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Kentucky’s Junior Chef Tournament Features Local Food & Team Spirit

NFSN Staff Tuesday, September 16, 2014

(Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)

Looking sharp in maroon and silver football jerseys, and working together as a team, the Owen County High School Rebels won a state championship Friday. But the sport wasn't football.

Owen County's "Cuisine Rebels," sporting aprons made out of old football jerseys, won the second annual Kentucky Farm to School Junior Chef State Tournament during the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. Their winning recipe, potato-crusted bacon cheeseburger quiche, used 13 Kentucky Proud ingredients, which were grown or made in Kentucky. Scroll down for the recipe!

Junior Chef is a program that encourages high school students to learn how to cook by using local ingredients to prepare healthy meals while at the same time teaching students about agriculture, marketing, organization, teamwork and community involvement.

The five members of the winning team - Hailey Chappell, Carley Bennett, Kadee Carter, Cannon Goodrich, and Morgan Woodyard - were each offered $6,000 scholarship from Sullivan University. The team also received $600 from John Wiley & Sons publishing company, along with free textbooks for team members attending Sullivan's culinary program.

In total, 61 teen chefs from 14 Kentucky high schools faced off in this year’s competition. Junior Chef tournament organizer Tina Garland, coordinator of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Farm to School Program and NFSN's Kentucky state lead, said the number of schools and students who participated in this year’s statewide competition, now in its second year, was up from the previous year.

The Kentucky Farm to School Program connects local farmers to school districts to make fresh Kentucky Proud foods available to Kentucky children. Participating Kentucky school districts spent an estimated $468,000 on local foods during the 2012-13 school year. A total of 84 school districts are members of the Kentucky Proud program, which helps Kentucky farmers market their products to their local communities.

Want to taste the winning dish? The Owen County “Cuisine Rebels” have shared their potato-crusted bacon cheeseburger quiche recipe - see below! 

Hailey Chappell accepts the Most Outstanding Chef award from David H. Dodd, executive director of the National Center for Hospitality Studies at Sullivan University. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)

Potato Crusted Bacon Cheeseburger Quiche
Winning Kentucky Farm to School Junior Chef State Tournament Recipe
“Cuisine Rebels,” Owen County High School

Crust
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp Promise margarine
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Filling
2 slices bacon
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 cup kale, chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup yellow squash, shredded
1/2 cup zucchini, shredded
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
6 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
1/3 cup sour cream

Directions
Heat oven to 350°. 

Place diced potato in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil on medium high heat. Boil potatoes until soft. Drain all but 1/4 cup of liquid. Add margarine, salt and pepper. Mash the potatoes to a smooth consistency. Spoon roughly 2 Tbsp. of potatoes into bottom of greased jumbo muffin tin. Press to the bottom and slightly up the sides to form a crust. Bake potato crusts for 20 minutes or until they start to turn a golden brown.

In a medium skillet, prepare the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon and set aside. In the same skillet, brown ground beef, onion, and peppers. Cook until no pink remains. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine remaining vegetables with ground beef mixture. Add bacon and 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Toss to mix well. In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs, salt, pepper, and milk until well combined.

When crusts come out of the oven, fill each evenly with egg mixture, then evenly divide the meat mixture and top with remaining cheddar cheese. Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown. Top with a dollop of sour cream and serve.

Farm to School Project Awarded Value-Added Producer Grant

NFSN Staff Monday, September 08, 2014

Last month, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the recipients of the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program for fiscal year 2014. The VAPG program assists agricultural producers with value-added activities related to processing and marketing of products. VAPG generates new products, creates and expands upon marketing opportunities, and increases farm incomes.  

Among the 247 VAPG recipients named this year was This Old Farm, Inc. in Indiana. The farm was awarded $75,000 to add chopped lettuce as a new value-added product to be marketed in a 400-mile radius around Central Indiana. In addition, This Old Farm is participating in farm to school discussions with the intent of supplying fresh cut produce to schools in the state.    

Erick and Jessica Smith, owners of This Old Farm, are collaborating with the Indiana Farm to School Network to foster relationships with stakeholders. They are using the VAPG funds to conduct a feasibility study to explore production of and processing of romaine lettuce for school markets. An integral component of their farm to school goals requires developing strong relationships with schools to garner support and commitments for local procurement of lightly processed produce. This Old Farm currently operates as a food hub with meat processing, and they aim to use their knowledge and experience to expand the scope to produce processing for smaller growers.

To learn more about farm to school in Indiana, visit NFSN’s Indiana farm to school page. To read more about the VAPG awards, check out the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog post



Farm to school highlighted at the F2Ti Symposium, New Orleans

NFSN Staff Thursday, September 04, 2014

By Anupama Joshi, Executive Director of the National Farm to School Network

Last month, I attended the 2nd Farm to Table International (F2Ti) Symposium in New Orleans. Farm to school was very well represented at this event and was a topic of great interest among attendees.


Katie Mularz, National Farm to School Network (NFSN) Louisiana State Lead kicked off a Statewide Farm to School Summit of stakeholders to strategize and plan the collaborative work that lies ahead to support robust farm to school activities in Louisiana. The high level of engagement of this group was impressive – they were thinking big about statewide legislative support for farm to school, but planning for baby steps towards it, such as populating a Louisiana Farm to School website to share best practices and promote networking, encouraging state agencies to have a unified voice with regards to farm to school, and perhaps hosting an in-person gathering twice a year to supplement the monthly calls that Katie hosts already. To stay connected with farm to school in Louisiana, contact Katie Mularz.



I had the opportunity to present at a plenary session, during which I highlighted the history, evolution and bright future of farm to school in the US, touching on the importance of local, state and national policy to raise the value placed on school meal programs.  


Through an informational workshop, Katie Mularz and Pam Kingfisher (NFSN’s South Regional Lead Agent ) described efforts at the state and regional levels, including work in tribal nations, and guided participants to resources in the region. Nicole Zammit, USDA Farm to School Southwest Regional Lead, shared the agency’s involvement and commitment to farm to school, with specific resources, grants and guidance on how to overcome challenges. Leesa Carter from the Captain Planet Foundation rounded off the discussion with best practices and lessons from their Learning Gardens program, which offers a curriculum kit, mobile, cooking carts, garden signs and guidance to elementary schools. This local initiative with schools in Atlanta, GA and Ventura, CA is going national this fall: Schools across the country will be able to apply to access these resources from Captain Planet Foundation. Stay tuned for more information on their website.


The local media was supportive of farm to school efforts too – check out this report from the TV show This Week in Louisiana Agriculture.


Also at the conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Kid Chef Eliana – author, radio show host and a local food personality, sharing her passion for real food. With the younger generation’s leaders like Eliana involved, the future of farm to school in Louisiana is bright.





Farm to School Legislation Supports New Jersey as the Garden State

NFSN Staff Tuesday, September 02, 2014

By Beth Feehan, Director of the NJ Farm to School Network & Deb Bentzel, Mid-Atlantic Regional Lead of the National Farm to School Network

It’s said that New Jersey’s nickname of the “Garden State” came into being as far back as 1876, when Camden resident Abraham Browning used the phrase to describe his home state, whose bountiful agricultural products were supplying not just New Jersey, but also Pennsylvania and New York.  Over the past 138 years, New Jersey remains the “Garden State,” boasting over 9,000 farms spread across 715,000 acres.  However, like farming in most states, New Jersey has faced challenges remaining economically viable in the face of an increasingly nationalized and globalized food system.  Enter farm to school.


Farm to school advocacy efforts in New Jersey began in 2008 with a stakeholder meeting kick off at Fernbrook Farms in Chesterfield. At the time, the term “farm to school” in New Jersey was not commonly used, despite many groups working on school garden education in varying communities. As the years progressed, more groups joined in the discussion to engage the agriculture community in the state, including the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the New Jersey Farm Bureau and state legislators.  This cross-sector collaboration has now resulted in an amazing legislative effort designed to put the farm back on the cafeteria tray, and to further support the three pillars of farm to school: procurement, school gardening, and education.



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. Witnesses to the signing included the New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture, New Jersey Farm Bureau, state legislators, representatives from the Department of Education and the New Jersey Farm to School Network.

On Monday, August 25, 2014, New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno signed into law five new actions to support farm to school across the state. These new laws will help advance farm to school practices through:


Promotion and recognition initiatives:  The New Jersey Department of Agriculture will now have more dedicated space to promote farm to school and success stories on their website and will create an annual farm to school awards program designed to recognize school meal programs that have taken their food purchasing to the next level by purchasing locally grown foods in meals, and by educating students about the value and benefits to eating Jersey Fresh.


Local food procurement support:  Development of an online farm to school clearing house will help connect New Jersey school food buyers to farmers, foods banks, and other suppliers in order to facilitate local food sourcing and relationship-building among those that grow healthy foods in the state, and those that serve it to the state’s K-12 population.


Enhanced funding:   New Jersey taxpayers may now voluntarily contribute funds to the “New Jersey Farm to School and School Garden Fund” via a check box on their yearly income tax returns.


Additionally, the state Department of Agriculture is not permitted to accept private donations for farm to school.


We applaud a truly bi-partisan effort in which legislators were able to intrinsically understand the future benefits of farm to school and how support at the statewide policy level would help develop youth into healthy, happy, educated consumers, supporting the state’s talented and dedicated farmers and their communities and preserving agriculture as the industry of which New Jersey is most proud.  


A cohort of farm to school advocates from across New Jersey as well as the National Farm to School Network's Mid-Atlantic Regional Lead, approved of the bill signing as is evident by their smiles. 
From left to right: Back row - Meredith Taylor (NJ Farm to School Network Board Member), Larry Kuser (NJ Farm to School Network Advisory Board Member); Front row - Deb Bentzel (Mid-Atlantic Regional Lead for National Farm to School Network), Sheri Kurdakul (NJ Farm to School Network Marketing Director), Beth Feehan (NJ Farm to School Network Executive Director) and Chris Cirkus (NJ Farm to School Network Programs Director).

If you are interested in finding out what your state has done to support farm to school through legislative efforts, check out NFSN's State Farm to School Legislative Survey 2002-2013, which was released earlier this year. Since 2014 has been a busy year for New Jersey and other states, we plan to update this survey next year to include activity from 2014. If you know of farm to school policy efforts underway in your state, please contact NFSN's Policy and Strategic Partnerships Director, Helen Dombalis.




NFSN launches first-ever farm to school evaluation framework

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Today, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) launched a pioneering and highly anticipated new resource, Evaluation for Transformation: A Cross Sectoral Evaluation Framework for Farm to School

In less than a decade, farm to school has expanded from a handful of programs to a full-fledged, thriving, grassroots-led movement in all 50 states and D.C. To date, however, no evaluation framework existed to guide practice, ground research and enable policy development for the growing field.

Evaluation for Transformation is a first step toward bridging that gap — not only does it define outcomes farm to school can achieve across multiple sectors, it offers common language, guidelines and metrics to help users understand and articulate those outcomes. The framework is organized around four key sectors: public health, community economic development, education and environmental quality. Beyond the four sectors, the framework is also structured around three levels of action: program, research and policy. This organizational structure enables all users to identify the parts of the framework most relevant to their interests. 

Here are a few examples of ways the framework can be used: 

  • A teacher or early care educator interested in starting a garden project can gather ideas from the framework to better understand how to articulate and track proposed garden activities. 
  • A foundation/ grant-making agency providing funds for farm to school/ preschool activities can use the framework to create common guidelines and reporting requirements for project grantees as well as incorporate the language in funding announcements so that proposals can be compared more effectively.
  • A graduate student interested in researching farm to school outcomes in a specific sector can use the framework to quickly find existing literature and identify gaps to help formulate the scope and goals of their research, building on the existing knowledge base for the movement. 
  • A local elected official or school board member can scan the framework for policy outcomes to identify those that align best with their priorities. The policies they support can then be based on sound research, as well as needs articulated by the field. 

“It was very important to us that this evaluation framework be relevant to a variety of different users,” says Anupama Joshi, NFSN’s executive director and co-founder.  “Unlike any other resource currently available, Evaluation for Transformation will be useful for those working on the program level, like teachers and school nutrition directors, as well as for funders, researchers and policy makers.”

The framework was developed collaboratively with input from more than 300 practitioners and sector experts to ensure that it was relevant across sectors and across program sites. 

For each of the four sectors (public health, community economic development, education and environmental quality), the framework provides:

  • a compilation of existing peer-reviewed research literature;
  • stories from on-the-ground activities demonstrating outcomes in that sector;
  • priority outcomes, indicators and measures vetted by contributors;
  • examples of existing evaluation and implementation tools and resources; 
  • a flavor of cross-sectoral connections feasible through farm to school activities.

NFSN is confident that the comprehensive language, outcomes and tools presented in Evaluation for Transformation will help unite the farm to school/ preschool movement around a common understanding and vision grounded in knowledge from local sites, research data and policy agendas, so all communities can grow stronger together. 

Where does yogurt come from? And how do you milk a cow?

NFSN Staff Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Those are the questions preschoolers in northeast Iowa were asking recently while participating in Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative’s (FFI) Farm to Preschool program. Teachers across the region got creative to teach children where yogurt comes from and all the many ways to enjoy it.

In West Union, Head Start teacher Sara Converse filled a rubber glove with water and attached it to a cardboard cow cutout to teach children where milk comes from and how to milk a cow. At South Winneshiek Elementary’s Jump Start Preschool, students tried three different flavors of yogurt and graphed their favorite as part of a math lesson. At New Hampton Preschool, children made yogurt dip and smoothies and took home yogurt information and recipes for their families to try.

FFI’s Farm to Preschool program introduces a new local food to children each month, covering the same foods that are included in farm to school programs at K-12 school districts in the region. Since the program began in January, children have learned about yogurt, eggs, oats and cucumbers. Preschool students are given opportunities to cook, taste and learn about the foods through various activities during the month.

The program’s positive benefits reach beyond the classroom: Each of the preschools sends information about the foods home with children, including recipes that the kids learned at school and can repeat at home. Some sites also hold monthly farm to preschool celebrations to which parents are invited.  

One class also had a chance to share their Farm to Preschool experience with the school board.  “The principal asked me to present at the school board meeting,” said Shanna Putnam Dibble, Lead Teacher at Jump Start Preschool. “The kids made yogurt popsicles, and the principal and board members tried them.”

Green Ribbon Schools, Senator Leahy and the Green Apple Day of Service

Chelsey Simpson Monday, July 28, 2014

Last week our deputy director, Mary Stein (left), and policy and strategic partnerships director, Helen Dombalis (right), attended the 2014 U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools Celebration, where they had the pleasure of meeting with Senator Leahy, a long-time congressional champion for farm to school.

The Green Ribbon Schools Celebration is hosted by the Center for Green Schools at the US Green Building Council (USGBC). USGBC also organizes the Green Apple Day of Service through which they encourage individuals and communities to dedicate a day to making their schools a safer, healthier place through projects like planting school gardens. This year's day of service will take place on Saturday, September 27. 

NFSN advisory board member testifies before Senate Agriculture Committee

NFSN Staff Friday, July 25, 2014

Earlier this week, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry held a hearing, “Meeting the Challenges of Feeding America’s School Children.” The hearing – which was the second to be held by the Committee in preparation for the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act – focused on school meal program operations and related procurement for school meals. This hearing was held because the current Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is set to expire at the end of September 2015.

The witness list included:

  • Betti Wiggins, Executive Director, Office of Food Services at Detroit Public Schools, and advisory board member for the National Farm to School Network;
  • Scott Clements, Director of the Office of Healthy Schools and Child Nutrition at the Mississippi Department of Education;
  • Julia Bauscher, President of the School Nutrition Association and Director of School and Community Nutrition Services for Jefferson Public Schools;
  • Dr. Katie Wilson, Executive Director for the National Food Service Management Institute at the University of Mississippi; and
  • Phil Muir, President and CEO at Muir Copper Canyon Farms in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The majority of Agriculture Committee members were present and posed questions to the witnesses on a variety of topics related to procurement, school gardens, and nutrition standards. In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) noted that “students are learning about where their food comes from through farm to school garden efforts that are very exciting.”  

Well-versed in the opportunities presented by school gardens, Ms. Wiggins extoled the virtues of Detroit’s 71 school gardens and discussed the role the gardens play in engaging students and the community.  Detroit’s farm to school practices are “generating healthy returns for farmers and children,” she said, adding that teenagers are eating Michigan-grown asparagus and like it. 

Addressing the issues with implementing the USDA school lunch standards, she noted that short-term pains “pale in comparison to the benefits from reform that is highly desirable and attainable.” 

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) asked Ms. Wiggins to talk about her experience with urban gardening and how it may be used as a model for other cities across the country. She described the importance of the community partnerships she formed with groups like Detroit Eastern Market (represented on NFSN’s advisory board) and the farmers that distribute there, as well as Michigan State University (NFSN’s Michigan State Lead). Through these partnerships with NFSN Core Partners, she created the Detroit School Garden Collaborative that has taught children to garden, has educated teachers about gardens as learning spaces, and has cultivated youth garden ambassadors. The children planted zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes, which were later used in a “Stoplight Salad.”

Many of the Senators in attendance talked about the benefit of local food systems. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) described how proud Indiana farmers are when they see their products being used in their community’s schools. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) remarked that food hubs allow farmers to reach underserved areas with local produce. Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) described farm to school as a good bridge between our nation’s farmers and our children. 

National Farm to School Network congratulates Betti Wiggins on her impactful testimony and her great work providing nutritious, locally grown produce to Detroit’s 50,000 students.

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