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National Farm to School Network


Join Our team: We're hiring a finance and operations director

NFSN Staff Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The National Farm to School Network is now accepting applications for a full time finance and operations director. The position description may be found below or downloaded as a PDF here.  Please share this listing with anyone you think is interested and qualified. The deadline to apply is February 25, 2015.

As this is a remote position, candidates will be considered from any location within the United States.  

All inquiries related to this job announcement should be directed to this email address

Finance and Operations Director 

About the National Farm to School Network: The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education (including school gardens) into schools and preschools. Farm to school (F2S) empowers children and families to make informed food choices, while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. NFSN provides vision, leadership and support at the state, regional and national levels to connect and expand the farm to school movement. Our network includes national staff, eight regional leads, 51 state leads, an advisory board and thousands of farm to school supporters. For more information, explore our website. NFSN is a project of Tides Center, the nation’s largest fiscal sponsor. Tides Center is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that works with individuals, groups and funders to implement and accelerate positive social change in the nonprofit sector. For more information, please visit

Position Description

The finance and operations director will direct all organizational activities related to finance, budgeting, human resources and general operations. The finance and operations director
will be part of the organizational leadership team, serving as a strategic thought partner and reporting directly to the executive director (ED).  Projected start date: April 1, 2015



Financial Management:

Provide financial management and budgeting leadership for the organization, ensuring that resource allocation is in line with budget and directed appropriately to all departments. Specifically, provide oversight for the following processes:
  • Budgeting: Oversee and lead the annual budgeting and planning process, in conjunction with ED; administer and review all financial plans and budgets; monitor progress and changes and keep leadership team (department directors, ED) and advisory board abreast of organization’s financial status. Manage organizational cash flow and forecasting.
  • Bookkeeping: Review monthly financial reports provided by Tides Center, checking them for accuracy, identifying and requesting any re-classifications of expenditures or revenue needed promptly. Review and allocate monthly salary allocations in Salesforce to reflect available funding and workload.
  • Fundraising: Work with development director to better operationalize receipt of grant awards, acknowledgement letters, schedule regular updates and grant reporting for funders. Lead development of grant project budgets as needed.
  • Contract management: In conjunction with Tides Center, implement a robust contracts management and system, ensuring timely and appropriate development and monitoring all NFSN contracts.
  • Accounting: Work with Tides Center and manage NFSN administrative staff to ensure efficient and timely processing of invoices, reimbursement requests, credit card payments, creation of program and funding IDs, and reclassification requests as needed.
  • Develop and implement appropriate fiscal and cost-containment policies, procedures and controls.
  • Identify and communicate critical financial matters to ED and the leadership team in a timely manner and provide guidance on appropriate follow-up actions needed.

General Operations:

  • Lead processes to ensure overall organizational efficiency and success in the following areas: Communications systems and avenues both internal (within staff and core partners) and external (with members, donors, partners). This includes use of Dropbox, Basecamp, Google Docs and other communications platforms.
  • Technology Infrastructure: Inventory existing infrastructure and plan for future needs, develop processes for evaluating, purchasing and maintaining IT hardware, software for NFSN.
  • Database Systems: Review existing database systems and plan for future needs.
  • Meetings: Manage weekly and quarterly staff meetings and board meetings (in consultation with ED and other department directors). Ensure that meetings are run efficiently with adequate preparation and necessary follow-ups.
  • Organizational Calendar: Review and maintain the organizational calendar to track and plan for activities.
  • Travel: Create a review, approval and monitoring system for travel requests by staff.
  • Team Building: Plan for team building and collaborative working opportunities for all staff and advisory board.
  • Operations Manual: Review and lead the update of organizational operations manual on a regular basis.
  • Membership: Review and provide strategic guidance relative to NFSN membership in other organizations/coalitions and maintain a structure for proposing and approving new opportunities.
  • Stage-Gate Process: Work with ED, program staff and strategic planning committee of the Advisory Board to develop processes for reviewing new opportunities.
  • Events: Direct logistics contractors and staff in planning and implementation of the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, and other NFSN events as needed.
  • Staff management: Supervise the operations associate, and other staff positions or interns in the Finance & Operations Department
  • Contract Management: Supervise the contractors related to conference and event management, and evaluation.
  • Communicate any critical operational issues to the ED and leadership team in a timely manner, and provide guidance on appropriate follow up actions needed.

Human Resources:

In consultation with the Tides Center staff, lead the personnel planning and procedures to meet the strategic needs of NFSN. Specifically:
  • Oversee the development and implementation of procedures and policies for recruiting, hiring, performance management, on-boarding, exit, professional development, staff management and other key human resource related functions.
  • Process all human resource related actions through Salesforce.
  • Lead annual performance review process for all staff.
  • Develop and oversee compensation guidelines, recommend annual compensation adjustments based on comparable data.
  • Update and inform staff of relevant information related to personnel policies and benefit policies, and assist them as needed.
  • Inform staff of any actions needed for payroll and annual benefit elections through Tides Center.
  • Oversee and approve vacation and time-off requests through Tides Center portal.
  • Communicate any critical personnel-related issues to the ED and/or Leadership Team (as appropriate) in a timely manner, and provide guidance on appropriate follow up actions needed.

Travel Requirements: As needed for conducting the duties of the position and representing NFSN

Required Qualifications:

  • Bachelors degree in accounting, business or non-profit management / administration; advanced degree preferred
  • A minimum of 7-10 years experience in finance, non-profit management, with at least 5 years in a senior management position
  • Experience in financial and accounting systems
  • Experience in human resource development and performance management

Desired Qualifications:

  • Self-motivated, demonstrating leadership skills
  • Sound judgment and critical thinking
  • Collaborative nature, skilled at developing good working relationships with all staff, partners and contractors
  • Ability to operate in a fast-paced environment, handling multiple tasks
  • Exceptional trouble-shooting and problem-solving skills, ability to resolve issues proactively and creatively
  • Excellent time management and organizational skills
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Passion and interest in NFSN’s mission and activities

Compensation and Benefits

Salary is commensurate with experience. NFSN/Tides Center offers a generous and comprehensive benefits package. 

Physical Demands

This position requires approximately 8 hours per day either sitting at a desk (responding to emails, developing materials, or being on the phone) or attending meetings outside of the office. This position requires some travel to conferences and events to represent NFSN and to attend organizational staff meetings and annual meeting.

Work Environment

NFSN does not have a central office location. This position will be working from a remote office / home office set up. While performing the responsibilities of the job, these work environment characteristics are representative of the environment the employee will encounter: a basic office environment, visits to schools or farms, conference centers or hotels where events are being held.

Application Instructions:

Candidates who meet the above-stated qualifications will be considered. In addition to a resume, your application materials must include a cover letter and three references. Please submit your application to to this email address with the subject line “Finance and Operations Director."  No phone calls please. Deadline for applications: February 25, 2015.  

National Farm to School Network, a project of Tides Center, is an “at-will” and equal opportunity employer. Applicants and employees shall not be discriminated against because of race, religion, sex, national origin, ethnicity, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender (including pregnancy and gender expression) identity, color, marital status, veteran status, medical condition, or any other classification protected by federal, state, or local law or ordinance. 

Reasonable accommodation will be made so that qualified disabled applicants may participate in the application process. Please advise in writing of special needs at the time of application. 


This week in farm to school: 1/27/15

NFSN Staff Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I'm happy to introduce a new weekly feature on our blog, "This week in farm to school." Every week, we will 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. 

Funding & Grants

1. New Bag the Junk Contest from National Education Association’s Health Information Network 
Calling all educators, food service and other support professionals, administrators, students, and families—NEA's Health Information Network wants to hear your Smart Snacks stories! Share your successes and challenges with healthy school foods from vending machines, cafeteria à la carte lines, school stores, and fundraisers.  Enter here for a chance at $300 and a professional video made about your school for national coverage.  Good luck and don't forget to pass on this opportunity to colleagues and students! Ask any contest questions.

Webinars & Events

1. 10th Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference, February 7-8
Minority and immigrant farmers are invited to participate in the 10th Annual Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference (IMFC).  The conference will be held February 7-8 at the University of Minnesota Continuing Education and Conference Center located at 1890 Buford Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota.The IMCF focuses on the special needs and interests of immigrant and minority farmers and addresses their needs by bringing together farmers, farm advocates, educators, professionals, experts, and agency officials to one conference to exchange knowledge, network, and support. 

The conference is free to farmers.  The cost for other interested people is $60 for one day and $100 for both days.  Language interpretation is available in Spanish, Hmong, Karen, Bhutanese, and Somali. Interested in attending?  Click HERE to register today!

2. Farm to Institution Summit, April 7-9 
The Farm to Institution Summit is a first-year conference that will bring together leaders from the Northeast who are working to get more local and regional food into schools, colleges, health care and other institutions. Please join us -- and up to 800 other farm to institution advocates -- for three exciting days of learning, sharing, exploring and connecting. The Farm to Institution Summit will be held at UMass Amherst in Amherst, Massachusetts on April 7-9, 2015. Learn more at


1. Farm to Preschool Opportunity at MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) is accepting applications for an Academic Specialist to support outreach and research efforts promoting good food access and awareness in childhood development and education environments. The position will support existing CRFS initiatives and help to develop additional programming capacity in this arena. For the full position description and to learn more about CRFS, visit Applications will be accepted until February 20, 2015 or until a suitable candidate is identified. 

Farm to school in the news

Tok embraces Farm-to-School with year-round greenhouse  
Gateway Greenhouse, built in 2013, is entering its first full year of growing. The goal: provide fresh vegetables to the Alaska Gateway School District, which serves about 375 students. Students get to take part, learn about cultivation and experience the joy of eating fruit and vegetables picked on the spot. (via News Miner)

Farm-to-school movement reaches the Commonwealth  
Last week, 375 interested parties met to applaud farm to school participation in local school — and discuss the challenges that still remain — at the 2015 Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference, held at the College of the Holy Cross here. The tenor of the sold-out gathering was both celebratory (“Look how far we’ve come!”) and hortatory (“Look how far we still have to go”). (via Boston Globe)

Would Kids Eat More Veggies If They Had Recess Before Lunch?  
A study just published in Preventative Medicine suggests it does. Researchers found that students who have recess before lunch tend to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables than kids who eat lunch first. (via NPR News)

Notes From the Garden: Raising the Next Generation of Gardeners  
In terms of health and longevity in this day of fast food and prepared junk food, shouldn’t we be teaching our children good eating habits as well as math? Henry Homeyer recently visited a school where all the kids love veggies and fruits — food grown right at the school. (via Valley News)

Share your story: 5 tips for building better media relationships

Stacey Malstrom Wednesday, January 14, 2015

By Stacey Malstrom, PR & Outreach Manager

Today I’m giving a presentation at the 24th annual conference of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) about how to grow awareness for your farm to school program through targeted media relations. Incredible farm to school work is happening all across the country. School lunch programs are sourcing from family farms, students are working in school gardens and asking their parents to make kale salad at home, and local economies are benefiting. But does your broader community know what’s happening before the bell and beyond the classroom? 

Students in Louisiana enjoy strawberries from their garden. When you pitch to the media, make sure they know the story will have engaging visual elements, like kids in a garden. 

At its core, good media relations is about RELATIONSHIPS. Editorial staffs are shrinking, and journalists are being asked to take on more responsibilities. Their time and attention is limited; now more than ever, media need savvy sources that they can depend on. Follow these five tips to start building better media relationships and engage a wider audience in your work:

  • Stop blasting your entire media list: The quickest way to end up in someone’s junk folder is to send information that is not relevant to them or their audience. For example, a writer who only covers politics at the state capitol should not receive an event announcement for a farm field trip unless there is a policymaker attending. Narrow your media list to those contacts that you genuinely think will be interested in covering this piece of news, based on their outlet, section or personal interests. 
  • Make a connection: Media are people too, and a little attention goes a long way. Read their work, research their recent articles and follow them on twitter. Then shape your pitch for each individual. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it will be worth it when you land that feature on the front page of your regional newspaper. 
  • Be there when they need you: You may not always hear back in response to your story ideas. Don’t get discouraged and be patient—remember how busy they are? But when they’re on deadline, responding quickly and being a resource on more than just your organization is a great way to establish trust. And before you know it, they’ll start responding to your emails and ideas more often. 
  • Send good story ideas: Not every event, report or new resource produced by your organization is media-worthy. Think about what is interesting to their readers and be selective about what you pitch. Some news is better suited for your own newsletter or social media channels. At the end of the day, it’s still the NEWs, and timely, relevant and unique stories always win.
  • Put it in context: Make it easy for media to see the story and how it connects to the bigger picture or their audience. Localize national news or trends by connecting it to your community and your work. Tell them why your program is different than others, what makes the story new now, and who else is working on similar issues. 

Join us for our next Lunch Bites webinar on Feb. 10, at 1 p.m. EST to learn more about storytelling best practices and media relations. And download the Media Tip Sheet from my SSAWG presentation here. 

Farm to school in Arizona: A conversation with Linda Rider

NFSN Staff Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Our Arizona State Lead, Cindy Gentry, recently sent us this great Q&A between Libby Boudreau, a community dietitian at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, and Linda Rider, director of nutrition services for the Tempe Elementary School District in Arizona. Thanks to Libby for conducting the interview, to Cindy for sending it our way and to Linda for her great farm to school work! 

How long have you been doing farm to school?
I feel that I dabble in it. I first did farm to school about five years ago when we received a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, and the Arizona Department of Education gave us a big list of farmers.

What was the first item that you purchased locally?
Since 2009 we’ve purchased local apples every fall–I only want them when they’re being harvested. We expanded to include carrots from Rousseau Farms in 2011. I really want our local produce to come as much as possible from Maricopa County. Part of my initiative is to have a smaller carbon footprint and get food directly from the farms to the district. That means working with smaller farmers to support the local economy.

What other items have you been able to purchase from local farmers?
Last year I was able to bring in specialty lettuce from Duncan Family Farms through the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. It was a pilot project, and the farm was identified through Stern Produce [a local distributor]. It was only four days from harvest to door, and the lettuce was washed and chopped in between. We used it in entrée salads and side salads from November until mid-April.

What is your kitchen setup? Do you have a central processing kitchen or does each school receive and process its own deliveries?
We have a central facility and we send produce out to schools, but most of what we receive is already prepped. We don’t really have to chop and clean, but we could. As I start pulling in smaller farmers, they may not be able to get things processed. That system is still being implemented.

Did your costs increase when you implemented your farm to school program?
They stayed pretty balanced. The cost for carrots was break-even. Apples are a little more costly due to the distribution. I was getting them directly from a farmer at first, and at that time, the cost was equitable. That farmer can no longer deliver directly to the school, so they now come from a distributor called Patagonia Orchards. Because of that, the apples are a little more expensive, but they’re also organic.

What are the biggest challenges of your farm to school program?
Distribution and procurement. A distributor won’t pick up apples from a farm just for me; it doesn’t fit their model. It’s about finding out who can help with that distribution. You have to be creative to get it to come to you, unless it comes through the Department of Defense. Some of the larger distributors are highlighting local products now, and that can be a viable way to help access local farmers.

Another challenge is knowing who is out there, who the smaller farmers are. And then you have to think about food safety. Are they GHP/GAP certified, or have they had another type of third-party audit?

Finally, volume is a challenge. Our organic apples are not the only apples we serve because we don’t get enough to cover all of our needs. They’re mixed in with other apples.

What resources were useful to you as you developed your farm to school program?
There are some good procurement guides that have been very helpful. One, from USDA, is called Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs. Another one, by School Food FOCUS, is called Geographic Preference: A primer on purchasing fresh, local food for schools

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about farm to school programs?
That nobody wants local produce. I hear a lot of school nutrition directors talking about local, but when I call my distributor, they tell me I’m the only person asking for it. I don’t believe that. If you look at what your distributor offers and ask them about local products, there will be a shift. Schools have to tell their distributors that they are looking for local and what local means to them.

What benefits do you see from your farm to school program?
Bringing in local produce is a way to maintain nutrient density and freshness, and that’s why I like it really local – within the county. It’s just so fresh. It’s also exciting to market to the school community and help them be aware of our efforts. I know our families appreciate local, so I’m always finding ways to make them aware of what we do. It’s a customer service issue. And if we can get the teachers involved, then they get the kids excited. That’s the best way to get kids involved. Also, supporting the local economy is important. 

Tell us about your very favorite farm to school moment.
I love seeing all of the apple varieties. We’re getting Pink Lady apples in today, and they’re the perfect size for schools. We just had Fuji apples. They’re always juicy and fresh – just great apples. And they’re pretty! I think people think that if you buy organic or local, the produce is going to be ugly, but it’s not.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: Farm to school policy in 2014 and 2015

NFSN Staff Wednesday, December 17, 2014

By Helen Dombalis, NFSN Policy and Strategic Partnerships Director

As the national policy leaders for the farm to school movement, policy is at the core of what we do as a network. As we near the end of 2014, we want to celebrate this year’s many farm to school policy successes and set the stage for upcoming opportunities in 2015. 

Federal policy success in 2014

  • The Farm Bill (called the Agricultural Act of 2014) was signed into law in February and included a pilot project for procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables. NFSN submitted comments to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) weighing in on implementation of the program, and earlier this month the eight selected pilot states were announced.
  • Building on our work in 2013, NFSN completed a series of nearly two-dozen Child Nutrition Reauthorization listening sessions, which informed our CNR 2015 goals. NFSN and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering on these farm to school priorities next year.
  • USDA announced the third round of annual USDA Farm to School Grant recipients. The grant program was a major policy victory for NFSN in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Demand for the grant program continues to outweigh available funding by nearly five times, demonstrating the high degree of relevance and importance of this grant program across the nation.
  • Other federal programs continue to support farm to school initiatives, including the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, and the Value-Added Producer Grant program. These programs aren’t new, but they are each having an increasing impact on the success of farm to school. 
  • NFSN and many core partners submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration about their implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. We weighed in to voice concerns that the proposed rules, as written, could hinder local and regional food innovations or limit opportunities for family farmers to launch and grow their businesses. 

New Jersey's Acting Governor, Kim Guadagno, signed five farm to school bills into law at a ceremony at Terhune Orchards in central Jersey on August 25th, 2014. 

State policy success in 2014

  • NFSN released a state farm to school legislative report for the first time since 2011. As of 2013, 38 states and DC have legislation on the books that support farm to school/preschool.  
  • Innovative new state legislation supporting farm to school was passed in 2014. Historic farm to school legislation passed in New Jersey, and the District of Columbia passed landmark farm to preschool legislation with its Healthy Tots Act.

Looking at the year ahead 

In 2015, NFSN will continue to advocate for federal policies that support farm to school across the country. We will also continue to track the exciting state policy efforts taking shape. 

  • The Child Nutrition Act is set to expire at the end of September, making 2015 an important year for farm to school stakeholders to weigh in and participate. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization only occurs once every five years. NFSN will need everyone to voice support for our efforts to improve and advance the USDA Farm to School Grant program
  • In February, NFSN will release the next report tracking state level policy. The new report will feature all laws passed this year as well as case studies that dig in to strategies employed for success. We also know that several states are preparing for their 2015 legislative cycles in order to move farm to school forward, and we’ll be tracking their progress and supporting them as needed.

2014 was a successful year for farm to school policy efforts at the state and federal levels. As we look ahead to 2015, we are eager to work with all of you to make even greater policy gains for our nation’s children, farmers and communities. We are truly growing stronger together.

Gifts that give back to the National Farm to School Network

NFSN Staff Monday, December 15, 2014

By Chelsey Simpson, Communications Manager

Making a donation in someone’s name is always a kind and doubly-generous idea, but if you are dying to use your expert wrapping-paper skills, there are ways to give back without giving up on your shopping list. Here are a few gift ideas that support the National Farm to School Network: 

National Farm to School Network shop

Our own shop has some great gems, including notecards and posters created by attendees of our 2012 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference under the leadership of Vermont-based artist Bonnie Acker. And let’s not forget our most popular item: farm to school aprons!

Calendars from Hailey King Photography

Portland-based photographer Hailey King is donating $5 from every calendar she sells to the National Farm to School Network. The calendars feature 12 months of Hailey’s beautiful food photography, taken during her travels all over the country, from citrus in Florida to berries in the Rocky Mountains. See more calendar photos on her blog

Modern Kids Design

Modern Kids Design is full of great ideas for every budget, from this $5 Eco Kids rolling pin to children’s furniture. My favorite find is this $20 wooden fruit cutting set. Just select the National Farm to School Network’s listing before you start shopping, and Modern Kids Design will donate five percent of all your purchases.

And, of course, donations directly to the National Farm to School Network can be made in someone else's name and will help support the growth of the farm to school movement across the country. 

Thank you for your support, and have a happy holiday season!

Reflections from Terra Madre 2014

NFSN Staff Wednesday, December 10, 2014

By Helen Dombalis, Policy and Strategic Partnerships Director    

Helen Dombalis, center, recently traveled to Turin, Italy to present at workshop titled "Challenges Facing the Sustainability of School Gardens."  

Today is Terra Madre Day, a day to reflect on the global Slow Food movement and to share inspiration from one of the world’s most important cultural forums. Hosted by Slow Food International, Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto bring nearly a quarter-million people (yes, you read that right!) to Turin, Italy every-other year in October to celebrate and preserve food cultures around the globe. Among them are 3,000 delegates traveling from more than 100 countries—all of them connecting, learning and renewing their commitments to improving the global food system so that it works for everyone. As my fellow 2014 delegate Jim Embry of Sustainable Communities Network in Kentucky put it, “Terra Madre is where you go to recharge your batteries.”

I am honored and privileged to have been among the 247 U.S. delegates in attendance this year. On the plane from JFK to Milan, I sat with an American-born chef running a restaurant in Mexico and an orchardist from California. I met cookbook authors, fishers and visionaries. I answered questions from a Grecian olive oil producer about getting started with farm to school and, in a workshop titled “Challenges Facing the Sustainability of School Gardens,” I told attendees how state policies in the United States are advancing the school garden movement. Although I was one of the only delegates with “policy” in my job title, I realized that I was among a big family of people with policy at their core, advocates for what Slow Food calls good, clean and fair food.

Helen listens to a presentation at Slow Food International's Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy. 

Here are a few of the ideas that really impacted me:

Good food brings people together. As I found, you can sit at a table with seven people who speak different languages and laugh harder than you’ve laughed in a long time over the shared joy of a lemon and almond cookie. Or appreciate your family history through traditions like dad’s grilled barbeque chicken with corn and lima beans, and mom’s sour cream cornbread. As I walked towards the Ugandan booth where small, ripe bananas were displayed, a flood of happy memories came to me: I’d eaten so many of those bananas during my summer in Uganda in 2007. Now my work helps to ensure that kids across the United States have access to experiential education, like school gardens, so they can have memorable, community-building food experiences of their own. 

Clean food preserves natural resources. From tasting organic chocolate to listening in on Slow Fish conversations about the state of the world’s oceans, the concept of clean food was ever-present at the gathering. The Ark of Taste - a signature of this year’s gathering - reminded attendees that loss of biodiversity of foods is real.

Fair food advances food access. Slow Food International’s 10,000 Food Gardens in Africa initiative is a great example as it aims to increase the number of school, home and community gardens on the continent. Launched two years ago, the program has grown to include 2,000 documented gardens, and the goal is to reach 10,000 by Terra Madre 2016. With 35,000 people already involved in African garden projects, it’s exciting to think of how many more garden advocates will be activated with a quintupling of that number.

As Edie Mukiibi, VP of Slow Food International, said at a presentation about the African garden initiative, "the biggest yield of school gardens is not the food but the knowledge, motivation, hope” that gardens bring to children and families. That’s a belief we share here at the National Farm to School Network (NFSN). The benefits of farm to school are many, and kids, farmers and communities all win.

Get involved. Slow Food USA and the NFSN share many of the same values, and one of the primary areas where our work overlaps is around school gardens. Check out this guest post Slow Food USA contributed to our blog to announce the launch of their National School Garden Project in October. Their resources include a comprehensive school garden guide. Also check out NFSN’s own school garden fact sheet and explore other garden resources using the search functions on our resources pages. And if you haven’t already, please join the National Farm to School Network as we grow our partnership with Slow Food in the years ahead.

Funding Outside the Lunch Box

NFSN Staff Tuesday, December 09, 2014

By Barbara Patterson, Policy Intern

As school districts, farmers and communities experience the benefits of farm to school activities, more and more programs are popping up across the country, and with that increase comes greater funding need. The USDA Farm to School Grant Program is already maxed out, with five times as many proposals submitted for the past three years as could be funded. The National Farm to School Network will call on Congress in 2015 to increase funding for the Farm to School Grant Program, but we can also look beyond farm to school and garden-specific funding opportunities.

“Farm to school” is not a box. It’s an umbrella for improved health, stronger local economies and sustainable food systems, and there are funding streams through the Farm Bill, the Child Nutrition Act and other federal programs intended to advance these same goals. Just since this summer, USDA has awarded more than $52 million in grants to grow local and regional food systems through the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), and nearly $118 million to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops through Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG). Many of these grants were awarded to farm to school projects, including:  

  • Under the FMLFPP, Lake-to-River Food Cooperative in Youngstown, Ohio, was awarded a Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant to strengthen its online market for local produce delivery and encourage purchases from schools and other institutions.
  • Also through the FMLFPP, Ecotrust of Portland, Ore. (NFSN Western Regional Lead Agency), was awarded a Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) to analyze Oregon’s supply of regionally produced, antibiotic-free chicken and to assess demand and specifications for this chicken from local institutions, including schools. Similarly funded, Heart and Hand House, Inc. of Philippi, W.Va., will develop an aggregation center to improve access to locally produced foods in public schools.
  • With a Specialty Crop Block Grant, Arizona Department of Agriculture will partner with Western Growers Foundation to increase students’ knowledge of the importance of good nutrition and better understand where their food comes from by creating and sustaining edible school gardens at fifty Arizona K-12 schools.
  • Also through the SCBG program, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry will partner with the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center to create and promote the Harvest of the Month program which will market the consumption of Louisiana specialty crops in schools and other institutions.
  • Hawaii Department of Agriculture will partner with the Kohala Center under the SCBG program to encourage USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) schools to spend more of their allocated funds to buy local and to increase local farmers’ knowledge of requirements necessary to participate in the program.

There are many more examples of successfully funded farm to school proposals within these awards. As you’re planning for 2015, consider exploring these federal programs to help sustain and expand your farm to school activities.

For more ideas on new funding streams, read our blog post on the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant Program and download our Funding Farm to School Fact Sheet

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