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This Week in farm to school: 3/29/16

NFSN Staff Tuesday, March 29, 2016

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. Action for Healthy Kids: Breakfast and Game On Grants
Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) is now accepting School Grants for Healthy Kids applications for the 2016-2017 school year. Up to 550 schools will receive School Breakfast grant awards ranging from $500 to $5,000 to support increased breakfast participation. 500 schools will be awarded Game On grants ranging from $500 to $2,500 for physical activity and nutrition initiatives. Applications are due April 1, 2016. Learn more and apply here

2. Aetna Foundation: 2016 Cultivating Healthy Communities Grant Program
The Aetna Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of its 2016 Cultivating Healthy Communities grant program. Aetna Foundation recognize that health is local: it begins in our homes, schools, jobs, and neighborhoods. By creating more chances to make healthy choices in these places, we can empower whole communities to lead healthier lives. With this RFP, they seek to fund programs that will increase opportunities for health in underserved, low-income communities. The five target areas are: Healthy Behaviors; Community Safety; Built Environment; Social/Economic Factors; and, Environmental Exposures. This will be a highly competitive, multi-staged funding opportunity and application process.  All Stage 1 applications must be received by April 15 at 3pm ET. Learn more here

3. Project Produce: Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools
The Chef Ann Foundation has $250,000 available to support school lunchroom learning programs. Project Produce: Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools is a grant program designed to help increase kids’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables and create experiential nutrition education when and where students make their food choices: in the cafeteria. The $2,500 one-year grants support food costs to incorporate school-wide fruit and vegetable tastings into the school's nutrition program. Any district or independent school participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is eligible to apply. Grants will be determined on an ongoing basis depending on available funding; there is no application deadline. Learn more here.


Webinars & Events
1. National Farm to Cafeteria Conference Early Bird Discount Ends March 31
Don’t miss the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison, Wis., June 2-4, 2016. This event is the only national gathering of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement, making it a crucial leadership development opportunity to advance community health, build economic opportunities for farmers and producers, and ensure long-term sustainability for local food efforts nationwide. Early bird registration is open now, including pre-conference short courses and field trips. Event organizers expect more than 1,500 attendees, and the last event sold out before the registration deadline, so don’t wait. The early bird discount ends March 31. Learn more at farmtocafeteriaconference.org.

2. Vermont FEED Training: A Dairy for Every Classroom, July 2016
A Dairy for Every Classroom is a professional development course intended for middle, high school, and career and technical education teachers who are looking to deepen or expand their personal knowledge, curricular connections, and project-based learning opportunities related to dairy agriculture and the contributions the industry makes to the health of people and their communities. This course has been developed with the needs of teachers in mind and will provide teachers the time and ability to focus on projects of their choice, as well as opportunities to learn from colleagues and experts from the field.  Utilizing a unique learning format, the course includes a three-day residential intensive at Vermont Technical College in July; an independent work project period; and a two-day curriculum retreat at Shelburne Farms in late September. Learn more and apply here

3. 2016 Sustainable Agriculture Education Association National Conference
July 29–31, 2016 // Santa Cruz, California
When it comes to food and agriculture education that is experiential, interdisciplinary, and systems-based, the SAEA conference strives to walk the talk. The SAEA champions innovative educational approaches for sustainable agriculture through the development, application, and research of teaching and learning practices. The goal of the conference is to connect educators, teachers, students, apprentices, staff, and administrators who focus on teaching and learning at the adult level. Presentation proposal submissions are accepted through April 17. Learn more here

4. Webinars: USDA Traditional Foods in Native Communities Webinar Series
This spring, USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems will host a four-part webinar series focused on integrating farm to school strategies in native communities. Each webinar will feature a guest speaker who will share tips, stories and best practices for keeping local food traditions alive in child nutrition programs that serve tribal populations. The first webinar will be: What Does Farm to School Look Like in Native American Communities? on April 6 at 3pm EST. Learn more and register here


Research & Resources
1. Toolkit: The Economics of Local Food Systems
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has realized a new resource created by the USDA and Colorado State University that will help communities and businesses evaluate the economic benefits of investing in local food systems. The Local Food System Toolkit provides detailed guidance in seven modules to measure and assess the expected economic impacts of local food investments. Using real-world projects, experiences, and applied research, it provides grounded, credible, and useable assessment methods. The Local Food System Toolkit can be used by policy makers, community leaders, private businesses or foundations to offer specific estimates that will help them decide whether to invest in initiatives that increase local food activity. Download the toolkit here.  

2. How to Track State Legislation: A Guide to Understanding the Process
This guide explains generally how a bill makes its way through the legislative process and how to track a bill though this process. It also provides links to every state legislature website and their session dates for 2016. Please note: this resource was created by CQ Roll Call, a for-profit entity, and is an advertisement for their StateTrack legislation tracking system. Even so, it is a helpful and concise resource if you are looking to start working on state policy. Download the resource here


Jobs & Opportunities
1. Agricultural Marketing Specialist II (Farm to School Coordinator), State of South Carolina Department of Agriculture
The Farm to School Coordinator will plan, develop  and  implement the SC Farm to School Program. Responsibilities include working with grants, providing training and technical assistance for the program, identifying training and technical assistance voids in the Farm to School community and filling these needs by modifying existing resources and/or creating new program offerings. Learn more and apply at www.jobs.sc.gov. Application closes April 7.

2. FoodCorps Service Member Application Closes March 31
Are you a leader passionate about healthy food, farms and kids? Become a FoodCorps service member! FoodCorps recruits talented leaders for a year of paid public service building healthy school food environments in limited-resource communities. Applications are due by March 31, 2016 at 6pm PT. Learn more and apply here

3. Farm to ECE Professional Development Opportunities
The Penn State Extension Better Kid Care (BKC) Program provides professional development opportunities for early learning and care professionals who are caring for children, ages 0-8. All modules are also accepted for the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and CEUs are available for completed lessons (10 hours = 1 CEU) and are approved for professional development credit in 40 states and the District of Columbia. There are several modules available that address the goals of the Farm to Early Care and Education program. These include Fresh Harvest: Children Grow in the Garden, Children Can Cook!, Healthy and Hunger Free Children: Resources for Families: Let’s Move Child Care Obesity Prevention Series and Get Outdoors, Explore! Content for each two-hour module is available free of charge. There is a $5.00 fee for a certificate of completion. Visit http://extension.psu.edu/youth/betterkidcare for more information. 

4. Help Update The Real Food Standards
The national student-led Real Food Standards Council is undertaking the project of updating the Real Food Criteria—the standards by which we define ‘real food’ for hundreds of universities. Everyone is invited to participate in the revision process. The public comment forum will be open  until April 1, 2016. Your feedback and commentary will be considered by the student-led National Real Food Standards Council. This council is guided by a growing team of  industry and movement veterans generously serving as advisors to the project. Submit your feedback here
 

Farm to school in the news
A Local Apple a Day... Benefits Kids, Farmers and the Environment
The New York State legislature is reviewing a proposal that would reward school districts for sourcing locally grown ingredients in school lunches. The proposal, which is the first of its kind, would reimburse schools an extra five to twenty-five cents per meal for dedicating more of their purchasing budgets to local food. (via Huffington Post Blog)

Farm to School efforts growing in Nebraska
Preschoolers at five grade schools in Lincoln, Neb. will get their hands dirty this spring, thanks to a USDA Farm to School Grant. In addition to gardening, Lincoln Public Schools will use the grant to expand local food purchases and take students on farm field trips. (via Lincoln Journal Star)

School gardens becoming more popular
Prairie View Elementary in Eden Prairie, Minn., built its first edible with several garden beds in 2012. Within the last year, the school has also added three indoor tower gardens and four cold frame gardens that extend the growing season. It’s an example of a large number of school gardens sprouting up and expanding around the country. (via Eden Prairie News)

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. 

We agree: child nutrition programs should be about making kids healthier

NFSN Staff Thursday, March 24, 2016
By Donna Martin, EdS, RDN, LD, SNS, FAND, School Nutrition Program Director, Burke County Board of Education and Incoming President-Elect of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Erin McGuire, Policy Director, National Farm to School Network



We couldn’t agree more: child nutrition programs should be about raising a generation of healthy kids. A recent article published in Politico’s The Agenda makes the case that the Child Nutrition Act (CNA) historically has supported farmers not children, stating, “The School Lunch Act, in fact, has served a scrum of agricultural and other interests for the entire 70 years it has existed, each angling for a bigger share of the federal lunch plate.” With this statement we take no issue – agriculture has long had a vested interest in child nutrition programs and what goes on the plate of future consumers. 

The author further elaborates on the USDA Farm to School Grant Program saying,  “Nor is it clear how kids will be aided by grants to ‘increase awareness of, and participation in, farm to school programs.” This could not be further from the truth unfolding at farm to school sites across the country. In this multi-billion dollar bill that historically has served to put calories – of any kind – on the plates of children, advocates have fought hard to put in place programs that support nutrition education like the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. 

The USDA Farm to School Program was established with a $5 million allocation in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (the last iteration of CNA). The program helps schools and other eligible entities support farm to school activities in their communities. Supported activities include identifying community stakeholders, purchasing product from local and regional farmers and processors, building school gardens, taste-testing curricula and farm field trips. The program has been incredibly successful, having a 5-1 demand to supply ratio, with 75 percent of grants made to schools, education and public health agencies, and non-profits. 

On the frontlines, communities are experiencing incredible behavior change and nutrition benefits from incorporating farm to school activities.  In Georgia, we have increased student consumption of green leafy vegetables with the addition of local collard greens – a farmer went so far as to tweak his soil to grow less bitter greens for our students! And we did away with french fries in the cafeteria after students went crazy for roasted red ranch potatoes purchased from a local grower. This isn’t just what we have seen in Georgia and across the country – it’s what the data shows. Students who participate in farm to school activities eat more fruits and vegetables, are willing to try new foods, consume less unhealthy foods and sodas and choose healthier options in the cafeteria and at home. 



In the delicate state of the CNA’s Reauthorization this year, those who support this win-win strategy for students, farmers and communities have managed to eke out another $5 million dollars for this important grant program in the Senate draft. In a tough fiscal climate, Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow have prioritized support for farm to school programs that help children, and in many rural areas, also support farming families. We commend the Senate Agriculture Committee’s leadership during this reauthorizing year – yes, they brokered a deal, and it included an increase in summer feeding programs (one of the most vulnerable times for hungry children) and protected healthy meal standards for children. Those mired in the fight for better child nutrition support swift passage of this bill in the Senate, because decisions impacting the health of our future generation should not be delayed any further. 

The National Farm to School Network, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have made policy recommendations to increase the flexibility of potential recipients of USDA Farm to School Grants to include summer feeding and after-school programs, as well as to increase farmer participation – an essential aspect of farm to school activities. As the author notes, we have also supported language for more, “culturally appropriate” foods at schools serving Native Indian students.”  We 100 percent stand by that. For too long the significant barriers to using culturally appropriate food in school cafeterias have been ignored. We should celebrate the rich diversity of agriculture products and traditional dishes in our country, and be able to serve them on school lunch menus. 

The USDA Farm to School Grant Program is one of the smallest grant programs, and yet a very effective nutrition education program in the Child Nutrition Act. When we talk about increasing nutrition for children at this important moment, it is essential that nutrition advocates protect what little we have and push for more, not call into question hard-fought and won programs that help students be healthy. 

Join us in urging Congress to continue its support of farm to school success by signing our petition. Add your name in support today.

This Week in farm to school: 3/22/16

Anna Mullen Tuesday, March 22, 2016

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. Request Seed Potatoes for Your School Garden
Slow Food USA is excited to announce the Ark of Taste Gardens project to showcase two important initiatives: School Gardens and Ark of Taste.  The Ark of Taste is a living catalog of delicious and culturally significant foods facing extinction. By identifying and championing these foods, we keep them in production and on our plates. The Ark of Taste Gardens project will engage classrooms in growing these special seeds in order to taste the wonderful food they produce. This year, Slow Food is excited to share two different types of Ark of Taste potatoes: Makah Ozette and Bodega Red. They’ll be sending 1 pound boxes of either, or a mixed box of both.  They ask for a $5 donation to help cover the cost of the potatoes and shipping. Request your seed potatoes here


Webinars & Events
1. National Farm to Cafeteria Conference Early Bird Discount Ends March 31
Don’t miss the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison, Wis., June 2-4, 2016. This event is the only national gathering of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement, making it a crucial leadership development opportunity to advance community health, build economic opportunities for farmers and producers, and ensure long-term sustainability for local food efforts nationwide. Early bird registration is open now, including pre-conference short courses and field trips. Event organizers expect more than 1,500 attendees, and the last event sold out before the registration deadline, so don’t wait. The early bird discount ends March 31. Learn more at farmtocafeteriaconference.org.

2. Webinar: USDA Planning for Farm to School Success Series
School Gardening
March 31, 2pm ET
Hear about the different ways to incorporate school gardens into your farm to school program as well as hear how schools are successfully procuring school garden produce for their meal programs. Register here

3. Webinar: School Food FOCUS
The Raw Deal: Strategies for Handling Fresh Poultry
April 13, 1-2 pm EST
Interested in procuring fresh poultry for your PK-12 school district but not quite sure how to get started? Don't be held back from integrating fresh poultry into your menus. Learn how to create a culture of food safety and hear directly from the experts as they share tips and resources for success. School Food FOCUS is a national collaborative that leverages the knowledge and procurement power of large school districts to make school meals nationwide more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced. Register here


Research & Resources
1. 2015 USDA Farm to School Census Results - vote for “One in a Melon”
USDA has released the final results of its 2015 Farm to School Census, which indicates schools have been deepening their engagement with farm to school since the first Census in 2011-20112. Visit the USDA website to see national overview statistics, state by state summaries including the dollars invested locally in each state, and full details on every district that responded. Then, vote for a school that you believe administers a creative, innovate and/or exemplary farm to school program for the “One in a Melon” award: https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov

2. Research: Improvements and Disparities in Types of Foods and Milk Beverages Offered in Elementary School Lunches, 2006–2007 to 2013–2014
A new study from Bridging the Gap shows that the quality of elementary school lunches improved significantly from 2006–07 to 2013-14. Elementary schools increased regular availability of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and decreased the availability of fried potatoes, regular pizza, and high-fat milks. However, significant disparities among racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups remain. Read the research here


Jobs & Opportunities
1. Kid Chefs: Join the Fifth Annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge!
First Lady Michelle Obama is teaming up with PBS flagship station WGBH Boston, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to host the fifth annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge to promote cooking and healthy eating among young people across the nation. The challenge invites kids ages 8-12 to join a parent or guardian in creating an original recipe that is healthy, affordable, and delicious. One winner from each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia will be selected and have the opportunity to attend a Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House where a selection of the winning recipes will be served. Learn more submit your recipe by April 4 here

Farm to school in the news
Chicago H.S. Puts Twist on Farm-to-Table With Food Lab-to-Cafeteria Harvest
Students at Schurz High School (Chicago, Ill.) spent a recent afternoon in the Food Science Lab snipping nutrient-rich microgreens — arugula, radishes and lettuce — that were destined for the next day's school lunch. "This is nutrition education, this is science, this is math, this is engineering, this is entrepreneurship.” (via DNAinfo)

West Virginia farm to school program a win-win for schools, local farmers
Cabell County Schools (W. Va.) have taken the "eat local" mantra to heart with its Farm to School initiative. Purchasing as much produce and eggs from local farms as it can, it’s a real a win-win: providing students with fresh food and providing local farmers with a steady buyer. (via The Herald-Dispatch)

Wyoming students get greens in Harvest partnership
Last week, Jackson Hole High School received a big batch of greens from a 13,000-square-foot, three-story greenhouse. Many students scooped up the fresh lettuce at the salad bar, and were excited to support local agriculture. (via Jackson Hole News & Guide)

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. 

Census says: farm to school is booming!

NFSN Staff Tuesday, March 15, 2016
By Natalie Talis, Policy Associate



Today, the USDA released new data from its 2015 Farm to School Census and the results are clear: farm to school is booming! Thanks to efforts from teachers, school nutrition professionals, farmers, parents, students and other community members like you, farm to school activities have grown from a handful of schools in the late 1990s to reaching 23.6 million students nationwide. 

According to the data, 5,254 school districts - a total of 42,587 schools across all 50 states and Washington D.C. - participate in farm to school activities, including serving local food in the cafeteria, holding taste tests and taking students on field trips to farms and orchards. 

During the 2013-2014 school year, these schools purchased $789 million worth of local products from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and other food producers. That is a 105% increase over the $386 million of local food purchased in 2011-2012 and a huge investment in community economic development. Furthermore, 46 percent of school districts reported they will increase their local food purchases in coming school years. While fruits, vegetables and milk currently top the list of foods schools are most likely to buy locally, many indicated that they’d like to buy more plant-based proteins, grains, meats, poultry and eggs from local suppliers.

Forty-four percent of the school districts also reported having at least one edible school garden. In school year 2013-2014, more than 7,101 school gardens gave students daily access to fresh fruits and vegetables, while also helping them learn where food comes from. This is a 196 percent increase over the 2,401 edible school gardens reported in the 2011-2012 school year when the first census was conducted.

Photo Courtesy: USDA Food and Nutrition Service
The benefits of farm to school activities like these are far reaching. Sixty-six percent of school nutrition director respondents reported experiencing one or more of the following: 
  • Greater community support for school meals
  • Greater acceptance of school meal standards
  • Lower school meal program costs
  • Increased participation in school meals
  • Reduced food waste
These benefits, in addition to positive economic opportunities for local food producers, explain why farm to school is on pace to continue growing. Of the more than 12,500 school districts that responded to the survey, more than 2,000 indicated they plan to start farm to school activities in the future. 

The high interest in these activities confirms why the National Farm to School Network continues its advocacy for supportive policies at the national, state and local levels that will help the farm to school movement grow. To ensure that more school districts feel empowered to start new programs or expand their existing work, we’re advocating for policies like the Farm to School Act of 2015 to be included in the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR). We’re calling on Congress to strengthen and expand the USDA Farm to School Grant Program so more communities have access to farm to school. Show your support for farm to school by adding your name to our petition here

See how your school district stacks up by visiting the census map, which provides detailed information on all 18,000 surveyed school districts. Want to help farm to school efforts in your community grow? Check out our tips for getting started, or contact your National Farm to School Network State or Regional Lead for local information, resources and opportunities. 

Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you - congratulations for your work in helping farm to school grow! Join us at 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison, Wis., this June to continue building momentum and ensure long-term sustainability for local food efforts like these around the county. As this census data shows, together we have the power to affect great change! 

This Week in farm to school: 3/15/16

NFSN Staff Monday, March 14, 2016

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. USDA Team Nutrition Training Grants Available 
USDA's Team Nutrition initiative provides technical assistance, training, and nutrition education resources for schools and child care providers participating in USDA's child nutrition programs. Grants through this program are intended to conduct and evaluate training, nutrition education, and technical assistance activities to support the implementation of USDA nutrition standards for snacks and meals, like school breakfast. These grants can also be used to support farm to school! For example, in 2014 Montana was awarded a Team Nutrition Grant to build statewide support for nutrition education, school wellness policy implementation, and farm to school programs in school and child care environments. Learn more about the grants and apply here

2. USDA SPECA Challenge Grants Program
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has announced more than $850,000 to support the Secondary Education, Two-Year Postsecondary Education, and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom (SPECA) Challenge Grants Program. The purpose of the grant program is to address educational needs, as determined by each institution, within a broadly defined arena of food and agricultural sciences-related disciplines. Applications are due March 18.  Find more information here

3. USDA Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program Grants 
USDA Agricultural Marketing Service is making over $26 million in grant funding available to strengthen local and regional food systems through the Farmers Market (FMPP) and Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP), and hosting a series of webinars to help potential applicants with the grant process. FMPP grants support direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agritourism.  LFPP funding supports projects that develop, improve, and expand local and regional food business intermediary supply chain activities. AMS will host a webinar on March 24 at 2pm ET for FMPP and LFPP applicants. More information about the webinars and grant application are available here

4. T&L Foundation Mini Grants for Child Care Community
A request for applications for mini-grants has been announced by the T&L Foundation in celebration of CACFP Week. This is an effort to support the implementation of goals for child health and wellness in the child care environment. Family child care providers on the food program (up to $250) and CACFP sponsoring organizations (up to $500) are eligible. The application process closes April 13. Learn more here

5. Healthy Eating Research Releases 2016 Call for Proposals
Healthy Eating Research is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program supports research on environmental and policy strategies with strong potential to promote healthy eating among children to prevent childhood obesity, especially among groups at highest risk for obesity: black, Latino, American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander children, and children who live in lower-income communities. Findings are expected to advance RWJF's efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, eliminate disparities, and help all children achieve a healthy weight. This call for proposals (CFP) is for two types of awards aimed at providing advocates, decision-makers, and policymakers with evidence to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. The award types are: Round 10 grants and RWJF New Connections grants awarded through the Healthy Eating Research program. Approximately $2.6 million will be awarded under this CFP for the two award types. More information is available here

6. National Black Farmers Association Scholarship Program
Applications for the National Black Farmers Association Scholarship Program are now being accepted. Deadline to submit is May 2, 2016, or when 100 applications have been received, whichever comes first. The scholarship provides up to $5,000 to students pursuing agriculture-related studies at an accredited two-year or four-year college, university or vocational-technical school. Learn more here


Webinars & Events
1. Register Now! Early Bird Prices for National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
Don’t miss the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison, Wis., June 2-4, 2016. This event is the only national gathering of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement, making it a crucial leadership development opportunity to advance community health, build economic opportunities for farmers and producers, and ensure long-term sustainability for local food efforts nationwide. Early bird registration is open now, including pre-conference short courses and field trips. Event organizers expect more than 1,500 attendees, and the last event sold out before the registration deadline, so don’t wait. Register by March 31 to receive an early bird discount. Learn more at farmtocafeteriaconference.org.

2. Webinar: USDA Planning for Farm to School Success Series
Promoting Your Farm to School Program
March 17, 2pm ET
You’ve put in so much hard work! Now, how do you promote your farm to school program to ensure student, school, and community engagement? Hear about programs that have successfully promoted farm to school programs while managing a tight budget. Chef Ann Cooper, Food Service Director for Boulder Valley School District in Colorado, joins us with tips and tricks for successful promotion. Register here

School Gardening
March 31, 2pm ET
Hear about the different ways to incorporate school gardens into your farm to school program as well as hear how schools are successfully procuring school garden produce for their meal programs. Register here

3. Webinar: Food Policy Networks
Mobilizing for Policy Action
Tuesday, March 29, 2:30-3:45pm EDT
Food policy councils across the nation are digging in and turning their ideas into action. There is no magic formula to get policy passed however, there are common elements that can help set up your food policy council for success. Learn to determine which policy intervention will have the most success; explore opportunities to build a public support for your policy proposal; and discover how to garner the support of key decision makers. Participants are invited to share in the stories of successes of fellow food policy councils. Speakers include NFSN Southwest Regional Lead Pam Roy, Executive Director of Farm to Table and Director of New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council. Register here


Research & Resources
1. 2015 USDA Farm to School Census Results 
USDA has released the final results of its 2015 Farm to School Census today, which indicates schools have been deepening their engagement with farm to school since the first Census in 2011-20112. School districts across the country doubled their local food purchases and nearly tripled the number of school gardens since the first Census, and they are seeing more students participating in school meals, greater acceptance of healthy meal standards and reduced food waste because of it. Visit the USDA website to see national overview statistics, state by state summaries including the dollars invested locally in each state and shout outs to select high performing school districts, full details on every district that responded, grab and go graphs and charts, a photo gallery of USDA Farm to School grantees, and a contest to nominate your favorite farm to school program: https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov

2. Chop! Chop! Culinary Skills for Locally-Grown Produce in School Meals
“Chop, chop!” Hear that sound? It’s the sound of School Child Nutrition Directors who have a new way to help students eat more locally grown vegetables and grains.  This six-part series of free videos demonstrate to food service staff how to work with specialty crops. These free training videos will help you and your school food service staff use more locally-grown fruits and vegetables—and whole grains—in your school meal program by introducing new foods, recipes and culinary skills. These videos focus on root vegetables, dark leafy greens, brassicas, tomatoes and peppers, winter squash, and whole wheat flour and grains. Each training covers culinary preparation techniques such as hand chopping, pureeing and freezing, and offers ideas for incorporating local produce into school salad bars and menus. In addition, the videos feature discussions with farmers and their school partners  on the farm and in the school kitchen. Watch the Chop! Chop! videos and learn more here

3. Survey Open: Midwest Land Access Survey

The National Young Farmers Coalition and Land Stewardship Project are working together to better understand how to help farmers in the Midwest navigate the process of accessing land. The goal is to identify the land access challenges that beginning farmers are facing, what resources are most helpful to them, and what their suggestions are for areas where more could be done to assist them. If you are a farmer in the Midwest, please take the survey here.

4. Brief: School Fundraisers: Positive Changes in Foods Sold, but Room for Improvement Remains
This brief reviews the evidence on food-related fundraising in schools and changes to the school food environment over the past decade, providing new data from the Bridging the Gap research program’s 2013-14 school year national survey data. Read more from Healthy Eating Research here

5. Journal Article: Forging links between food chain labor activists and academics 
Interest in food movements has been growing dramatically, but until recently there has been limited engagement with the challenges facing workers across the food system. Of the studies that do exist, there is little focus on the processes and relationships that lead to solutions. This article explores ways that community-engaged teaching and research partnerships can help to build meaningful justice with food workers. Read the article here


Jobs & Opportunities

1. Campaign Manager, Healthy Schools Campaign
Healthy Schools Campaign seeks a Campaign Manager or Director. This key position will oversee the development and implementation of policy campaigns and key programs at the state and local levels. More information and the application can be found here.

2. FoodCorps Service Member Application Open
Are you a leader passionate about healthy food, farms and kids? Become a FoodCorps service member! FoodCorps recruits talented leaders for a year of paid public service building healthy school food environments in limited-resource communities. Applications are due by March 31, 2016 at 6pm PT. Learn more and apply here


Farm to school in the news
Farm to Institution: Mainstreaming Local Foods - shout out to Sarah Elliot, Vanessa Herald & Anupama Joshi! 
Institutional kitchens have the potential to make huge economic impacts for local foods in any state. Thanks to the National Farm to School Network, the USDA and hundreds of partner organizations around the country, farm to school is today the best supported of all institutional local food activities. (via Edible Madison)

Farm to School Growing healthy lifestyles
Thanks to a Seed Change mini grant awarded by the National Farm to School Network to Zachary High School, first- and second-graders at Rollins Place Elementary have been tasting various fruit and vegetable recipes, learning how to cultivate their own gardens and picking up tips about how to live a healthy lifestyle. (via The Advocate)

Maui School Gardens: The Future of Farm to Cafeteria

The future of school gardens looks bright in Maui, Hawaii. Last year, Governor David Ige signed the Farm to School Act. A Maui nonprofit, Grow Some Good, is in its eighth year of nailing down strategies for sustaining school gardens. And today, Maui County’s school garden network has 45 gardens on Maui and one on Lanai. (via MauiTime)

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. 

Celebrating good nutrition for our littlest eaters

NFSN Staff Monday, March 14, 2016
By Lacy Stephens, Farm to Early Care and Education Associate

Credit: Taking Root Tennessee
Along with the onset of spring, March brings with it many ways to celebrate good nutrition for our littlest eaters. With warmer days comes opportunity for planting spinach and radish seeds and savoring the first tastes of sweet peas and baby greens. March is also National Nutrition Month, a time devoted to celebrating good nutrition for all, as well as National Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Week, a national campaign aimed at raising awareness about the benefits and importance of the USDA CACFP program. 

The CACFP program provides 1.9 billion meals and snacks to over 3.2 million children in child care centers, family child care homes and after-school programs each year. In addition to ensuring access to nutritious food for children in child care settings, the program also aims to support nutrition education and positive eating habits.

In celebration of these important awarness campaigns, we’re recognizing the work of organization like Taking Root Tennessee, which aims to influence a generation of children to be healthy eaters by exposing them to fresh, healthy foods. To do this, Taking Root Tennessee offers gardening opportunities for young children by building gardens and providing tools, technical assistance and curriculum to early care and education providers. 

For Joshua Smith, Program Coordinator, and Phillip Hester, Program Director, expanding garden education is a natural extension of the work of Taking Root Tennessee’s parent organization, Our Daily Bread of Tennessee. As a CACFP sponsor, Our Daily Bread facilitates the administration of the CACFP program to over 300 family child care homes, child care centers, at risk afterschool programs, and summer food programs, reaching nearly 10,000 children with healthy meals and snacks each day. 

The gardening experience offered by Taking Root Tennessee supports the CACFP aims of contributing to the nutrition knowledge, wellness and healthy growth of young children. As Smith notes, the CACFP meal requirements ensure children are offered fruits and vegetables, while farm to school activities, like gardening and food-related educational opportunities, make it more likely that children will actually eat and enjoy those fruits and vegetables.  

Farm to school activities offered by Taking Root Tennessee not only support the health and wellness of children, but families, early care and education providers and local growers also reap the benefits. One child in the program was so excited about gardening, and his mother so thrilled to see her child eating fresh vegetables, that the family is now in search of a home where they can put in a garden and grow vegetables for the whole family. 

Garden trainings offered by Taking Root Tennessee give early care and education providers the opportunity to expand their palates, as well. Never having tasted a bell pepper, one provider was convinced that they would be too spicy for the children in her care. After tasting the sweetness of a ripe red bell pepper at a training, she eagerly began growing them in the garden and offering them at snack time. 

As providers taste the distinct flavors of freshly grown produce and see how the children respond, they are requesting more information about how to source more fresh, local products. Smith and Hester happily point them towards farmers’ markets and connect them with local producers, increasing market opportunities for local growers. 

As Taking Root Tennessee demonstrates, farm to early care and education and CACFP can be valuable keys to allowing all children the opportunity to grow and eat healthy, local food. To learn more about getting started with farm to school activities in early care and education settings – like gardening, local procurement, and food-based activities to enhance the educational experience – download our Getting Started with Farm to Early Care and Education factsheet. Now is a great time to take actions that will help children celebrate great nutrition all year round!  

The Curriculum of Cuisine

Anna Mullen Friday, March 11, 2016

By Bryant Sanders, Development Associate

March is National Nutrition Month, a time to promote nutrition education and bring attention to the importance of making informed food choices. In celebration, we interviewed Maggie Michaels, founder of The Curriculum of Cuisine, in Portland, Ore. to discuss her innovate approach for integrating nutrition education into high school classrooms. 

What is The Curriculum of Cuisine? 
The Curriculum of Cuisine is a program that works at crossroads of culinary education, standards driven academic rigor, career development and food justice. Our mission is to support rigorous academic learning while delivering essential culinary skills to enhance student success and foster a lifetime of wellness. We provide basic culinary education to students without the expense of a school needing to add an elective class or create a specialized classroom. By providing culinary supplies and a chef, The Curriculum of Cuisine turns classroom spaces into basic kitchens for hands-on learning.

Links between health and academic achievement are unquestionable, so this program addresses the critical community needs of improving both youth wellness and academic achievement by placing culinary skills on par with academic rigor during the school day.

Why is it important that students receive nutrition education in the classroom?
Basic cooking techniques are fundamental to both wellness and food justice, so The Curriculum of Cuisine ensures more youth acquire these skills by teaching them within the context of the academic classes that are required for graduation. In addition to engaging learners and reinforcing academic standards, the culinary skills taught through our program become cornerstones for students to achieve a lifetime of healthy eating habits and personal wellness.

What does the curriculum look like in practice? 
There is no “canned” curriculum, so a certified teacher and culinary professional have the opportunity to craft a series of lessons to reflect the unique learning styles, cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic situations of their students. 

For example, this spring we’re partnering with a Natural Sciences teacher at Alliance High School-Meek in Portland, Ore. We’re bringing a chef into two of the teacher’s classes for six visits each. Along with learning essential culinary skills, students will be focused on learning about food security issues in low incomes neighborhoods; using permaculture design principles to grow food with maximum benefits to ecosystems and minimal negative impacts to the planet; and exploring career pathways to becoming chefs.

What makes this approach to nutrition education unique? 
Our program model – bringing chefs into the classes students are already need to graduate – means we can meet students, teachers, and schools right where they are. This spring we’re working with four different high schools, and it's almost as if there are four different programs being planned. All of them will deliver hands on learning for students, but each is a  unique reflection of  the chef-teacher partnership, the cultural capital of students, and the school. Every initiative of The Curriculum of Cuisine has its own flavor, and that is very cool!

Learn more about The Curriculum of Cuisine through their website, Facebook page and blog. To explore more ideas for integrating nutrition education into classroom curriculum, visit our resource library


This Week in farm to school: 3/8/16

NFSN Staff Tuesday, March 08, 2016

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. Carton2Garden, Spring 2016 Contest
Carton2Garden wants to see your students’ creativity by re-purposing milk and juice cartons from your school cafeteria to either build or enhance your school garden. Educators can engage students in a hands-on experience creating teachable moments on environmental stewardship, sustainable packaging and healthy living. The best use of cartons in a school garden gives your school the chance to win one of 14 prizes with a grand prize valued at $5,000. Learn more here

2. Healthy Lifestyles: Healthy School Meals Grant 
National PTA is now accepting applications for the Healthy Lifestyles: Healthy School Meals Grant. This awards provides the resources necessary for local PTAs to collaborate with their school officials and food service team to improve school meals. Grants of up to $2,000 will be awarded to 25 local PTAs. Review the application and submit your completed answers online by 12:00 pm EST, Monday, April 4, 2016. Learn more here

3. Food Sovereignty Assessment Grant Program
First Nations Development Institute is accepting proposals from Native communities to conduct food sovereignty or community food assessments to gain a better knowledge and understanding about the historical, current and future state of their local food systems.   First Nations plans to award up to 10 grants of up to $10,000 each. Applications are due by March 15, 2016. Learn more here


Webinars & Events
1. Register Now! Early Bird Prices for National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
Don’t miss the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison, Wis., June 2-4, 2016. This event is the only national gathering of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement, making it a crucial leadership development opportunity to advance community health, build economic opportunities for farmers and producers, and ensure long-term sustainability for local food efforts nationwide. Early bird registration is open now, including pre-conference short courses and field trips. Event organizers expect more than 1,500 attendees, and the last event sold out before the registration deadline, so don’t wait. Register today at farmtocafeteriaconference.org.

2. The Edible Schoolyard Project Summer 2016 Trainings
The Edible Schoolyard Project trains educators to create powerful and sustainable edible education programs in their schools and communities. Learn and experience first-hand the core principles and practical tools for bringing academic subjects to life in the kitchen, garden, and lunchroom. This summer, two trainings will be offered for teachers, administrators, food service professionals, and advocates on site at the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley in California. The Edible Schoolyard Academy will run from June 26-30 and the Edible Schoolyard Intensive: Farm to School from July 7-11.  The application deadline for both programs is March 13, 2016. Learn more and apply here

3. Save the date: Southern Obesity Summit
November 13-15 // Houston, Texas
The Southern Obesity Summit (SOS) is the largest regional obesity prevention event in the United States, drawing hundreds of participants from 16 Southern States consisting of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.  Together, these states join forces to fight obesity. Call for breakout proposals will open by April 1. Learn more here


Jobs & Opportunities
1. Farm to School Regional Leads, USDA Farm to School
USDA is looking for Farm to School Regional Leads in the following USDA Food and Nutrition Service locations: Southwest Regional Office: Dallas, TX; Western Regional Office: San Francisco, CA; Mountain Plains Regional Office: Denver, CO. This is an opportunity to help implement the USDA Farm to School Program, including grants, training and technical assistance, and actively participate in driving the program’s growth and evolution. Application are due March 11. Learn more here

2. Communications Associate, Shelburne Farms
The primary responsibilities of this position are to (1) support Shelburne Farms’ major communications, public relations, and marketing initiatives; and (2) coordinate communications/marketing and provide administrative support for VT FEED, a farm-to-school partnership project of Shelburne Farms. Learn more and apply here

3. FoodCorps Service Member Application Open
Are you a leader passionate about healthy food, farms and kids?
Become a FoodCorps service member! FoodCorps recruits talented leaders for a year of paid public service building healthy school food environments in limited-resource communities. Applications are due by March 31, 2016 at 6pm PT. Learn more and apply here


Farm to school in the news
Detroit’s Rebel Lunch Lady Wants to Fix More Than Food - shout out Betti Wiggins, NFSN Advisory Board member! 
Betti Wiggins is transforming school lunch for 46,000 Detroit Public Schools students. She’s thrown out the deep fryers, launched a 2 1/2-acre production farm and has a network of 80 school gardens that help bring farm to school. The Plate, National Geographic

Acadiana High celebrates farm-to-school movement
Lunch at Acadiana High was a bit different Thursday. The chicken that was served had been raised on the school farm, and prepared with the help of students. It’s part of a national farm-to-school initiative. Last fall, Acadiana High received a $27,000 grant through Seed Change, a project funded by the Wal-Mart foundation. The Advertiser

School Food Fight: My Interview with Senator Debbie Stabenow

In this interview, read Stabenow's predictions on whether the Senate Child Nutrition Reauthorization compromise will become law, her thoughts on using the appropriations process to legislate nutrition standards, the controversy over school meal verification and more. Huffington Post

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. 

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