. To help our schools celebrate we’ve launched a Zero Food Waste Challenge. Visit our Farm to School Month website to check it out! 


Top photo: A student at Kinkora Regional High School, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Photo Credit: Amanda Kingman

Welcome, Jenileigh Harris!

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 09, 2019
National Farm to School Network is pleased to share that Jenileigh Harris has joined our staff as Program Associate. Since March 2019, Jenileigh has worked with NFSN as Programs Intern. 

Jenileigh has experience in education, scientific and legal research, and food and agriculture law and policy. She is passionate about food justice, systems change work, effective policymaking and utilizing education as a tool for advocacy. Jenileigh is a graduate of Vermont Law School (VLS) where she earned her master’s degree in Food and Agriculture Law and Policy. While at VLS, she co-launched the Racial Equity Working Group to host events and facilitate conversations and events celebrating racial and cultural diversity as well as highlighting racial and social inequities in the food system. She has continued working with the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at VLS as a policy research consultant on projects such as farm to school state policy, food system resiliency, and seafood fraud. 

In her new role as Program Associate, Jenileigh will continue contributing to National Farm to School Network and the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s cooperative agreement with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Community Food Systems to develop farm to school trainings for agricultural producers. Jenileigh currently resides in Colorado Springs, CO and enjoys mountain biking, trail running, yoga, cooking, reading, and drinking coffee. Welcome to your new role, Jenileigh! 

Meet Our Interns!

NFSN Staff Tuesday, July 23, 2019
National Farm to School Network is excited to be working with three interns on our team this summer! These interns have come to work  with us through the support of several different partner organizations, and over the coming months, they’ll be making contributions to strengthen our work on statewide policy tracking, various projects related to equity and food systems, and increasing communications, especially in tribal communities. Meet our interns below, and please join us in welcoming Jacquelyn, Jenileigh and Mackenize!

Jacquelyn Sullivan - Zero Hunger Intern, Congressional Hunger Center
Jacquelyn is a current student at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC studying Political Science and Community Studies. At Guilford, Jacquelyn serves as Coordinator for the Church Under the Bridge initiative, leading food recovery efforts and community building on her campus and in the Greensboro region at large. In addition, she aids in the management of Mobile Oasis, a mobile farmers market bringing local produce to neighboring food deserts. She has a passion for politics and leads her local chapter of Democracy Matters, a group focused on getting money out of politics and anti-voter suppression. Additionally, she spent a semester abroad in Chile, Nepal, and Jordan conducting interpretive research on food security. Working with NFSN's Policy Team, Jacquelyn is updating NFSN's state policy tracker so that we have a better understanding of  how states are growing farm to school through legislation, and how NFSN can support these efforts. She is also creating a calendar of state legislative sessions to help NFNS prepare future policy advocacy actions and forming a rubric for evaluating equity-advancing opportunities in our policy work. Jacquelyn currently resides in Winston-Salem, NC where she enjoys going to concerts, thrift shopping, and spending time with her friends.

Jenileigh Harris - Programs Intern
Jenileigh has experience in education, scientific and legal research, and food and agriculture law and policy. She is passionate about food justice, systems change work, effective policymaking and utilizing education as a tool for advocacy. Jenileigh is a recent graduate of Vermont Law School (VLS) where she earned her master’s degree in Food and Agriculture Law and Policy. While at VLS, she co-launched the Racial Equity Working Group to host events and facilitate conversations highlighting racial and cultural diversity as well as the racial and social inequities present within the food system. At NFSN, Jenileigh has been assisting the Programs team on various projects by providing logistical support for NFSN’s Annual Meeting, supporting farm to school grant program evaluations, writing content for NFSN’s farm to early care and education procurement blog series, and developing a comprehensive farm to school producer resource database. Jenileigh currently resides in Colorado Springs, CO and enjoys mountain biking, yoga, cooking, reading, and drinking coffee.


Mackenize Martinez - Partnership Communications Intern, Intertribal Agriculture Council
Mackenize Martinez is a native of Zwolle, LA. She is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Sciences with a concentration in Animal Science from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA. At McNeese State University, Mackenize has had much departmental involvement, including competing as a member of the collegiate livestock judging team, volunteering with the non-profit organization Ducks Unlimited, and serving as a biological volunteer for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Alongside school activities, Mackenize spends much of her time traveling and working with youth programming in Native American communities. Mackenize serves as the Communications Intern for National Farm to School Network through the Intertribal Agriculture Council (NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year), where she engages with stakeholders from around the country with various public relations projects relating to farm to school practices. Mackenize also enjoys working as a Research Assistant for the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas and serves as the Western Region Representative for the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance (NYFSA) Board. After graduation, she plans to continue her post-secondary education in the agricultural science field and work with livestock producers in Native American communities to help improve local food systems. 

Jump with Jill Puts a Rock-and-Roll Twist on Nutrition Education

NFSN Staff Thursday, December 27, 2018


By Anna Defendiefer, Communications Intern

One of the most exciting parts of farm to school is that it looks different in every community. There are countless ways to get kids excited and help them feel knowledgeable about healthy eating and their local food systems. Here’s one creative example: Jump with Jill, a rock-and-roll nutrition show that travels across the country to show students that healthy eating is something to celebrate. I recently had the opportunity to interview the founder of Jump with Jill, Jill Jayne, who spoke with me about her beginnings in nutrition, what she’s learned through her experiences, and what she hopes her show brings to students.

Writing and performing dozens of songs about healthy foods is certainly an uncommon specialty, and I was curious as to how Jill got her inspiration. Growing up, Jill was an ambitious student, performing in her school’s musicals and running for the cross country team, while also achieving valedictorian status. After graduating, these interests merged and led Jill to pursue a nutritional sciences and theater at Penn State University. Her self-proclaimed “big break” came in 2003, when she dressed up as a cow in a video segment about nutrition. Fully embracing the silliness of the segment, Jayne realized she could use her physical humor to work with nutrition in a different way than most dieticians. She realized she had a voice that spoke to kids, and she could make a real difference in nutrition education.

It was in 2006 when the first seeds for Jump with Jill were planted. As part of her master’s thesis, Jill performed a free nutrition and rock and roll street show in New York’s Central Park. Shortly after, Jill signed a record deal and released her debut Jump with Jill album, followed by her first national tour performing for youth across the country. With silly lyrics like “when your craving is cruising for a healthy dose of got your back with that off the hook flavor” from her song “Sweet Beat,” her mix of nutrition education with humor and entertainment was a hit with students.

Until 2011, Jill and her brother performed in every single Jump with Jill show - about 300 a year. When Jill received a call from the city of Philadelphia requesting 150 shows for their students in the coming school year, she knew that she had to make changes to her business structure, quickly shifting her role from performer to businesswoman. Hiring her first Jill “doppelgangers,” she switched from a brother-sister startup to a real company. Now managing a staff of multiple “Jills” and DJ’s, she “took a step back from performing to make the mission possible.”  



Notably, Jill only hires certified teachers as performers in her show. That’s because her ultimate goal is to teach - in an unconventional way - that healthy foods can be exciting and interesting. According to Jill, students only “need ten doses of something to impact behavior.” This philosophy led Jill to create a toolkit containing lesson plans and activities that teachers can easily implement in the classroom after kids have taken part in the performance.

“Every message place counts,” Jill says. “Use watermelons in a math problem instead of pizza slices. Serve apples and cheese as a snack. Make healthy habits entertaining. Kids are learning by what they’re seeing, not what you’re telling them.” She emphasizes that teachers don’t have to make up these lessons if they’re not confident in their ability to teach about nutrition - Jill has already crafted them. The resources she provides to teachers have a 100% utilization rate after the show.

Admiring the dedication and creativity of Jill and her staff to teaching students about such a critical topic, I asked if she has one main idea she wants to convey through her performances. With no hesitation, she said that “you only get one body - one body for your entire life! You are responsible for making healthy choices for your body. You own it.”

Jill and her team have now conveyed that message over 3,000 times, and that number will only continue to grow.

Reflections On My Year As A Farm to School Fellow

NFSN Staff Tuesday, June 13, 2017

By Ariel Bernstein, Farm to School and Education Fellow
I began my journey at the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) twelve months ago in June 2016, and this jam-packed year has flown by. I was placed at NFSN’s Washington, D.C. office through a fellowship with the Newman’s Own Foundation. The program recruits recent college graduates, creates a cohort, and places fellows at various non-profit organizations across the country for a year of valuable, real-world experience in the philanthropic sector. Though I knew I was interested in working in food systems, NFSN has opened my eyes to the expansiveness of the field, making it my most transformative experience yet. I never thought that all of the curriculum development and garden-based learning I initiated at a small elementary school during college would lead to me advocating for local food and healthy school meals at the national level. But, it did, and I could not be more thrilled by the direction my passions have taken me.

As the Farm to School and Education Fellow, my scope of work at NFSN has centered around education. I have rotated through the organization’s various teams, experiencing all of the moving pieces of pushing farm to school forward as a national movement. With the Communications Team, I created content for National Farm to School Month and learned how to strategically manage a national campaign and utilize communications to promote and advocate for a cause. With the Programs Team, I helped implement a new organizational structure of state and territory partners, teaching me how to create and maintain relationships with key stakeholders. I attended Capitol Hill and coalition meetings with the Policy Team, exposing me to the world of food and nutrition policy that I have developed a deep passion for. I created and updated NFSN signature resources (like the Benefits of Farm to School Fact Sheet and an ESSA Toolkit), and presented about them to national audiences. Throughout the year, I learned how teamwork and self-motivation are key ingredients for accomplishing our goals. Additionally, the Newman’s Own Foundation provided my cohort with numerous workshops and trainings on topics such as team-building, workplace behavior styles and career coaching. This further enhanced my personal growth and professional journey, and added value to the way I approached my work at NFSN. 

While working at NFSN, I have seen first-hand how passion for food justice issues and farm to school, combined with tenacity and organization, can drive the coordination of a national movement that is growing exponentially and creating grassroots change across the country. Watching this has fueled my passion for this work and solidified my desire to continue advocating for local food, child nutrition, and other aspects of food systems reform. I never suspected I would want to stay in DC to work on food and nutrition policy, or go back school so soon to gain more insight on how to catalyze food system reform. But because of my time at NFSN, a new world has opened its arms and invited me in, and I finally feel like I know what I need to be doing.

As I reflect on my year’s work at NFSN, all of these things come to mind. I think about my jump from grassroots school garden work to national farm to school movement coordination. I think about knowledge I have gained and the learning process I have gone through. I think about the projects I have completed and how my work has impacted the organization. I think about the meetings I have attended and the connections I have made. Though my work has been varied and my takeaways are diverse, there is one thing that ties everything together, making it the most impactful part of my experience: the NFSN staff team. This team has given me knowledge in situations where I had room to grow, support when I needed lifting up, guidance when I felt lost, and humor when all I needed was a good laugh. It is this type of working environment that creates a productive, efficient and cohesive staff, and it has been an absolute honor to have been included in such a special team. 

To the NFSN staff: I cannot thank you enough for inviting me into your work, and guiding me though this year and into my future. You are a team of passionate warriors fighting the good fight, and I can’t wait to see where your hard work will continue to take the farm to school movement! 

Food Hub, Food Truck and Food Education: Northern Colorado School District Takes Farm to School to Next Level

NFSN Staff Wednesday, November 16, 2016

By Andrea Northup, USDA Farm to School Regional Lead for the Mountain Plains Region, and Helen Dombalis, Programs Director and Interim Policy Director for the National Farm to School Network

A bin of acorn squash sits on a pallet at the Weld County School District 6 central kitchen, right next to a bin of yellow onions and a 1,000 pound tote of russet potatoes – all locally-grown.  A walk through the facility is enough to convince anyone that Weld County School District 6 is committed to scratch-cooked, locally-grown food for its 22,000 students at 35 schools.  In this rural Colorado school district, where over 40 languages are spoken at home and 66 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price meals, fresh, tasty food is the norm – even down to the green chili, a southwestern favorite roasted in-house using three varieties of local peppers.

About a quarter of the central kitchen is dedicated to processing fresh fruits and vegetables.  Mushrooms are sliced, carrots are shredded, and onions are diced.  With funding from a USDA Farm to School Grant in 2013, this Food Hub portion of the kitchen was furnished with tables, wash stations and equipment to process local food for Weld County’s own meals and for other districts in the area.

Natalie Leffler is the Food Hub Manager at Weld County School District 6.  Her job is to coordinate partnerships with farmers, ranchers and local businesses to source as much local food as possible, defined as grown or produced within a 400 mile radius. Natalie manages an annual bid to establish relationships and contracts.  Growers must submit a food safety checklist with their bid documents, which Natalie confirms with an in-person site visit, so the district can rest assured that the local products are safe.  

Matt Poling, the school district’s Executive Chef, assures that menu planning, recipe development, and production processes maximize the use of local products.  The freezer is full of shredded local zucchini (for blending into tomato sauce), mirepoix (the age-old combination of onion, celery and carrots used as a base for soups), and other local ingredients to incorporate into meals in the off-season.  The team even prepares mashed potatoes made with local red potatoes and home-made gravy.  Locally-grown and dried pinto beans are sorted and cooked into refried beans or chili.  



Just outside the facility are four giant compost bins designed to turn food scraps from the kitchen into compost for the district’s school gardens, funded through an innovative partnership with the West Greeley Conservation District.  Sometimes El Fuego, the district’s flashy food truck, is parked outside, too.  But typically the truck is out roaming the district, serving up favorites like Baracoa street tacos and the yakisoba noodle bowl to students and school staff.

The district goes beyond local procurement – school gardens, student wellness, and food education are three major areas of focus. Plans are underway to transform a sandy, unused portion of a nearby schoolyard into an educational farm focused on student engagement and employment.  Called “Growing Grounds,” the project vision includes raised bed, an orchard, a teaching kitchen, hoop houses, and a greenhouse. Weld County School District 6 takes innovation and creativity to a new level with its farm to school program!


Inspired by Weld County School District’s 6 and their innovative farm to school programs? USDA is currently accepting applications for the Farm to School Grant Program, which assists eligible entities in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. Consider applying for a grant to bring more local food into school meals, promote healthy eating habits and expand markets for American farmers and producers. Applications are due December 8, 2016. 

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