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National Farm to School Network


Announcing Keynote Speakers for 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference

NFSN Staff Thursday, February 01, 2018
As the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference approaches, we are excited to share more details about the conference program. 36 conference workshops in 12 tracks will cover a wide range of farm to cafeteria content – from Youth Leadership and Engagement to Equity and Justice in Farm to Cafeteria, and Local and Sustainable Procurement to School Gardens and On-site Farms.  You can check out the full conference agenda and workshop descriptions here. In addition to workshops, we’re also offering 8 short course and 11 field trips to explore the farm to cafeteria landscape across the Ohio Valley region.  And there’s more!

We are thrilled to announce our conference keynote speakers. Rodney K. Taylor is the Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCSP), in Va. FCPS is the 10th largest district in the U.S. with 188,000 students, in 194 schools, providing 149,000 meals per day. Prior to his employment with FCPS, Rodney was the Director of Nutrition Services, for the Riverside Unified School District, in Riverside, California.  

A noted pioneer and expert in farm to school salad bars, he is particularly known for establishing the “Farmers’ Market Salad Bar” program in 1997, while working as Director of Food and Nutrition Services in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, in Santa Monica, Calif. Rodney is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the California Endowment’s “Health Heroes” Award and the Loma Linda University Award for “The Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles---For Outstanding Commitment to the Public’s Health.” 
Haile Thomas is 17 years old, an international speaker, health activist, the youngest Certified Integrative Health Coach in the United States, and the founder/CEO of the nonprofit HAPPY (Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth). Haile founded HAPPY when she was 12 years old to address the need for free/affordable plant-based nutrition and culinary education in under served/at-risk communities, as well as in schools and through annual summer camps.

Haile has personally engaged over 15,000 kids and thousands of adults around the world since beginning her activism in 2010. She was inspired to pursue this passion after her family successfully reversed her father’s type-2 diabetes without the use of medication, only healthy eating and lifestyle choices, and upon learning that kids were also increasingly being diagnosed with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. All of Haile’s programs, projects, and initiatives, are geared towards engaging, educating, motivating and empowering young people to make healthy lifestyle choices to live their best life. Haile and her work have been featured on the Today Show, Food Network, CNN, Dr.Oz, Teen Vogue, Fortune, O Magazine, and Experience Life Magazine to name a few.

To highlight a local perspective of farm to cafeteria, we are honored to share that Dr. Roger Rennekamp, Associate Dean and Director of Ohio State University Extension, will be our Welcome Speaker. Dr. Rennekamp will share how the OSU Extension system and Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation discovery theme, also known as InFACT, align with principles of the Farm to School movement. He will also give examples of how the university—an institution with 17,000 students on its meal plan—is getting closer to reaching its goal of serving 40 percent local or sustainably grown foods by 2025.

Read more about our keynote speakers here

Early bird registration is open now through March 9th, and we are accepted conference scholarship applications until February 12th at 8pm EST. For more information on registration and scholarships, please visit our conference website. We look forward to hosting you and your farm to cafeteria team in Ohio!