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News

This Week in farm to school: 5/25/16

NFSN Staff Wednesday, May 25, 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. Rural Community Grant Program, Northwest Farm Credit Service
Northwest Farm Credit Service is looking for creative and collaborative approaches to addressing challenges and opportunities in rural communities. Its rural community grant program provides grants for community projects that improve rural communities within Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. This includes efforts such as building or improving facilities; purchasing necessary equipment to facilitate a program; and funding capital improvements which enhance a community’s infrastructure, viability and/or prosperity. Applications are due June 1. Learn more here.


Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: Election-Related Lobbying & Advocacy
Friday, June 10, 2-3pm ET
Join National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Alliance for Justice, and Food Policy Action for a webinar on election-related lobbying and advocacy. The webinar will cover the basic rules for 501(c)(3)s and the various types of activities (candidate forums, questionnaires, get out the vote efforts, etc.) that (c)(3)s can engage in during an election season.  You'll also hear from Claire Benjamin of Food Policy Action about FPA's work to hold legislators accountable on votes that have an effect on food and farming. Register here.  

2. Registration Open: Southeast Regional Farm to School Conference
September 23-24 // Greenville, SC
The Southeast is having a farm to school gathering and you are invited! On September 23-24, 2016 in Greenville, SC, join teachers, early childhood educators, parents, community health professionals, and child nutrition staff from across the southeast to strengthen existing programs and jump start new farm to school efforts. State networking sessions will be provided for states within USDA's SE region:  NC, SC, FL, KY, TN, GA, AL, and MS. Full information including the workshop schedule and field trip details is available on the Growing Minds website

3. 6th Farm-Based Education Network National Gathering 
November 4-6 // Concord, MA
Save the date! Educators, farmers, nonprofit organization staff, parents, nutrition practitioners, policy makers, students, and more will come together to share skills and resources, build relationships, and celebrate the vibrant field of farm-based education. Workshops will focus on program development, marketing, fundraising, the balance of production and education, nonprofit board management, and much more. Peer educators will showcase their sites during field trips and workshops, a keynote address will spark discussion, and group meals will allow for ample networking time. Learn more here


Research & Resources
1. New CACFP Meal Pattern and Best Practices Promote Local and Seasonal
In April, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service released the final Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal pattern rules along with best practice recommendations. Several of these changes and best practices create great opportunity to increase awareness and implementation of farm to school activities in CACFP programs. See a summary of the final rule and details about opportunities for farm to early care and education on the National Farm to School Network blog.    

2. Report: The Michigan Farm to School Grant Program - The First Three Years
The story of the Michigan Farm to School Grant Program, established in 2011 and continuing today, is now available in one comprehensive report from the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems. Read how MI Farm to School Grant Program has helped food program providers overcome challenges and stimulate or sustain local food purchasing programs at K-12 schools and early childhood programs in Michigan. Read the report here

3. Film: Lunch Love Community
Lunch Love Community tells the story of how a diverse group of pioneering parents and food advocates came together to tackle food reform and food justice in the schools and neighborhoods of Berkeley, California, and features Ann Cooper among others. The film can be useful in community settings to inspire engagement, and well as in education settings. It is composed of twelve interconnecting short documentaries, and comes with study guides, which is perfect for introducing topics while allowing time for discussion and teaching. Learn more here


Policy
1. House committee passes CNR amidst advocate and lawmaker concerns
Last week, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016, marking another step forward in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) process, but potentially a step backward for our nation’s children. While there are considerable issues with the bill’s potential impact on the quality and access to school meals, one of the very few bright spots of bipartisanship was farm to school.  A full CNR update is available on our blog


Jobs & Opportunities
1. Farm to School Program Coordinator, Minneapolis Public Schools
This position coordinates the Minneapolis Public Schools Farm to School Program, including program development, financial oversight, staff support, community development, and public relations; liaison with internal and external partners including local procurement and food educational efforts. Application closes June 2. Learn more here


Farm to school in the news
Chefs in Schools program to benefit Clark County students, food service staff
With support from the National Farm to School Network’s Seed Change initiative, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Program has launched the Chefs in Schools collaborative. The program uses chefs to educate school food service personnel about incorporating fresh local foods in their menus, knife skills and proper handling of fresh local foods. (via The Winchester Sun)

Manatee schools plan garden expansions
The Manatee County School District (Florida) is expanding its school gardens and working with area farmers to get more local food in schools. In the upcoming year, the district wants to increase the food products coming from local farmers and more prominently promote the products from those local farmers in the cafeterias. (via Bradenton Herald)

Schools dishing out local food

More than 130 school districts in New York are participating in a federal pilot program in which schools use funds from the US Department of Agriculture to purchase local produce for school meals. Officials say the program expands access to local food and helps cut costs. (via The Daily 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. 

House committee passes CNR amidst advocate and lawmaker concerns

NFSN Staff Thursday, May 19, 2016
By Natalie Talis, Policy Associate 

Yesterday, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016, marking another step forward in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) process, but potentially a step backward for our nation’s children. The final vote, after 31 proposed amendments and several hours of debate, came down primarily on party lines with 20 for and 14 against. 

The markup was a contentious meeting, with members on both sides of the aisle expressing concern over the bill. On one side, Democrats proposed amendments to preserve the nutrition gains of the latest version of CNR, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. On the other, Republicans proposed amendments to further limit the federal government’s involvement in school meals.  While there are considerable issues with the bill’s potential impact on the quality and access to school meals, one of the very few bright spots of bipartisanship was farm to school. 

Several members of Congress mentioned their support of the bill’s farm to school provisions in their opening remarks, including Reps. Stefanik (R-NY), Fudge (D-OH) and Curbelo (R-FL). The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 uses much of the language from the Farm to School Act of 2015 marker bill and includes an increase from $5 to $10 million annually in funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program

Despite this farm to school victory, the National Farm to School Network urges the House to work toward a different CNR bill with a bipartisan consensus, much like the Senate Agriculture version. One of our many concerns with the House bill involves changes to the Community Eligibility Program (CEP). By increasing the qualifying threshold for this program, Congress would reduce access to school meals while increasing paperwork and the administrative burden on school nutrition professionals. An analysis of the bill from The PEW Charitable Trusts provides more details on potential outcomes from the bill here.

During the amendment portion of the markup, 6 proposed amendments earned enough votes to pass. They include:

  • An independent study to examine external/private funding opportunities for school meals. Introduced by Rep. Allen (R-GA)
  • Eliminating the cultural foods exemption for the nutrition standards. Introduced by Rep. Scott (D-VA)
  • Instructing the USDA to provide guidance on streamlining compliance paperwork for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Introduced by Rep. Stefanik (R-NY)
  • Including parents, pediatricians and dietitians to the list of stakeholders involved in a three year nutrition standard review. Introduced by Rep. Polis (D-CO)
  • Instructing the USDA to consider milk purchasing options for schools to increase dairy consumption. Introduced by Rep. Courtney (D-CT)
  • Authorization to use other forms of electronic benefit transfer in the Summer EBT Pilot. Introduced by Rep. Davis (D-CA)

Many of the failed amendments were Democratic attempts to undo the bill’s block grant pilot, increased threshold for the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) and relaxed nutrition standards. 

Although the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 has passed through committee, it is still uncertain if the controversial bill will make it to the full floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate is still waiting on a revised Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score to ensure budget neutrality before coming to a vote. 

With the legislative calendar winding down for this year, we remain cautiously optimistic that CNR will move forward with the necessary changes to continue building on previous successes and ensure healthy meals for every child. To stay up to date on CNR, sign up for the National Farm to School Network newsletter and follow us on social media

CACFP lifts up local

NFSN Staff Tuesday, May 17, 2016
By Lacy Stephens, Farm to Early Care and Education Associate and Natalie Talis, Policy Associate 



In April, the United Stated Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) released the much anticipated Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal pattern final rule and CACFP best practice recommendations. The National Farm to School Network, along with kids, farmers and communities, has reason to applaud these updates. The final rule and best practice recommendations create great opportunity to promote farm to school activities in CACFP programs and open the door for even more of the 3.3 million children served by CACFP to experience the benefits of farm to early care and education.  

The new meal pattern, which is the first revision since the start of the program in 1968, aims to improve the overall nutritional quality of CACFP meals and snacks and ensure that the standards more closely align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In the final rule, FNS highlights the benefits and growing interest in utilizing local foods in CACFP programs:

Local foods: Local foods can play an important role in creating and promoting a healthy environment. A growing body of research demonstrates several positive impacts of serving local foods and providing food education through CNPs, including increased participation and engagement in meal programs; consumption of healthier options, such as whole foods; and support of local economies.

Implementation of new CACFP meal pattern changes, such as additional fruit and vegetable variety requirements, increased whole grains and reduced sugar in snacks and beverages, can all be supported with farm to early care and education activities. By using local foods, gardening experiences, and food and nutrition education, young children learn to accept and enjoy the variety of healthy foods included in the meal pattern. To read more about the role of farm to early care and education in supporting success in CACFP, see our recent blog, Celebrating Good Nutrition for Our Littlest Eaters

In addition to the final rule, the USDA will release a policy guidance document detailing CACFP best practice strategies that further support a healthy start for our youngest eaters and help create lifelong healthy habits. The policy guidance, to be released this summer, will include using seasonal and local foods in meals along with nutrition education.

In the meantime, get started on the CACFP best practice of serving local food and other farm to early care and education activities with these National Farm to School Network resources:


The new FNS rules emphasize what we continue to see in the field: CACFP and farm to early care and education are key to building the next generation of healthy eaters.    

This Week in farm to school: 5/17/16

NFSN Staff Tuesday, May 17, 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. 


Webinars & Events
1. Webinars: USDA Traditional Foods in Native Communities Webinar Series
This spring, USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems is hosting 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 next webinar is Partnering for Success in Tribal Communities on May 18, at 3pm EDT. Learn more and register here

2. Registration Open: Southeast Regional Farm to School Conference
September 23-24, Greenville, SC
The Southeast is having a farm to school gathering and you are invited! On September 23-24, 2016 in Greenville, SC, join teachers, early childhood educators, parents, community health professionals, and child nutrition staff from across the southeast to strengthen existing programs and jump start new farm to school efforts. State networking sessions will be provided for states within USDA's SE region:  NC, SC, FL, KY, TN, GA, AL, and MS. Full information including the workshop schedule and field trip details is available on the Growing Minds website.

3. RFP Open: Fourth Annual Yale Food Systems Symposium

September 30, New Haven, CT
The Fourth Annual Yale Food Systems Symposium planning committee is now accepting submissions to present at this year's event, to be held September 30th, 2016 at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies in New Haven, CT. This year's theme surrounds the topic of "Feeding a Growing World: Perspectives in 2016." Please see their website for the full RFP and for the online form to submit proposals.


Research & Resources
1. New CACFP Meal Pattern and Best Practices Promote Local and Seasonal
In April, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service released the final Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal pattern rules along with best practice recommendations. Several of these changes and best practices create great opportunity to increase awareness and implementation of farm to school activities in CACFP programs. See a summary of the final rule and details about opportunities for farm to early care and education on the National Farm to School Network blog.    

2. USDA Factsheets Now Available in Spanish
In an effort to reach Spanish-speaking farm to school program operators, USDA recently had three of their most popular farm to school fact sheets translated into Spanish. Check them out:
3. Minneapolis Public Schools Farm to School Toolkit
Minneapolis Public Schools has released a Farm to School Toolkit – a case study detailing how their farm to school program works. Since 2011, MPS has been proudly sourcing fresh produce, meats, baked goods, and other products from local farmers and manufacturers for meals provided to the district’s 35,500 students. This toolkit is designed to describe MPS’ farm to school program and share the many useful tools, resources and documents that have been developed since its inception. View the toolkit here

4. Identifying Farm to School Barriers and Keys to Success: Perceptions of Hourly Employees
This article from the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition outlines a study focused on identifying barriers and keys to success when using local produce from farm to school programs. Semistructured Interviews were conducted with hourly school foodservice employees. Challenges included appearance, shelf life, service to students, and availability. Keys to success included exposure and support, service, and employee motivation. Results of the study are not generalizable but were used to develop a questionnaire to identify barriers among a larger sample. Read more here.

5. USDA Farm Storage Facility Loan Expanded

USDA’s Farm Service Agency recently announced that farmers can now use the Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) program to help finance portable storage structures, portable equipment, and storage and handling trucks; the program will also continue to support stationary crop and cold storage on-farm facilities. This expansion will provide much-needed support to fruit and vegetable farmers, and other producers, who need special equipment to transport their goods to local farmers markets, schools, restaurants, food hubs, and retail establishments. Learn more here.


Jobs & Opportunities
1. USDA Office of Community Food Systems - two positions
USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems has posted two, permanent, full-time positions. One will be charged with coordinating efforts to bring more local foods into our schools programs, while the other will manage our summer and CACFP portfolio. The deadline to submit applications is Tuesday, May 17. Learn more here


Farm to school in the news

Farms that Sell Directly to Consumers May Stay in Business Longer
Opportunities to buy food directly from farmers, in urban and rural areas, have increased considerably in recent years. The number of farms that sold food at roadside stands, farmers’ markets, pick-your-own farms, on-farm stores, and community-supported agricultural arrangements increased 24 percent between 2002 and 2012. Read more on the USDA’s blog.

Gardening Project Takes Root at Marlboro Middle School

Whitcomb Middle School in Massachusetts has installed a new school garden, and students and teachers are ready to dig in. “With the introduction of growing plants and vegetables, we are able to incorporate math, science, ELA, social studies, and social skills. From the importance of water and agriculture for ancient civilizations, quantitative measurements or the life sciences, we can incorporate this project in line with curriculum. As special educators, our goal is creating this ownership over their learning experience.” (via Worcester Telegram & Gazette)

School's Curriculum Fosters Healthful Connection to Food, Environment

Philip’s Academy Charter School in New Jersey has established a new curriculum that emphasizes healthy eating and food literacy. Its mission is to foster a future generation of environmental leaders. (via Voice of America)


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. 

Congress is Red, Blue and Green!

NFSN Staff Thursday, May 05, 2016
By Amy Woehling, Emerson Hunger Fellow

 Photo credit: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

With farm to school, advocacy isn’t just letters and phone calls – it's also about getting policymakers out to the farm! In April, the National Farm to School Network teamed-up with DC Central Kitchen, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, DC Greens and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to welcome congressional staff to K Street Farm in Washington, D.C. and witness farm to school in action. When policymakers join the fun happening in their own backyard, it provides firsthand experience with farm to school’s critical role in developing young, healthy eaters. From teachers to students, food processors to farmers, gardeners to congressmen, advocacy opportunities share the intricate stories of farm to school and how this powerful tool can be used to create healthy, lifelong habits.

Our tour at K Street Farm started with congressional staff learning about D.C.’s local farm to school advocates and the tremendous work they do year round to provide local, nutritious meals to all students across the city. Then, guests explored the garden (where students were expertly planting kale) before getting their very own taste of farm to school: Fresh Feature Fridays. DC Central Kitchen hosts Fresh Feature Fridays at schools around the city where students are able to try a local vegetable cooked three different ways and then vote on their favorite. The garden tour participants had three local squash dishes before heading to the polls. In a show of bipartisanship, the congressional staffers came together to pick curried squash as their Fresh Feature Favorite!
  Photo credit: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Hosting a farm to school tour is a great example of advocacy that demonstrates just how important policies that support farm to school are for cultivating hands-on nutrition education. Our tour specifically showcased the potential impacts of the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR). It is one thing to say how important the USDA Farm to School Grant Program is to schools across the country. It is another to meet the kids who benefit from garden education and to taste fresh, locally sourced school meals. 

CNR has recently seen movement from the House Education and Workforce Committee, which introduced its draft CNR bill on April 20, 2016. While the House CNR bill includes big wins for farm to school, we do have a number of concerns regarding student access to healthy, nutritious meals year round. Check out this update from our partners at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for more details.

Try your own advocacy event and set up a farm to school tour day for policymakers in your community! Here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Choose a farm to school activity that you’re most excited about in your community - is it the school garden? Local food taste tests? Harvest of the Month?

  • Strategize how you could share this excitement with your policymakers - e.g. invite policy makers to a cooking demonstration or a harvest celebration.
  • Form a team, including community partners and other key stakeholders, to help create an agenda for the event.
  • Find contact information for the policymakers and legislative staff you’d like to invite. Consider policymakers at all levels, from US Senators and Representatives to your governor, mayor or city council members.

  • Send invitations – don’t forget to invite local media, too.

  • Celebrate your advocacy event!

  • Follow-up with all participants and make sure to send a thank you. Include a memento from the day (like a picture) to remind your policymakers what farm to school success looks like.   
Advocacy events like these bring everyone to the table (or garden!) and exemplify the mission of farm to school: empowering children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. Check out our Advocacy Fact Sheet for more ideas of how to advocate for farm to school in your community. Keep an eye out this summer for our new advocacy toolkit that will provide further details on hosting your own Garden Tour Day and other efforts that you make to promote farm to school in your community.

 Photo credit: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

This Week in farm to school: 5/4/16

NFSN Staff Wednesday, May 04, 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. 


Webinars & Events
1. Last Chance! Join Us at the 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. The registration deadline is May 16 – that’s less than two weeks away. Register today at farmtocafeteriaconference.org.

2. Webinars: USDA Traditional Foods in Native Communities Webinar Series
This spring, USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems is hosting 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 third webinar is coming up: Community Food Systems in Native Communities: Engaging Students on May 4, at 3pm EDT. Learn more and register here

3. Webinar: New Healthier CACFP Meal Standards: What you need to know

Food Research & Action Center
Monday, May 9, 1-2:30pm ET
USDA has issued the new healthier meal pattern for the Child and Adult Care Food Program and related programs. Join the Food Research and Action Center and USDA for a webinar on the new rules and USDA’s implementation plans. Learn what you need to know about USDA's recently issued healthier CACFP meal pattern and nutrition standards for the Child and Adult Care Food Program in Head Start, child care centers, family child care homes, afterschool programs, emergency shelters and adult day care and school meal programs in school-based PreK. Register here

4. Webinar: School Garden Education for Children Experiencing Behavioral and Mental Health Challenges

Slow Food USA
Tuesday, May 17, 2pm ET
School Gardens for students with behavioral and mental health challenges provide interesting opportunities to develop positive and empowering life skills. The Creeks School Garden in Portland Oregon integrates practical education theory and methods into tangible, thoughtful teaching exercises that results in dynamic behavioral changes. The Creeks School Garden team will describe: the learning characteristics of these special children, their school settings, the importance of community partnerships, and specific activities that help these student’s gain confidence and develop productive collaborative relationships. Learn more here


Research & Resources
1. Film: Food Frontiers
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has released a short film that tells a half-dozen stories about projects around the country that are aimed at increasing access to healthy food. One of the stories covers farm to school programs in Riverside, Calif., and Claremont, Calif., including extensive material on farm to school pioneer Rodney Taylor and his farmer collaborator Bob Knight. Watch the film here


Jobs & Opportunities
1. Executive Director, Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network
The Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network has re-opened its search for a new Executive Director. WSFFN’s Executive Director will lead The Network into a new decade, providing both vision and action to strengthen sustainable food and farming systems. The position will remain open until filled. Learn more here.

2. Wellness Dietitian, Burke County Public Schools
Burke County Public Schools (Georgia) seeks a Wellness Dietitian to join is School Nutrition team. The position is heavily involved with the district’s farm to school and Early Head Start work. Learn more and apply here


Farm to school in the news

Trying To Alleviate Food Deserts In Arizona's Desert - shout out to Cindy Gentry, NFSN Arizona State Lead!
There are a number of food deserts in and around Maricopa County, Ariz. - areas in which residents have little-to-no access to healthy food. In this radio interview, Cindy Gentry, food systems coordinator for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, speaks about the role schools play in trying to alleviate food deserts. Listen here.

Local Food Learning Lab Sparks Growth - shout out to ASAP, NFSN Southeast Regional Lead Agency! 
Preschoolers at ASAP's new Growing Minds Learning Lab are getting their hands dirty this summer. Hear them talk about their gardening experiment and find out how the Child Care Center of First Presbyterian Church of Asheville, N.C. is bringing local food into the lives of its littlest learners. Listen here.

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. 

Farm to school in rural Louisiana restores local food connections

NFSN Staff Wednesday, May 04, 2016
By Nicole Mabry, Louisiana Farm to School Alliance 
 Rory Gresham leads a tour of the Richland Parish School Board hydroponic growing system.
(Photo credit: Jason Van Haverbeke)

In the transnational push for more sustainable local food systems, rural communities face unique challenges that city-centric conversations can fail to capture. Across Louisiana, rural parishes are finding innovative, collaborative ways to revitalize local food economies that can often feel disinvested from the community. Leading this movement to stimulate local food systems in rural Louisiana are schools.

With support from Seed Change, a National Farm to School Network initiative aimed at expanding farm to school activities at the state and community levels, and the Louisiana Farm to School Alliance, a statewide network of organizations working in food, farming, nutrition and education, schools across the state are bringing fresh, healthy food into cafeterias and increasing food and agricultural literacy in the classroom. 

A look at three different rural Seed Change Louisiana sites offers a glimpse into how dedicated educators, administrators and growers are finding fresh ways to restore connection and inspire growth through school food. 

Richland Parish School Board

Since the beginning of 2016, Richland Parish School Board’s greenhouse program has supplied their Food Service Department with more than 4,200 heads of lettuce to be served in the district’s twelve schools. This is particularly impressive considering the greenhouse is only 20x48 feet – or roughly the size of two adjacent school buses. Serving as a Seed Change Demonstration Site in northeast Louisiana, Richland Parish School Board invested its Seed Change grant funding into building the greenhouse along with the high-efficiency hydroponic growing system it houses. Rory Gresham, greenhouse manager for Richland Parish School Food Service, has noticed a considerable increase in the amount of greens the students are eating. “It’s amazing how many students come up and tell me that they didn’t know lettuce had a taste,” he says. Far beyond the cafeteria, Richland’s hydroponic greenhouse is also having an impact across the region. Gresham regularly hosts visitors from throughout the south who are eager to replicate this innovative system in their own school districts and communities. With a professional internship program in partnership with the local university slated to begin next year, Richland may well have a hand in producing a new crop of Louisiana farmers along with its lettuce and tomatoes. 

Northwest High School, Opelousas
Cody Manuel, agriculture teacher at Northwest High School and Seed Change Louisiana mini-grantee, often views his classes as a hands-on course in communication skills. Inspired by a Seed Change training held at the Richland Parish School Board Demonstration Site, Manuel hopes to expand his existing garden based curriculum and small-scale hydroponic growing system where he says students are learning meaningful career skills such as, “How to accept constructive criticism, how to work together, how to communicate.” Manuel adds that he’s noticed a niche market emerging for high quality, locally grown crops, and students in his classes are also taking note. Manuel hopes Northwest’s farm to school program will support students’ entry into sustainable farming. “Those that enjoy growing things and see there’s money to be made in it, they’ll pursue it. I think it’s going that way, it’s not just a trend.”

LaSalle Parish School Board

Kelly Thompson, Child Nutrition Supervisor at LaSalle Parish Schools and lifelong gardener, has always been attracted to the idea of incorporating gardening into classroom curriculum. “What a great way to teach students leadership, responsibility and to help them develop a sense of place about our community,” she says. After being selected as a Seed Change Louisiana mini-grantee, Thompson was able to turn her vision into reality. Equipped with training and funding, raised bed gardens have been installed at all four of LaSalle Parish’s elementary schools – and the impacts have been noticeable. “Students having so much fun and smiling. Even their behavior has changed, with a new peace and calmness.” The gardens are also gaining interest and support from many in the community. Some of the community’s most knowledgeable local gardeners now volunteer and are helping to keep the gardens thriving. Through these school-community partnerships, LaSalle Parish is restoring the community’s intergenerational knowledge of the land and teaching the parish’s littlest learners how to grow.
(Photo credit: LaSalle Parish School Board)

Funding and support provided by Seed Change has sparked an upwelling of new opportunities for farm to school projects across the region. Katie Mularz, Executive Director for the Louisiana Farm to School Alliance and Seed Change State Coordinator said, “Even modest farm to school funding supports schools to be innovative agents of change—leading the way to healthier, more sustainable systems while addressing community needs and inspiring youth to see a brighter future.”

Learn more about the National Farm to School Network’s Seed Change initiative and how we’re growing farm to school state by state here

Seed Change in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania is made possible by a generous grant from the Walmart Foundation, which shares the National Farm to School Network’s commitment to improving child and community healthy through innovative partnerships

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