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This week in farm to school: 8/25/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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. INUAg Innovators in Urban Agriculture Prize 
The International Network for Urban Agriculture (INUAg) is announcing the first global INUAg Innovators in Urban Agriculture Prize. INUAg is looking to recognize innovative urban agricultural projects contributing to their local communities in 3 different categories: Food Access, Educating Producers, Teaching Youth. Each category will have 1st, 2nd, 3rd place winners, $1250, $500, $250. INUAg is accepting nominations through August 28, 2015. Nominees can self-nominate or be nominated by others. Learn more and find instructions for nominating projects here

2. Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives
As Farm Credit enters its 100th year of service to rural communities and agriculture, it has launched a new effort to champion the women, men and youth, whose insights and influence are ensuring thriving rural communities for years to come. The Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives program will seek out and celebrate 100 visionaries – the entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders who are shaping the future of agriculture and the fabric of our nation. To recognize the diverse ways individuals are contributing to the future success of rural communities, nominations will be accepted in ten categories, including youth leadership, agricultural education and community impact, and rural and urban connection. Ten exceptional leaders, one in each category, will each receive a $10,000 award to help further their contributions to thriving rural communities and agriculture. Nominations can be submitted until Dec. 18, 2015. Learn more here

Webinars & Events
1. Field to Tray, Mid-Atlantic Farm to School Conference, Nov 4-5, Rockville, MD
Field to Tray: Strengthening Farm to School Purchasing in the Mid-Atlantic will bring together farmers, food service directors, suppliers and other stakeholders from the region for a day of digging in to local food procurement strategies. The Mid-Atlantic region has experienced significant growth in farm to school practices over the past several years, and this conference will be a sharing, learning and networking opportunity for key farm to school players in the region. Register by September 5 to receive the early bird discount. Learn more about the conference and register here

2. Growing Minds Farm to School Conference, Nov 14, Asheville, NC
With more than 10 years of experience in farm to school training and programming, ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School Program offers a combination of creative ideas and practical applications for school environments. This year’s conference will feature workshops focused on four specialized tracks: Early Childhood, Health and Community, Cafeteria, and Classroom. Each track features content for folks new to farm to school as well as those that want to improve their existing programs. For more information please visit the Growing Minds website.

Policy & Action
1. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015

Jobs & Opportunities 
1. Communications and Development Specialist, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition 
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. NSAC is currently seeking a Communications and Development Specialist to support our policy and grassroots work through strategic communications efforts and expanded development capacity. This position is located at NSAC’s DC office on Capitol Hill. The Communications and Development Specialist reports directly to the Managing Director. Learn more about the position here

2. Call for papers: Labor in the Food System from Farm to Table
The Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development welcomes submissions of papers on descriptions and analyses of the scale and scope of labor problems in the food system, as well as those that inform solutions. This can include case studies, positive experiences of food service and kitchen staff implementing farm to school, etc. Submissions are due September 22. More details can be found here

Farm to school in the news
Poll Finds Most Back Healthy School Meals
A majority of Americans support providing schoolchildren with healthy meals that consist of more fruits and vegetables and fewer foods high in calories, according to a national poll recently released by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The poll also found that about 90 percent of Americans support more government spending on farm-to-school programs. (via New York Times)

Beefing Up School Lunch 
The latest addition to Oakland Unified School District’s (Calif.) school lunch menu is organic beef sourced from retired dairy cows. The verdict, according to one high school student: "The chili is on point." (via East Bay Express)

Farming programs hitting public schools
Farm and garden programs are becoming popular in Hawaii’s public schools. They’re sprouting up on 75 percent of school campuses across the state. In addition, Governor David Ige recently signed a bill establishing a Farm to School program in the state. The program means a menu makeover for the next school year. (via KITV

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. 

Growing farm to school in Mississippi

NFSN Staff Wednesday, August 19, 2015
By Sunny Young, Mississippi Farm to School Network and NFSN Mississippi State Co-Lead 


In April of 2014, Dorothy Grady-Scarborough and I met at the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Austin, Texas, to talk about a Mississippi Farm to School Network. Between her work with Mississippians Engaged in Greener Agriculture (MEGA) and relationships with farmers across the state, and my school food reform experience and work with Good Food for Oxford Schools, we felt a partnership would lead to bigger and better things than working alone. 

I'm proud to say that one year later, our partnership is thriving. We are working together as co-State Leads for the National Farm to School Network and, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, are making our state farm to school network dreams a reality through Seed Change, an initiative by the National Farm to School Network to rapidly scale up farm to school at the state level and strengthen partnerships for long-term sustainability. 

The intent of the Mississippi Farm to School Network is to build on all of the wonderful farm to school initiatives that have existed for years in Mississippi while increasing statewide efforts to connect practitioners and train new leaders. It's to learn from all the experience of programs and individuals around the state and strengthen partnerships to move forward together. It's to utilize our strengths to set new farm to school activities in motion and, with the support of our state and national farm to school networks, and evaluate our work so it is stronger each year. 

So what will the Mississippi Farm to School Network mean for Mississippi schools and farmers? We have outlined a number of goals and priorities for the upcoming three years of funding, including:
Developing the Network: The network will promote farm to school activities as well as bring together a diverse audience of individual stakeholders and organizations from across the state. Within three years, the state network hopes to engage more than 500 active members and an Advisory Board to help guide the future of farm to school in Mississippi.   

Request an Expert: A database of experts in farm to school related fields will be developed to provide dedicated support to schools facing questions or barriers. These experts will be deployed to assist schools in starting new activities or expanding existing programs. 

Outreach and Networking Events: From local mixers and cafeteria taste tests to the statewide Mississippi Farm to Cafeteria Conference, the Mississippi Farm to School Network will build awareness of and support for farm to school activities with parents, farmers, administrators and students across the state. Trainings and technical assistance will be provided to practitioners on the ground to help expand the number of farm to school sites in Mississippi. 

Website and Resources: A new Mississippi farm to school website will serve as an online portal for information and resources on farm to school in Mississippi. This will include new how-to guides, a statewide farm to school mapping project, promotional materials for students, event information and opportunities for schools to engage students and the community with local food. 

Be sure to sign up for our monthly Mississippi Farm to School Network e-newsletter to stay in the loop with all these new projects. 

Dorothy and I are incredibly grateful for this opportunity to help expand the practice of farm to school throughout the state. We are thrilled to work with partners who have been practicing farm to school since before it had a name. These existing and past projects are our inspiration for what can be, and we look forward to working together to grow. So cheers to farm to school! We look forward to growing together.

This week in farm to school: 8/18/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 18, 2015

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. Native Agriculture & Food Systems Scholarship Program
First Nations Development Institute believes that reclaiming control over local food systems is an important step toward ensuring the long-lasting health and economic well-being of Native people and communities. The Native Agriculture and Food Systems Scholarship Program encourages more Native American college students to enter agriculture-related fields by awarding five $1,000 scholarships annually to students majoring in agriculture and agriculture-related fields. The deadline to apply is September 30. Visit First Nation’s website for more information. 

Webinars & Events
1. Webinars: The Lunch Box, Chef Ann Foundation
Recipes and Menus 
Thursday, August 27, 2-3pm EST
The Lunch Box presents recipes and menu cycles with Amy Glodde, RD, MPH, menu planner and training supervisor with Oakland Unified School District and RD consultant.  Amy will join us and discuss recipe writing in the scratch-cooking environment; creating menu cycles that feature your favorite farm to school ingredients; navigating The Lunch Box recipe database and more. Register here

Kids Eat Real Food – Marketing and Lunchroom Education 
Thursday, September 24, 2-3pm EST
Join Curry Rosato, Farm to School and Events Coordinator and Chef Ann Cooper, Director of Boulder Valley School District, Boulder, CO to learn the techniques that have brought Boulder’s kids back to the lunch program and raised participation every year since 2009.  Learn marketing best practices and turn your students into “real food” aficionados. Register here

2. Urban Food Systems Symposium, June 22-25, 2016, Olathe, KS
Kansas State University is holding an Urban Food Systems Symposium on June 22-25, 2016 to bring together a national and international audience of academic and research-oriented professionals to share and gain knowledge on urban food systems and the role they play in global food security. This symposium includes knowledge on: urban agricultural production, local food systems distribution, urban farmer education, urban ag policy, planning and development, and food access and justice. Learn more here

3. NESAWG 2015 Conference, November 13-14, Saratoga Springs, NY
It Takes a Region Conference: Putting MOVE in the Movement
Civil rights, labor, women’s rights—the movements that transformed our world can give us insight on ways to accelerate food systems change.  What can we learn from leaders past and present? At this year’s Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group conference (Nov 13-14), learn and strategize with hundreds of attendees—from farmers to researchers to policymakers—as we work to build a movement and realize the change we want to see. Shirley Sherrod, a longtime civil rights activist and advocate for family farms and food justice, will deliver the keynote speech. Register before October 3 and get the Early Bird discount. Visit the conference website for more information. 

Research & Resources
1. Poll: Nine out of 10 Americans want to keep school meals healthy
new national survey commissioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation shows that people in the United States overwhelmingly support current efforts to keep school meals healthy. Among the key findings: 86 percent support today’s school nutrition standards, which are helping more than 31 million kids get their daily nutrition through healthy school meals and 88 percent support government-funded farm to school programs. See the results of the 2015 Food Poll here

2. New USDA local procurement guide available Just in time for the new school year, our revised guide, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, is now available and can help you decide how to buy local for your program. The guide covers procurement basics, defining local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. This revision incorporates information about micro-purchases, buying local foods for child care and summer meal programs and more real-world examples. Check out the new guide for sample solicitation language, detailed geographic preference examples and helpful resources. 

3. Study: School fresh fruit, vegetable program cuts childhood obesity rates
In a state with some of the highest childhood obesity rates in the nation, a new study shows that a program bringing fresh fruits and vegetables into Arkansas schools not only lowers obesity rates, it can also save hundreds of dollars per child each year to prevent obesity. Read more about the study here

Policy & Action
1. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015

Jobs & Opportunities 
1. Senior Food & Environment Outreach Coordinator, Union of Concerned Scientists
The Union of Concerned Scientists uses the power of knowledge to demonstrate the true costs of the current food and agriculture system and show how to achieve a healthier, more sustainable and science-based system. The Senior Outreach Coordinator’s critical focus is to conceive, plan, and implement outreach activities aimed at transforming our agricultural system into a more sustainable and equitable enterprise. On behalf of an 11-person team and under the supervision of the Campaign Manager, the Senior Outreach Coordinator carries out online activism, builds relationships with key constituencies, leads visibility efforts at professional society meetings, and coordinates with allied organizations. Learn more about the position here.

2. Food Systems Volunteer Field Specialist, South Dakota State University Extension  
South Dakota State University Extension is seeking a Food Systems Volunteer Field Specialist. They are looking for an individual to join them in growing their Healthy Food, Healthy Families, and Healthy Communities initiative by cultivating a more formal process for volunteer management to increase the capacity of our organization’s food systems efforts. This position will be located in Sioux Falls, SD, but will coordinate state-wide volunteer outreach activities. Learn more about the position here

Farm to school in the news
More Americans support farm-to-school programs, report says
Nearly nine out of 10 people want to see an increase in farm-to-school food programming in the U.S., according to national survey results released Tuesday. The poll — commissioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation — asked 1,200 adults across the country for their opinions on school nutrition standards and healthy food educational programs. (via USA Today)

Accessible garden a hit with special needs students
For students with special needs, planting, tending and harvesting in the garden can be difficult. But at Haverhill High School (Mass.), handicap-accessible garden beds & dedicated teachers are helping students earn their green thumbs and enjoy the fruits of their labor. (via The Haverhill Gazette)

Building A Successful Farm To School Movement: One Person, One Plot, One Policy At A Time
Chaffee County, Colorado is building a successful farm to school programs with supportive school district administration, a strong school wellness policy, a food service director passionate about incorporating locally grown foods into school meals, and buy-in from local residents, businesses, and nonprofits. (via Health Affairs Blog)

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. 


New state laws boost farm to school in Louisiana

NFSN Staff Friday, August 14, 2015
On August 1, 2015, two Louisiana bills became laws that support and strengthen farm to school efforts across the state. We interviewed our Louisiana State Lead, Katie Mularz, to learn how these policies will help bring Louisiana kids fresh, local food, and why grassroots advocacy is important for helping farm to school grow. 

Tell us about these bills, and how they relate to farm to school in Louisiana. 
The first is Senate Bill 184 – the “Small Purchase Threshold” bill. Up until now, any food purchase a school made larger than $30,000 was subject to a complicated bidding process, known as a “formal bid.” This made it difficult for schools to get seasonal and local foods because the process is often challenging for smaller-scale, local farmers. The passage of SB 184 increased the small purchase threshold to meet the federal standard of $150,000, enabling schools to work more closely with small-scale farmers to serve local food to Louisiana children. 
The second is House Bill 761 – the “Urban Ag Incentive Zone” bill. This bill creates urban agriculture incentive areas and reduces taxes on land used for urban farming. It greatly reduces expenses associated with acquiring urban agricultural land, and in turn encourages Louisianans to grow more local food. This is great for schools because it means there will be even more local producers to buy from. 

What did farm to school policy in Louisiana look like before the passage of these bills?
Although these are the first state laws supporting farm to school efforts, in 2014 the Louisiana legislature unanimously passed a resolution to convene an interagency task force to study how best to implement farm to school in Louisiana. It was an important accomplishment and first step in putting farm to school on the map, and it gave us the momentum to further drive farm to school policy in our state.

What role did partnerships play in passing these bills?
Senator Francis Thompson was a crucial champion of SB 184, the Small Purchase Threshold bill. He is committed to Louisiana schools, and as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he is committed to supporting farmers. For him, working on farm to school was a natural fit. Senator Thompson's office worked to stay informed about local farm to school activities, and they shared that work with his constituents and fellow Senators. 

We also had a lot of allies and partners from organizations across the state, including more than 130 schools and organizations that are part of our Louisiana Farm to School Alliance. We had monthly calls to update our allies on the progress of the bills, and they helped spread our message that farm to school is a win for kids and farmers through a sign-on letter. I really think these relationships are what made the bills successful. 

Why is state-level policy important for farm to school? 
The farm to school movement is aching to grow – on the school end and on the farmer end. Grassroots advocacy is an opportunity for the public to express its desire to see programs like farm to school become institutionalized in state policy. Our ability to pull together and help these bills pass has given our state movement energy, momentum and a stronger voice for helping move this work forward to benefit kids, farmers and communities. 

What’s next for farm to school in Louisiana? 
We’re excited to ride this wave of momentum to continue building farm to school and our Louisiana Farm to School Alliance. We had 49 applications for the National Farm to School Network Seed Change mini grants, and although we could only fund 32, it’s encouraging to know that people want more farm to school programming in our state. We’re looking forward to building our capacity and seeing these two new laws bring more local food to students across Louisiana. 



This week in farm to school: 8/11/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 11, 2015

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. "It's All About the Fruits and Veggies" Garden Grant

Join Jamba Juice and KidsGardening.org as they celebrate five years of garden grants. The Fall 2015 Jamba Juice "It's All About the Fruits and Veggies" Garden Grant is an award designed to support schools, community organizations, and nonprofits in charitable and educational garden projects that enhance the quality of life in their communities. The grant program is open to schools, community organizations, and non-profit programs in the United States gardening with at least 15 children between the ages of 3 and 18. Applications are due by October 2, 2015. Learn more about the grant program and apply here

2. Multiple grants available to educators, The NEA Foundation
The National Education Association (NEA) Foundation supports new ideas and practices to strengthen teaching and learning. Their goal is to fund and share successful strategies to educate and prepare students for bright and rewarding futures. Over the last 10 years, the NEA Foundation has awarded more than $7.1 million to fund nearly 4,500 grants to public school educators to enhance teaching and learning. There are multiple grant opportunities available to all eligible educational professionals. Visit the NEA Foundation website to learn more

3. Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children's Tylenol National Child Care Teacher Awards
Recognizing the need to raise the status of child care teachers and the need for quality child care, the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation created the Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children's Tylenol National Child Care Teacher Awards. Award recipients receive $1,000 - $500 for the teacher's personal use and $500 to implement a project. Learn more about the award and application process here.   
 
Webinars & Events
1. Nutrition Policy for Food Banks and Food Pantries: Free Online Course
The Nutrition Policy Institute is offering “Developing a food bank nutrition policy: A guide to procure healthful foods” as a free, online course. It will include guides, tips, example policy language, learning activities and videos to support your work and help food banks become model food provider organizations by distributing healthful foods to low-income populations in their communities. The course starts on September 14, 2015 and runs for 6 weeks. Sign up for the course here.

2. Webinar: National Collaborative for Health Equity, August 26, 2pm ET
The Place Matters Approach to Promoting Racial Equity 
This webinar will highlight the recently published report “Blueprints to Action:  Community Strategies to End Racism and Promote Racial Healing”,  a collaborative effort of the PLACE MATTERS national learning community.  PLACE MATTERS is a national initiative of the National Collaborative for Health Equity designed to build the capacity of leaders and communities around the country to identify and address the social, economic, and environmental factors that shape health and life opportunities. Learn more about the webinar and register here

3. Earn Continuing Education Units for USDA webinars
Did you know that USDA Foods webinars are eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for the new Professional Standards for school nutrition professionals? Visit the Professional Standards site to download the Training Tracking Tool or view the lists of Learning Topics and Learning Objectives. Archived USDA Foods webinars are available in the Food Distribution playlist on the USDA Food and Nutrition Service YouTube channel

Research & Resources
1. "Food for Thought, Food for Life" documentary available
Food for Thought, Food for Life, a new documentary directed by Susan Rockefeller, is an informative call-to-action film created to help us think differently about what we eat, and to make changes that will positively impact our health, environment and communities. This 20 minute film is available for free to farmers, nonprofits, educators, businesses and individuals. Visit the film’s website to learn about hosting a screening in your community.

Policy & Action
1. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015

2. Stakeholder Input Sought for Promise Zones Third Round Application Process
Public comments are now being accepted on the proposed selection process, criteria, guides and submissions for the third and final round of the federal Promise Zone Initiative led by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the USDA. This is an opportunity for stakeholders to provide feedback and suggestions on how federal agencies can better work in partnership with local leaders in high-poverty communities to leverage private investments that create jobs, increase economic activity, improve affordable housing, increase educational opportunities, and reduce violent crime. Comments may be emailed to PromiseZones@hud.gov with ‘‘Third Round Promise Zones selection’’ in the subject line. The deadline for comments is September 28, 2015. 

Farm to school in the news
Healthy Eaters, Strong Minds: What School Gardens Teach Kids
School is still out for the summer, but at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C., students are hard at work — outdoors. Read what lessons students are learning and taking home with them through summer school gardening programs. (via NPR: The Salt)

Reversing the food desert, with local produce
Lorenzo R. Smith Elementary School in Illinois will become the nation's first food hub selling locally-grown food to distributors and providing the school with both free and low-cost produce for school lunches. (via The Daily Journal)

Students seeing the 'fruits' of their labor in farm program
Students at Floyd County High School in Virginia have spent their summer building infrastructure - from a shade house for apple trees they had grafted. to installing an irrigation system - for their school’s farm program. FCHS Principal Dr. Scott Watson referred to the program as a “prime example of what solid education is.” (via SWVA Today)

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. 


Fertile ground for farm to preschool

NFSN Staff Thursday, August 06, 2015

By Lacy Stephens, Farm to Preschool Associate

Lacy Stephens is the National Farm to School Network’s new Farm to Preschool Associate. Joining the team from Bozeman, Mont., Lacy will help us continue to elevate preschool and early child care needs as a permanent and essential component of the wider farm to school movement. 

If you’ve ever watched a young child bite into a sun-ripened strawberry or a toddler waddle through a pumpkin patch, then you know farm to preschool activities are a natural fit for zero to five-year-olds. Thankfully, the success of farm to school programs in K-12 schools across the nation has set the stage for expansion of the movement to early childhood audiences. While many states have some form of farm to preschool, there is still immense opportunity to reach more children with these impactful initiatives. Here are a few reasons why farm to preschool is a great fit for our littlest eaters: 

Promotes lifelong healthy eating 
In the years before kindergarten, children develop taste preferences and eating habits that will impact their health for a lifetime. Repeated exposure to healthy foods through taste testing, seasonal foods at lunchtime, and garden nibbles encourages adventurous eating and a diverse diet. Variety is vital to ensuring children get the wide-range of nutrients their growing bodies need, and promotes a lifelong habit of healthy food choices. 

Capitalizes on curiosity 
Farm to preschool activities integrate seamlessly with the learning styles of young children. Gardening capitalizes on children’s natural curiosity and encourages them to engage all of their senses. Children gain knowledge about the natural environment and a connection to where their food comes from by exploring in garden beds. And, as children grow older and prepare for kindergarten, the garden is a perfect place to master important skills like counting, identifying colors and practicing the alphabet. 

Benefits beyond the child
The benefits of farm to preschool activities in early care and education settings reach far beyond the child. A child’s enthusiasm for harvesting fresh vegetables and tasting new foods can be a motivating factor for parents to make changes in the foods they serve to their families. Many farm to preschool programs even offer special farm to table family events or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships for families to ensure the health and education benefits of farm to preschool are continued at home. Preschool programs have the potential to develop strong connections to small local farmers, as well. Class field trips, using produce in meals and snacks and promoting the farmer’s goods to families creates new marketing opportunities for growers. Farm to preschool is truly a win for kids, families, farmers and communities. 

Now is the time to continue growing farm to preschool and capitalize on the momentum of the movement. This year, the role of farm to preschool in promoting child health has been at the forefront of child nutrition policy. In March, the USDA released a memorandum highlighting the use of local foods in Child and Adult Care Food Program. Additional support for farm to preschool has also been asked for in the Farm to School Act of 2015. If the policy ideas and expanded funding proposed in this bill are included in the final reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, all early care and education programs will benefit from access to the USDA Farm to School Grant program. 

State level farm to preschool policy has also been expanding. In Washington, D.C., the passage of the D.C. Healthy Tots Act in 2014 set an important precedent for farm to preschool legislation. This comprehensive bill has a strong emphasis on farm to preschool activities, including all three core elements of farm to school: local procurement, gardens and education. Now is the time to encourage more states and communities to adopt similar polices that will create greater access to farm to preschool for all young learners. 

Many farm to preschool leaders have spent years developing valuable resources and exemplary programs. Moving forward, our challenge is to reach more early care educators with the farm to preschool message and ensure that all programs – from the smallest home care providers to the largest Head Start centers – have the opportunity to be a part of this movement. The more children we reach with farm to preschool, the healthier our next generation will be. 

Learn more about farm to preschool here and access farm to preschool tips and tools in our resource library by searching under the Preschool / Early Care setting. 


This week in farm to school: 8/4/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 04, 2015

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. Target Accepting Applications for K-12 Field Trip Grants Program
Target Corporation is accepting applications from education professionals for the Target Field Trip Grants program, an annual program designed to expose K-12 students in the United States to museums, historical sites, and cultural organizations. More than 3,600 grants of up to $700 each will be awarded in January 2015. Applications will be accepted from August 1, 2015, to September 30, 2015. Visit the Target website for complete program guidelines and access to the application form.

Research & Resources
1. New study shows healthier lunches in secondary schools
Last week, Bridging the Gap published a study showing that lunches in U.S. middle and high schools have been getting healthier in recent years. In particular, significantly more students were in schools with healthy lunches the first year of the national standards than were just two years earlier. The study also found that, prior to the national standards, students in predominantly white schools and large schools were far more likely than those in more diverse and small schools to have access to healthier lunches, but that after the first year of the national standards many of those differences were no longer significant. Read the study abstract here

Policy & Action
1. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015

2. Show Your Support for the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act of 2015 
Early this year, Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) introduced the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act to expand and strengthen the Child and Adult Care Food Program so even more children have access to nutritious meals. That means less hunger, less obesity, and better eating habits. Individuals can encourage your Senators to cosponsor this bill here.

Jobs & Opportunities
1. Network Coordinator, Pioneer Valley Grows, Massachusetts 
Pioneer Valley Grows is a collaborative network dedicated to enhancing the ecological and economic sustainability and vitality of the Pioneer Valley, Mass. food system. The Network Coordinator is responsible for strengthening the PVGrows network, including facilitating Steering Committee activities, managing membership outreach and networking, fundraising, collaboration with the PVGrows Investment Fund, and planning the annual Forum or other networking and educational events.  The Network Coordinator position is a part-time consultant under contract with CISA, PVGrows’ host organization. Find more information and the full job description here

2. Organic Policy Coordinator, The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association 
The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is hiring an Organic Policy Coordinator. The Organic Policy Coordinator will research and advocate for organic integrity and spearhead efforts to promote the interests of family-scale organic farmers with national and state regulators. The Organic Policy Coordinator will identify and implement strategies and tactics to prevent dilution of the organic standards and ensure that consumers expectations of the standard environmental stewardship, family-scale farming, fair labor practices, high animal welfare standards, zero tolerance for GMOs, freedom from chemical residues, and wholesomeness are met. Learn more about the position here

3. Research & Education Director, The Farmers Market Coalition
The Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) is seeking a detail-oriented and creative professional to direct the research and education initiatives for a non-profit devoted to strengthening farmers markets nationwide. With a small staff, FMC operates a ‘virtual office,’ with a high value on independence and initiative. Reporting to and in partnership with the Executive Director (ED), the Research & Education Director will spearhead a variety of initiatives seeking to improve stakeholder understanding of the characteristics of farmers markets in the United States, and the roles they play in public health, local economies, farm viability, and community development. Learn more about the position here

Farm to school in the news
Back to school also means back to the garden
Some teachers are preparing more than their classrooms for a new year of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. They’re also are prepping for gardening. Read what five teachers say they’re committed to school gardens. (via Arizona Daily Star)

Bringing free, farm-fresh food to kids during the summer
Green Mountain Farm to School runs a food truck for ten weeks in the summer to bring good, free fresh food to kids. About 60% of the food budget of the program goes to local food provided by twelve Vermont farms and food producers. (via WCAX-TV)

School food service staff go to boot camp
“We try to buy as much local as we can. It is a good way to promote fruits and vegetables to your students. It is a really good opportunity to talk with students about how this came from Clayton Farms or this came from Harris Farms. We are not about bringing it out of the box anymore. We are about color and freshness.” (via Statesman Journal)

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. 

Making school gardens accessible

NFSN Staff Wednesday, July 29, 2015

By Anna Mullen, Digital Media Associate

School gardens are one of the three core elements of farm to school programs, and the benefits of these green spaces are endless. Gardens create positive learning environments, increase children’s willingness to try new fruits and vegetables, and serve as a valuable tool for engaging students in a number of academic subjects.  

Moreover, school gardens can be engaging learning spaces for all students. They function as interdisciplinary classrooms that welcome every type of learner, regardless of age or ability. Unlike traditional classrooms, school gardens help level the playing field for students with physical disabilities, learning and behavior challenges, and other special classroom needs by empowering everyone to contribute to the process of growing food from seed to harvest. 

But accessibility in the garden doesn’t only mean wider paths and raised beds. Designing your school garden as a space of exploration and learning for all students means paying attention to the details. Whether your school garden is well established or just in the planning phase, there are easy ways to make sure these green growing spaces are learning places for every student.  

We recently spotted this list of tips for creating accessible school gardens and garden activities on the National Gardening Association’s resource website, KidsGardening.org. Here are three of our favorite ideas that can be implemented at any stage of your school garden’s growth: 

  • Consider all five senses
    Tasty garden treats and visual beauty are top factors when picking out plants for any garden. But more of our senses can be engaged! Activate students’ sense of smell by planting edible flowers and highly fragrant herbs. Want students to experience the garden through touch? Incorporate a variety of plant textures – smooth, hairy, delicate, woody. And, don’t forget sounds! Add a wind chime, water feature or feeder to attract singing birds. 
  • Adapt garden tools
    Be intentional in making a variety of garden tools available for all body types and ability levels so that every student can contribute and learn in your school’s garden. Have tools of different lengths and sizes, of varying weights, and kneeling pads stocked in your shed. KidsGardening.org recommends having Velcro straps handy to secure tools to students’ arms, which can help distribute the weight and steady tools in their hands. 
  • Go vertical 
    For some students, reaching up may be easier than stretching out. There are lots of designs for vertical gardens that make the most of your available square footage on the ground and may be easier for some students to reach than traditional garden beds. Try vertical trellises for vining plants like cucumbers and squash, or plant a wall of leafy greens out of discarded wooden pallets. 

To learn more about starting and maintaining school gardens or incorporating school gardens into the classroom with lesson plans, check out the great resources available from our partners at SlowFood USA  and The Edible Schoolyard Project.

Are there ways you’ve made your school garden an accessible learning space for all? We’d love to hear about it! Share your ideas with us via our story form, or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook to let us know how your school garden is growing.  


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