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When Words Aren’t Enough, But You Have Words to Say: There Is No Food Justice Without Racial Justice, Part Two

NFSN Staff Monday, August 31, 2020

By Helen Dombalis, NFSN Executive Director

I’m writing this nearly a week after Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by police, and after Kyle Rittenhouse murdered two people and injured a third at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha. In the words of the late and great John Lewis, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” So I’m here to say something, even when I know words are not enough, and to do something with the privilege and power I have.

Black people are being killed, Black families and communities are being torn apart, and Black members of our nation are living in constant fear. I know words alone will not make racism and hatred stop, and yet speaking up is necessary at moments like these. My colleagues (and co-conspirators) and I have written this, this, and this in the last three months alone. How many more times is this going to happen? And why did it take us this long to even get to the point of having national attention of systemic racism when Black people have been murdered by state sanctioned killings since being kidnapped and enslaved centuries ago? It took too long to get to this moment. Looking ahead, how are we going to take responsibility for changing the future?

While words are not enough, they do make a difference. After my May 31 statement, I heard from plenty of people suggesting farm to school has nothing to do with racial justice, that our food system is colorblind, and that speaking up about George Floyd’s murder is bringing politics to an apolitical topic. I’ll say again, this simply is not true. National Farm to School Network was founded on these core values and with a vision for a just food system. Farm to school has everything to do with racial justice; our food system is immensely racist, and our country’s politics have become about which humans are valued, and which are not. 

Racial justice is “the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all…[it]...goes beyond ‘anti-racism.’ It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures” (from Racial Equity Tools Glossary). That’s what National Farm to School Network should be about and it’s the direction we’re going in - making our food system work for everyone, from farmers, farmer workers and producers, to children and families, school nutrition staff and educators. And until every person has the opportunity to participate equally in producing and consuming nutritious, local food, and until there are no differences in this opportunity based on race, there is work to be done in correcting the racial injustices in our food system.

When we release our new strategic plan at our Movement Meeting on October 14, we will set forth a bold goal, centered in racial justice. Because nothing less is going to accomplish our vision.

As a white Executive Director of a national nonprofit, I have many privileges. I know sitting comfortably in my home writing this, not living in fear of being killed because of what I look like, is one of them. I don’t carry the constant, exhausting burden that Black people carry always. I cannot change my skin color, but I can evolve my actions. As my colleague Krystal Oriadha told me, being an ally is about taking risk. If you aren’t taking risk, if you aren’t taking even a bit of the burden off of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, you aren’t in allyship. Another of my privileges is platforms like this. Maybe a few people will leave our movement, and that is okay. We are investing our energy in those that are aligned and want to move forward with us on this path. And I am confident we will also gain many new supporters. I heard in recent months from the critics, but I also heard from newcomers and old friends, sharing that our words inspired them. So I’ll keep using my privilege to say something, hoping it will inspire more of you to do the same.

And when it comes to the fact that I also want to do something, we’re committing to shifting power. There’s power in money. Through the second phase of NFSN’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, we made a commitment specifically to Black- and Indigeouns-led organizations, and we will continue to make these types of commitments. In this spirit, today National Farm to School Network is granting $5,000 to the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. These commitments are examples of shifting power, but we know these are not the overall solution, and we know that this is long-term work. It has taken time to build structural racism into all aspects of our society, and it’s going to take time to dismantle it. We also know we’ve been implicated in maintaining these structures. And we know we have power and privilege and are committed to channeling this into actionable steps towards a more racially just food system and society. (If you missed it before, here and here are commitments we’re making and steps we’re taking.) We’re calling on you to take this seriously and do the same. Our contributions may not be much, but little things coalesce into a big difference.

So what are you saying, what are you doing? Join me. Join us. Make a difference today. 

A Fresh Take on Dietary Guidelines Points to Need for Farm to School

NFSN Staff Monday, August 31, 2020
By Karen Spangler, NFSN Policy Director

In August, National Farm to School Network submitted comments on the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee, which reviews new scientific evidence about diet's impact on health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), reviewed by an advisory committee every five years, provide the foundation for the federal government’s recommendations to the public about eating patterns that lead to better health outcomes. 

The DGA are crucially important because their recommendations to promote or limit certain types of foods inform the nutrition standards for federal programs, including child nutrition programs.The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 ensured that school meal program standards are aligned with the DGA. Over the last ten years, as school menus have changed to meet the DGA standards, school meals have included more fruit, more servings and varieties of vegetables, more whole grains, and less saturated fat and sodium. A recent summary of research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation highlights the impact of these changes on short-term and long-term health and educational performance, particularly for low-income students. 

This review of the scientific evidence from the Advisory Committee offers recommendations to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) for updating the existing dietary guidelines. We’re excited by these new areas of focus, and in our comments have highlighted for the Secretaries that farm to school and farm to early care and education (ECE) activities can help achieve these recommendations. 

Focus on Overall Dietary Pattern
The report notes a dietary approach that promotes holistic, lifelong positive overall dietary quality leads to better long-term health. The Committee comments that, in general, healthy dietary patterns emphasize vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and seafood, all of which are currently under-consumed by Americans. Farm to school and farm to ECE activities offer proven strategies to increase immediate fruit and vegetable consumption. Research shows participation in farm to school and ECE activities increases children’s fruit and vegetable consumption by up to 1.3 servings per day. As the Committee notes, the flexibility within these patterns offers opportunities to incorporate traditional and culturally relevant foods, which connect children with their local food system and strengthen cultural and social connections in the community. Similarly, exploring local and seasonal foods through nutrition education and food service encourages kids to meet the dietary objectives recommended by the Committee within an accessible, culturally relevant frame.

Recognition of Early Childhood as a Key Developmental Period
For the first time, the Committee focused its review on nutrition in the earliest stages of life, concluding that this period of development is crucial to health later in life. The food environment in early childhood impacts long-term health directly, through key nutrients, and indirectly through shaping taste preferences and food choices. We know that farm to ECE activities can help with both of these aspects. In addition to local food procurement, educational and hands-on activities also  increase students’ willingness to choose healthier options at school meals and influence healthier food behaviors throughout their lifespan and in home environments.

Health Implications of Racial Injustice in the Food System
Commendably, the Committee notes the persistent health problems that food insecurity presents for our country. In addition to calling on USDA and HHS to support programs that provide low-income people with the resources to meet DGA, in our comments, we highlighted the historic and ongoing racial injustice in our food system that leads to these health inequities. We knew before the Covid-19 pandemic and recent Black Lives Matter protests that our food system is rife with racial inequities and that the current public health crisis has only exacerbated them. Our nation’s economy and our agricultural system are built on a foundation of racism and exploitation. These inequities in our food system contribute to economic and health inequalities: the same people that provide labor in our food system often can’t afford nourishing food for themselves and their families. As a result, Black, Latinx, and Native American communities are significantly more likely to face hunger and food insecurity than White individuals, and to suffer from diet-related diseases like diabetes. The Committee chose not to review scientific evidence on how the food environment and the overall food system impact health, which present a major shortcoming of their final report. Food system factors, including systemic racism and environmental justice, are key to dietary health.

The next step is for USDA and HHS to consider the evidence reviewed by the Committee and turn this scientific review into actionable recommendations for federal programs and for the general public. We have encouraged USDA and HHS to consider farm to school activities as a proven strategy for helping child nutrition programs meet these goals, and to foster healthier lives for our kids and communities. 


Read our full comments here. 

This Week in Farm to School: 8/25/20

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 25, 2020
SIGN UP: National Farm to School Network has weekly e-newsletter to share a roundup of COVID-19 related resources and information with farm to school and farm to ECE stakeholders - similar to what is shared weekly in these This Week in Farm to School blog posts. Sign up here to have this information delivered in your inbox weekly.

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's Office of Partnership and Public Engagement RFA: Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program
 Deadline to apply: August 26
Via section 2501 funding, these grants support community-based and non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and Tribal entities to conduct programming to assist producers. The deadline to apply is August 26th (please note, the announcement in the Federal Register incorrectly states the deadline as September 11!) OPPE will host a call for potential applicants on July 28, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. EST (Telephone Number: (877) 692-8955, Passcode: 6433267). No registration needed. Learn more and apply.

2. Cigna Foundation's Healthier Kids For Our Future Grant Program
Deadline: September 30 
Cigna Foundation is looking to partner with school systems and surrounding communities — including clinicians, local and national nonprofits — to supplement existing mental health programming and help close gaps both within and outside the school environment to address loneliness, anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. To that end, it will fund programs that foster collaboration between various stakeholders, including school administrators and teachers, clinicians, and local and national nonprofits. The grants are up to $65,000 grants per year for two years. Learn more and apply.

3. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Call for Proposals: Community Solutions for Health Equity
LOI deadline: October 7
With Community Solutions for Health Equity , RWJF seeks to make local health care systems more responsive to the needs of the community by elevating the voices, stories, priorities, and knowledge of people of color, and others who are left out of policy decisions. The Foundation's funding will provide community organizations with grant support to help increase their ability to organize members, build partnerships with other constituencies, and develop effective communication-all of which are critical to shared decisionmaking. Nine organizations will be given $300,000 each over the course of three years as part of the program. The Foundation is interested in engaging diverse groups and organizations, including those that have limited experience receiving grants of this size. Learn more and apply.

Webinars & Events
1. COVID-19 Webinar: Lessons Learned from Serving Summer Meals During Pandemic & Transitioning Back to School
August 26 // 10am ET
Presenters representing the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, schools, and non-profits will talk about their experiences on serving meals to kids and teens during the pandemic and resources to help when school starts back up this year. The goal of the webinar is to give attendees a variety of examples and ideas so they can be ready and adaptable if their situation changes. Register here.

2. Webinar: Fundraising Strategies for Food Ed Organizations
August 26 //11am ET
The Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy, New York State Health Foundation, and Wellness in the Schools are partnering to host a webinar on how food ed organizations can identify and apply for funding opportunities. New York State Health Foundation will highlight best practices when applying for funding, while Wellness in the Schools will share different funding approaches that their organization has used. Register here.  

3. COVID-19 Virtual Gathering: Garden Educator Distance Teaching and Learning 
August 26 // 2pm ET
Many months of distance teaching and learning have led to the development of a treasure trove of innovative teaching tools and the launching of new educational program models. This Virtual Gathering, hosted by School Garden Support Organizations, will offer everyone an opportunity to introduce programs that have been developed/adapted to meet the unique educational needs presented by COVID-19 along with other support resources that have been created to share with educators and families. Register here. 

4. Webinar: Garden Educator Distance Teaching and Learning Virtual Gathering
August 26// 2pm ET
For this Virtual Gathering School Garden Support Organization Network (SGSO) will offer everyone an opportunity to introduce programs that have been developed/adapted to meet the unique educational needs presented by COVID-19 along with other support resources that have been created to share with educators and families. SGSO would also like to hear about ideas for evaluating the impact of distance teaching efforts. We hope to focus on:
- Online lesson plans and other resources for educators and families;
- Non-digital tools and methods being used to continue learning from a distance; and
- Ideas for evaluating the impact of your distance teaching efforts.
Learn more and register.

5. COVID-19 Virtual Youth Townhall on the Return to School
August 26 // 2pm ET
Hosted by America’s Promise Alliance in Partnership with The 74, this virtual youth townhall will highlight the perspectives and experiences of young people to inform school, district, and community leaders’ approach to the return to school and to give them ideas for engaging the viewpoints of students throughout this year and beyond. Please note that this is the registration page for school leaders and other youth-supporting adults.

6. COVID-19 For Youth: Virtual Youth Townhall on the Return to School
August 26 // 2pm ET
Would you like to share your perspective about the return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic? As schools think about reopening, do you have advice on how issues of race and racism should be discussed once school is back in session? America’s Promise Alliance and The 74 invite you to participate in a youth townhall to share your thoughts about the logistics of school reopening, as well as how school leaders can engage young people in decision-making once school is back in session. Additionally, given the growing national conversations about racial justice, you will also be invited to share insights and advice for school leaders on how schools should provide opportunities to talk and learn about race and racism. If you are a middle or high school student and would like to participate in the townhall, please use this link to register.

7. What’s Next for Food Incentives and the Grocery Industry?
August 26 // 2pm ET
Since the beginning of the year, the grocery industry has had to adapt to new safety requirements, customer demands and supply chain interruptions, prompting innovations that help grocers buffer their already thin margins. Food incentives at retail locations have been a way for the grocery industry to supplement their EBT sales and increase overall revenue. Come hear from National Grocers Association, Arteaga's Food Center, Fair Food Network, and SPRU on how the approach to offering incentives has changed as a result of the pandemic. Learn more and register.  

8. Webinar: Stories & Strategies for Arts-Infused Food Systems Change: Community Leaders Seed the Way
August 26 // 3pm ET
How does both food and art bring us together to dream, design, and actualize change towards more equitable food systems? In this interactive webinar co-hosted by DAISA Enterprises and the Wallace Center, participants will engage with community leaders and artists, like Oscar Ly from ArtCrop and Brandi Turner from SippCulture from across the country whose work inspires place-based, creative food systems transformation. Within our new reality of the COVID-19 crisis and struggles for racial justice, you and your peers will have a chance to exchange ideas and experiences around how artistic and cultural practices are more critical than ever in envisioning and realizing resilient food systems. Join the conversation to learn real strategies to drive arts-infused food systems change in your own community.  

9. Webinar: Cooperatives 101
 August 26 //  6:30pm - 8:30pm ET
Join this free webinar with Center for Cooperatives in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State. and GDUCCI will present this Cooperative 101 webinar course where we welcome farmers, organizations, and folks in the food industry to learn about what a cooperative is, and how cooperatives work. Learn more and register.

10. COVID-19 Webinar: Farmworkers in the Pandemic: Essentially Disposable
August 27 // 12pm ET
Arguably the most essential people--those who grow and harvest the country’s food--are being brutalized by the coronavirus, discrimination and scapegoating. Called ‘essential’ yet treated like they are ‘disposable’, three farmworker leaders will present during the webinar. Panelists include Kathia Ramirez from the Farmworker Support Committee-CATA, Antonio Tovar, from the Farmworkers Association of Florida, and Erik Nicholson, National V.P. of the United Farm Workers. Register here to learn about the situation, their organizing, and how communities can support them.

11. NFSN Farm to School Producer-Support Community Roundtable II
August 27 // 3:30-5pm ET
The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) are hosting a Producer-Support Community Roundtable to offer a unique space for producer-focused dialogue related to farm to school and COVID-19. These conversations will help provide additional framing for the Bringing the Farm to School training program for agricultural producers by highlighting strategies for managing risk while staying committed to farm to school, innovative procurement approaches, and partnerships while informing our training implementation strategies to ensure they adequately meet the needs of producers, particularly those new to farm to school. Join us on Thursday, August 27 at 3:30-5:00 pm EST to hear from the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Minneapolis Public Schools about how stakeholders have been incorporating innovations into their farm to school efforts during COVID-19 as well as promising practices to carry into the upcoming school year. Discussion will include models to celebrate the resilience of our communities through farm to school events during COVID-19, strategies for maintaining the demand for local foods in school meals,  connecting producers with market opportunities in emergency feeding programs, engaging small/diversified farms and producers of color, and maintaining standards, values and commitments to local producers throughout the fall and beyond. Register here. 

12. Webinar: Reuniones Interactivas Gratuitas de Zoom en Español Para Emprendedores de Alimentos en Wisconsin
August 31 // 10am ET
El lunes 31 de agosto, Amalia Beary, MS, Consultora sobre Seguridad con los alimentos y Abby Snyder, Especialista en seguridad con los alimentos de Cornell University, comentarán los requisitos básicos para las Buenas prácticas de fabricación (GMP por sus siglas en inglés) y la manera de preparar su negocio para que ayude a prevenir la propagación de COVID-19. Los productores de alimentos de pequeña escala deben completar los documentos requeridos para cumplir con la Ley de modernización de seguridad alimentaria (FSMA). Esto incluye documentos de la exención de su tamaño como “instalaciones calificadas” y diversos programas de seguridad con los alimentos. Esta reunión interactiva por Zoom está diseñada para pequeños emprendedores de alimentos (menos de $1 millón de ventas al año) pequeñas empresas de alimentos, gerentes de mercados agrícolas y directores de cocinas de uso compartido. Los educadores de Extension que apoyen estos negocios son bienvenidos, si desean asistir. El curso es ofrecido por Cornell University, y se ha realizado gracias a una subvención respaldada por la USDA. Enlace para el registro.

13. COVID-19 Webinar: SNAP and Food Assistance in a Time of Covid-19
August 31 // 12pm ET
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act in March gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to ease state requirements for reporting and proving need. It provided for extra food benefits (by electronic transfer) called “Pandemic EBT” for households with school-aged children who would have received free or reduced-price meals at school. Has the federal response been timely and adequate, and what economic hurdles and challenges remain? The Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (C-FARE) will host a free webinar to consider SNAP and food assistance at a time of Covid-19. C-FARE board member Sean Cash will be joined by three expert panelists — Dr. Parke Wilde (Tufts University), Dr. George Davis of Virginia Tech, and Nutrition Outreach Coordinator Shewana Hairston McSwain (North Carolina A&T State University). Register here.  



Research & Resources
1. COVID-19 NFSN National Farm to School Network - 2020 Back to School: Farm to School/ECE and COVID-19 Resource List
National Farm to School Network is compiling back-to-school resources that will be relevant to farm to school and farm to ECE stakeholders during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. See the resource list. Have resources to suggest? Please email us at info@farmtoschool.org

2. COVID-19 Back-to-School: We'll Keep Feeding Those Kids! Factsheet
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Nutrition Policy Institute, Stanford Medicine Department of Pediatrics, and School Nutrition Association created this fact sheet in August 2020 to provide basic information to clarify school meal operations as districts return to operating the National School Lunch Program, but serving outside of the cafeteria, and tools and information to support best practices. View the resource.   

3. USDA Launches A Resource Hub on Local Food System Response to COVID-19
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in partnership with 16 partner organizations, launched the Local Food System Response to COVID Resource Hub designed to assist local and regional food producers as USDA and its partners develop, share and assess resources on local and regional food system responses to COVID-19. This searchable database contains insights and educational material from the 16 partner organizations (including NFSN!) to help local and regional food producers and businesses adapt their market strategies in the current environment. Learn more.

4. COVID-19 Call for Local Food Impact Stories
As part of a Local Food Systems Response to COVID-19 Project, Farm to Institution New England (FINE) is looking to highlight examples of institutions (hospitals, campuses, schools, etc) utilizing CSAs and pop-up grocery stores to provide local, fresh food to institutional staff and constituents during the pandemic. If anyone has examples of successful models, FINE would like to hear from you! These stories will contribute to a series of innovation briefs that highlight local food strategies employed during COVID-19. Contact Hannah Leighton (pronouns: she/her), FINE's Research & Evaluation Manager, at hannah@farmtoinst.org with questions and/or your stories.

5. EQUITY Reset the Table: Meeting the Moment to Transform the U.S. Food System
View this report by the Rockefeller Foundation that lays out a framework for change toward an equitable, nourishing, and sustainable U.S. food system.

6. Seeking 2020 Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HHFI) Application Reviewers
Deadline: August 31
Reinvestment Fund is looking for food systems and food access experts to serve as application reviewers for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Targeted Small Grants Program.The 2020 HFFI Targeted Small Grants Program is making $3 million available for grants to innovative fresh food retail and food system enterprises that seek to improve access to healthy food in underserved areas. We are seeking reviewers with personal and professional experience with improving access to affordable, nutritious food through food retail. Reviewers will be required to participate in a training session, which will be done by a video or conference call, prior to reviewing the applications. No travel is required. Reviewers will receive a stipend. Apply here.

7.  COVID-19 Green Schoolyard Americas COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Resources and Guidance
Schools across the United States are facing an uphill battle as they figure out how to navigate COVID-19 physical distancing requirements that will allow students to return to campus. Repurposing outdoor spaces is a cost-effective way to reduce the burden on indoor classrooms while providing fresh air, hands-on learning opportunities, and the health benefits associated with increased access to nature. This webpage shares information for the new National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative. Learn more.

8. Help Michigan State University Extension Learn More About Farm to Institution Produce Safety
Deadline: August 31
Do you purchase fresh produce for an institution or know someone that does? Participate in a national survey about institutional food safety programs to inform educational initiatives for fresh produce buyers. The aim of this survey is to gather data on accepted food safety verification programs for fresh produce, awareness of the program’s requirements for farms, and confidence in these verification programs. Please consider taking and/or sharing a survey by the Michigan State University Extension about food safety requirements for suppliers. All of the questions are in multiple choice format and the survey will take an estimated time of 7 minutes to complete. Responses are anonymous and participation is completely voluntary. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the survey, feel free to contact Mariel Borgman from MSU Extension at mborgm@msu.edu. Learn more.


Policy News
1. COVID-19 NFSN Sign-On To Endorse NFSN's COVID-19 Federal Policy Platform
As Congress works to finalize its next COVID-19 response bill, NOW is that time to make our voices heard. National Farm to School Network's federal policy platform calls on Congress to strengthen its support for school meal and child nutrition programs, farmers and those who feed us, Native communities, essential workers, children and families, and others who have been historically underserved and underrepresented. Please add your voice by endorsing our federal COVID-19 policy platform, and help us advocate for key food systems priorities on Capitol Hill. Sign on here.

2. COVID-19 NFSN Action Alert: Senate Must Do More For Kids, Farmers & Schools
Last week, Senate leadership released their latest set of COVID-19 relief bills, a $1 trillion bundle of legislation covering business aid, money for schools and agricultural aid funding. While National Farm to School Network is glad that Senators have recognized that our schools and farmers are in urgent need of critical funding support, this proposed legislation from the Senate falls far short of targeting the actual needs of our kids, farmers, educators and school nutrition professionals. Congress should be taking bolder action to respond to this emergency, support those most impacted and help advance us towards a more equitable future for all. Read more on our blog, and take 5 minutes to call your senators using our easy call script. 

3. USDA Extends Waivers to Fill Gap for Schools Starting in September
On August 20, the USDA announced the extension of four waivers through September 30, 2020 to support continued summer meals program operations in areas where the school year begins in September. These are:
1) The non-congregate waiver for SFSP;
2) The parent or guardian meal pick-up waiver for SFSP;
3) The meal pattern waiver for SFSP; and
4) The area eligibility waiver for open summer meals site.Previously, these critical waivers expired on August 31st, which created a gap for communities where schools are starting after that date. These waivers do not change the options available to schools and non-profit operators in communities where schools have already started. The USDA has reiterated that the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option are no longer available once the school year begins, whether in person or virtually. View No Kid Hungry's updated waiver summary that also includes the waivers available to support operations during the school year.

Job Opportunities
1. Communications Coordinator, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (Massachusetts/Remote)
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) is a nonprofit that works with hundreds of local farms and the community to get more local food onto people’s plates. The Communications Coordinator supports the Communications Manager in implementing communications and educational activities that support the mission of the organization. This includes: supporting CISA’s online presence (website and social media); writing and creative development; creation and management of community event(s); and maintaining communications systems. The Communications Coordinator manages the day-to-day activities for this work and collaborates with the Communications Manager to set strategic goals and develop new program strategies and activities. Learn more and apply.

2. Food Access Program Director, Farm Fresh Rhode Island (Providence, Rhode Island)
Deadline: September 6
 Farm Fresh Rhode Island is seeking a Food Access Program Director who is responsible for the oversight of all Farm Fresh RI Farmers Market and Food Access programs. Currently Farm Fresh RI manages 9 seasonal farmers markets and supports a network of over 20 partners in facilitating Food Access programs at farmers markets, farm stands, and CSAs statewide. Farm Fresh Food Access programming includes efforts to increase the affordability and availability of fresh, local foods for all residents of Rhode Island. The Food Access Program Director will bridge the gap between agriculture and public health by developing and maintaining key partnerships and programs, seeking new connections, and ensuring Food Access programs are meeting community needs. Learn more and apply.

3. Program Assistant, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (Massachusetts/Remote)
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) is a nonprofit that works with hundreds of local farms and the community to get more local food onto people’s plates. The Program Associate works with the Technical Assistance and Local Hero teams in implementing programmatic activities that support CISA’s mission; this includes: Local Hero membership enrollment, promotion, and maintenance and logistical support for: technical assistance workshops, one-on-one technical assistance, and evaluation. The Program Associate manages the day-to-day activities for this work. Learn more and apply.


In The News
Opinion: Rebuild it and they will come: reviving Iowa's local food system
Published by Iowa farm to ECE champions, including Aaron Lehman of Iowa Farmers Union; Krista Smith of Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children; and Haleisa Johnson of Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness, this op-ed piece elevates the importance of local food opportunities including farm to school and farm to ECE in the (Iowa Globe Gazette). 

"This is our, “If you build it, they will come” moment. Iowa policymakers should support this effort and provide the leadership needed for success. We must capitalize on the opportunity to grow our local farm economy while improving the health and well-being of all Iowans with healthy locally produced food." 

Schools Seeking Alternative to Remote Learning Try an Experiment: Outdoor Classrooms
While some educators remain skeptical, others see outdoor classrooms as a way to make in-person learning safer during the pandemic. (NBC News)

'It’s a Little Nerve-Wracking': Lunchtime for Students Looks Different Amid COVID-19
Schools that opened early in central Indiana provide a hint of what others across the country can expect as they enact various lunchtime safety measures, including prepackaging meals and frequently cleaning the lunchroom. (USA Today)

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.

This Week in Farm to School: 8/18/20

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 18, 2020
SIGN UP: National Farm to School Network has weekly e-newsletter to share a roundup of COVID-19 related resources and information with farm to school and farm to ECE stakeholders - similar to what is shared weekly in these This Week in Farm to School blog posts. Sign up here to have this information delivered in your inbox weekly.

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 Agricultural Marketing Service Request for Proposals: Research on Agriculture and Local Food Activity in the Appalachian Region. 
Deadline: August 19
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) invites proposals from qualified researchers and consultants to examine agriculture and local food activity in the Appalachian Region (Region) using both quantitative and qualitative analysis. The main purposes of the research are to (1) provide a comprehensive quantitative overview of agricultural and local food activity throughout the Region, including changes over recent years, (2) identify best practices and promising models from across Appalachia, as well as elsewhere in the country, that support the development of local food systems and help farms increase revenues, and (3) identify emerging opportunities in agriculture ,including types of crops and products as well as strategic and technological innovations. The selected contractor will work closely with ARC to shape this effort over the course of a twelve-month period beginning October 1, 2020 and concluding September 30, 2021. Proposals will be evaluated on contractors’ qualifications, expertise, track record, work samples, and cost-effectiveness. Learn more and apply.

2. COVID-19 EQUITY Northeast BIPOC Farmer Relief Fund 
Deadline: August 20
Are you a BIPOC farmer or fisherperson that has been impacted by COVID-19? The Northeast BIPOC Farmer Relief Fund is now accepting applications from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or People of Color) producers with priority for those who use sustainable, regenerative or environmentally sound practices and who contribute to their community in some way. Funded by Farm Aid, this fund will provide $500 relief payments for up to 200 applicants. Learn more and apply.

3. USDA RFA: Innovating Formal and Non-Formal Educational Experiences in Food and Agricultural Sciences During the Time of Social Distancing
Deadline: August 20 
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Education and Workforce Development RFA now includes a new program area priority to address the need to develop and deploy rapid, reliable, and readily-adoptable strategies in workforce preparation through formal K-14 education, as well as in youth development through non-formal education to cultivate interest and competencies in STEM and agriculture during this challenging time. This program area accepts new applications only. Learn more and apply

4. USDA's Office of Partnership and Public Engagement RFA: Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program
 Deadline to apply: August 26
Via section 2501 funding, these grants support community-based and non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and Tribal entities to conduct programming to assist producers. The deadline to apply is August 26th (please note, the announcement in the Federal Register incorrectly states the deadline as September 11!) OPPE will host a call for potential applicants on July 28, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. EST (Telephone Number: (877) 692-8955, Passcode: 6433267). No registration needed. Learn more and apply.

5. Cigna Foundation's Healthier Kids For Our Future Grant Program
Deadline: September 30 
Cigna Foundation is looking to partner with school systems and surrounding communities — including clinicians, local and national nonprofits — to supplement existing mental health programming and help close gaps both within and outside the school environment to address loneliness, anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. To that end, it will fund programs that foster collaboration between various stakeholders, including school administrators and teachers, clinicians, and local and national nonprofits. The grants are up to $65,000 grants per year for two years. Learn more and apply.

6. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Call for Proposals: Community Solutions for Health Equity
LOI deadline: October 7
With Community Solutions for Health Equity , RWJF seeks to make local health care systems more responsive to the needs of the community by elevating the voices, stories, priorities, and knowledge of people of color, and others who are left out of policy decisions. The Foundation's funding will provide community organizations with grant support to help increase their ability to organize members, build partnerships with other constituencies, and develop effective communication-all of which are critical to shared decisionmaking. Nine organizations will be given $300,000 each over the course of three years as part of the program. The Foundation is interested in engaging diverse groups and organizations, including those that have limited experience receiving grants of this size. Learn more and apply.

Webinars & Events
1. Food Research & Action Center's Elections Webinar Series Today! 
August 18 // 3pm ET
Join a panel of specialists for a webinar series focused on elevating ideas on how and why 501(c)(3) organizations can support -- in nonpartisan ways that are mission-aligned -- voter registration, voter mobilization, and voting. Identify strategies, tools, and resources that social justice organizations can use to support this vital work, especially in the time of COVID-19 when people and organizations are particularly stretched from responding to unprecedented needs. Register for the first webinar in the series: Why Social Justice Organizations Can and Should Prioritize Voter Registration and Get-Out-the-Vote Efforts.

2. Webinar Training: Best Practices for Building Relationships with Policymakers
August 19 // 9:30-11:00 am
Join the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy and DOHMH Bureau of Harlem for this Equity Advocates training on running successful meetings with policymakers. Register here.

3. COVID-19 Webinar: School Garden Care and Management During COVID-19
August 19 // 2pm ET
Join the School Garden Support Organization Network to discuss garden care and management (Fall 2020 version). During this virtual gathering School Garden Support Organizations will share how they are supporting their staff, teachers and the community to care for school gardens this fall. The webinar will allow for about 45 minutes of structured share outs followed by ample time for discussion and Q & A. Learn more and register. 

4. Webinar: Connecting Children With Local Foods and Farmers Through Summer Meal Programs
August 20 // 11am ET
In this webinar hosted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), join summer meal experts who will share best practices and lessons learned from their experience piloting their own “Farm to Summer” initiatives during the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and learn about IATP’s report documenting the opportunities and challenges of Farm to Summer!  Register here.

5. Webinar: Reuniones Interactivas Gratuitas de Zoom en Español Para Emprendedores de Alimentos en Wisconsin
August 24 // 10am ET
El lunes 24 de agosto, Barbara Ingham, Especialista en la Seguridad con los Alimentos de Division of Extension de University of Wisconsin-Madison, responderá preguntas básicas sobre tipos de licencias que puede necesitar un negocio de alimentos y normas para una instalación de producción de alimentos, dará consejos sobre el desarrollo de planes de seguridad con los alimentos y ofrecerá sugerencias para localizar recursos y apoyos, de tal manera que pequeños emprendedores de alimentos puedan recibir licencia para sus empresas en Wisconsin. Está reunión interactiva por Zoom está diseñada para pequeñas empresas de alimentos en Wisconsin y para instalaciones y programas que apoyen a estos emprendedores. Los educadores de Extension son bienvenidos si desean asistir. Regístrese aquí. 

6. Webinar: Discussion with Alive Goodman of the NYC Office of School Wellness/Department of Education
August 24 //  2:15pm ET
Join the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy and the Bronx Health Reach for this special event on how New York City schools will tackle student health & wellness this fall. Register here.

7. EQUITY Webinar: Delivering More Than Food: Understanding and Operationalizing Racial Equity in Food Hubs
August 24 // 2:30pm ET
The webinar, sponsored by the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems in association with the Racial Equity in the Food Systems Workgroup, will share results from a qualitative study led by a diverse group of food system practitioners as to how U.S. based food hubs understand and operationalize engagement in racial equity work. You will hear examples of how food hubs operationalize equity within their business, and with their partners, and with the community they serve.  Authors and food hub leader discussants will also offer perspectives on the deeper questions that must be addressed to meaningfully support equity across the food system. Register here.

8. Virtual Listening Sessions: Feasibility of Insuring Local Food Production
August 17-20, 24-28, 31, and September 1-3
As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress required USDA's Risk Management Agency to solicit feedback about improved crop insurance coverage options for farmers and ranchers selling through local food markets. This includes discussing how existing crop insurance programs can be improved, as well as exploring the possibility of a new crop insurance program. There are several scheduled Zoom listening sessions, which will be held from mid-August through early September with the sessions for farmers and ranchers divided by region, commodity, and market channel.  

9. Back-to-School Meal Service: Feeding Kids During the 2020-2021 School Year Part I
Webinar Recording
This is the first in a series of back-to-school webinars by No Kid Hungry focused on feeding kids during the 2020-2021 school year, as communities continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic. This webinar focuses on understanding the nationwide waivers— the waivers available, the waivers not available, possible meal service models, and limitations and challenges. We also explore options for financial recovery including FEMA Public Assistance Grants, CARES Act funds and the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).

10. Iowa State University Extension Online Food Systems Training and Certifications
Iowa State University Extension's Food Systems Team has transitioned the Local Food Leader and Community Food Systems trainings and certifications to a virtual format. Beginning in September, four popular professional development opportunities for food systems practitioners will be available online. Some scholarships are available for each course. Applications for scholarships are due August 21. Learn more and apply.

Research & Resources
1. COVID-19 NFSN National Farm to School Network - 2020 Back to School: Farm to School/ECE and COVID-19 Resource List
National Farm to School Network is compiling back-to-school resources that will be relevant to farm to school and farm to ECE stakeholders during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. See the resource list. Have resources to suggest? Please email us at info@farmtoschool.org

2. USDA's Tools for School Nutrition Professionals
USDA FNS's Team Nutrition has a variety of distance learning opportunities to meet annual training requirements for the new school year. The Professional Standards Training Database allows school nutrition professionals to search for training that meets their learning needs in one easy-to-use website. Trainings are available in a variety of formats and most trainings are free.
Use the Professional Standards Training Tracker Tool (PSTTT) to keep track of and record your training hours. 

3. Reset the Table: Meeting the Moment to Transform the U.S. Food System
View this report by the Rockefeller Foundation that lays out a framework for change toward an equitable, nourishing, and sustainable U.S. food system.

4. Meal Service Options For School Year 2020-2021 Guide
Confused about the waivers for SY20-21? Not sure what your options are for meal service during distance learning or four day school weeks? Check out this resource from No Kid Hungry for guidance.

5. New Community Eligibility Provision Grouping Optimizer: Meals Count
Meals Count is a free interactive, customizable tool to help districts optimize their CEP groupings and maximize federal reimbursement. Meals Count is powered by sophisticated algorithms developed by data scientists across the country to eliminate the guesswork of grouping. Just by using Meals Count, districts have been able to optimize CEP groupings and increase expected annual reimbursement by 13% on average. For districts with 11 schools or fewer, the tool actually runs through every possible grouping scenario (of thousands possible combinations) to give the optimal scenario for maximizing expected annual reimbursement. For a quick demo on how to use Meals Count, watch this step-by-step tutorial.

6. Farmers Market Scrip Model for Food Distribution Program
The Hana Farmers Market in Hawai‘i has shared a write-up of an innovative and very effective way to manage free food distributions and support our farmers market. Rather than purchasing, aggregating and distributing food boxes, they used county funding to offer scrips to customers to use directly to purchase produce at the farmers market. Hana Farmers Market has found that this is a great program to create incentives in all the right places, with relatively little overhead. For more information contact Scott (scott@aloha.net). View the resource.

7. No Kid Hungry's Summary Of Current COVID-19 Child Nutrition Program Response Nationwide Waivers
This document conveniently details all of the nationwide waivers and guidance issued to date by the USDA in response to the coronavirus. View the summary.

8. The Food, Agrobiodiversity, Clarity and Transparency's (FACT) 10 Principles for Agrobiodiversity
FACT has worked with food systems experts from across the globe to develop 10 Principles for Agrobiodiversity. These principles show how we all benefit from practices carried out across the value chain that support greater agricultural biodiversity. To go deeper,  FACT is now gathering examples of what success looks like across the globe. View the principles here.

Policy News
1. COVID-19 NFSN Sign-On To Endorse NFSN's COVID-19 Federal Policy Platform
As Congress works to finalize its next COVID-19 response bill, NOW is that time to make our voices heard. National Farm to School Network's federal policy platform calls on Congress to strengthen its support for school meal and child nutrition programs, farmers and those who feed us, Native communities, essential workers, children and families, and others who have been historically underserved and underrepresented. Please add your voice by endorsing our federal COVID-19 policy platform, and help us advocate for key food systems priorities on Capitol Hill. Sign on here.

2. COVID-19 NFSN Action Alert: Senate Must Do More For Kids, Farmers & Schools
Last week, Senate leadership released their latest set of COVID-19 relief bills, a $1 trillion bundle of legislation covering business aid, money for schools and agricultural aid funding. While National Farm to School Network is glad that Senators have recognized that our schools and farmers are in urgent need of critical funding support, this proposed legislation from the Senate falls far short of targeting the actual needs of our kids, farmers, educators and school nutrition professionals. Congress should be taking bolder action to respond to this emergency, support those most impacted and help advance us towards a more equitable future for all. Read more on our blog, and take 5 minutes to call your senators using our easy call script. 

Job Opportunities
1. Communications Consultant, The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (Remote) 
Deadline: August 21
The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG), convenes farm and food systems leaders, practitioners, and advocates across 12 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. NESAWG is currently seeking a Communications Consultant to support us in updating and implementing our communications strategy to help us meet our communications goals for the remainder of 2020 and 2021, and in developing key communications materials. This is a remote position. Candidates can reside anywhere in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic region.To learn more, view the position announcement.

2. Education Director, Gallatin Valley Farm to School (Bozeman, Montana)
Deadline: August 21
Gallatin Valley Farm to School is hiring an Education Director to oversee all aspects of Gallatin Valley Farm to School’s education and community programs. Programs include school & garden-based education, the Bozone Ozone Bus (BOB), family cooking nights, summer camps, cafeteria procurement of local produce, farm field trips, and teacher support. Learn more and apply here.

In The News
Changes to School Meals Have Made Low-Income Kids Healthier. Will They Last?
New research shows that adding more fresh vegetables and whole grains to school lunches helped curb childhood obesity for vulnerable children, prompting questions about recent USDA rollbacks. (Civil Eats)

The Future Reset: Global Food Systems
"So, what is the problem? We have a food system that is, in the United States and globally, efficient, but not agile. And what COVID did was unbare the challenges of the lack of agility in the food system." (Washington 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.

Leadership (in a) Crisis

NFSN Staff Monday, August 17, 2020
By Tracey Starkovich, NFSN Operations & Events Manager, and Simone Washington, Lawyers for Children and NFSN Advisory Board Member
The current state of the country, in the midst of the COVID-19 public health crisis and blatant racial inequities and police brutality, highlights the critical need for real leadership. While illness, stress and racial justice movements rise, the opportunity is ripe for developing and supporting authentic leaders who are focused on the values that will move our country, and our food system, forward. These values include: 
  • Abolishing racism, 
  • Environmentally regenerative, sustainable, and just local agriculture,
  • Equitable food production, distribution and service at all levels,
  • Just pay and healthy working conditions for farmworkers, and 
  • Safe and justice-based school systems.
There is a lot of work to be done and we need to examine our leadership development methods to move us beyond the status quo.
 
As the farm to school movement joins others who have already been doing this work, and we organize and mobilize action, what approaches to leadership and leadership development will make the most impact? What can we learn from other movements and our nation’s history about raising up effective leaders?
 
One path towards leadership development throughout the farm to school movement and broader food system is to examine six leadership approaches and how they can impact change and move us towards justice, building a stronger and more equitable society for us all. Each approach has its own set of benefits and goals, but share strong similarities rooted in a set of core values - collaboration, cooperation, and shared accountability -  that will help us create a new way forward together.  
 
The heart of National Farm to School Network is the Collective Impact approach - we continuously aim to build a system where all of us are stronger together than any one of us can be apart. This approach is more likely to solve complex problems than if a single entity or stakeholder were to approach the same problem(s) on its own. The diversity of the stakeholders allows for multiple perspectives to be explored and for resources shared to address the issue. This approach really creates accountability and mutuality, and therefore stakeholders must depend on the strengths of one another and the commitment to achieving a goal to be successful. This is the epitome of the “there is no ‘I’ in Team’” mantra. We must band together to make the necessary impact if we want to make real sustainable change in our communities. 

Farm to school work also lends itself to a Diffused Leadership (or Distributed Leadership) approach, which holds every stakeholder as a valued co-producer and change agent. Farm to school work requires partnerships and collaboration, and there are benefits to not having a single leader - it is a shift from a traditional “power over” dynamic to a “power with” paradigm. 

This type of leadership empowers people to own and act on issues rather than simply be followers and allows for emerging leaders to develop their skills. Many of the state networks and alliances that have been formed around the country ascribe to this leadership style, one example would be the New Mexico Farm to School Alliance. The New Mexico Alliance shares leadership across many BIPOC individuals and organizations, working to elevate significant involvement from the communities most impacted by the local food system and its inequities. 
 
If farm to school seeks to be a truly justice focused movement, we need to implement Nontraditional Inclusive Leadership, which uplifts the voices of those with lived experience, with a focus on the unheard voice. It is equity in practice - creating space for people who historically not been included in high-stake decision-making processes. This approach moves away from assumptive solutions towards those that are rooted in reality, while also increases cultural competency beyond just the theoretical. The centering of whose voice is heard and who is seen as a leader shifts away from the expected and toward the experienced. This leadership style can be seen in work of the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance, which is led by and created for Tribal youth. In addition to their own Alliance they have also created this partnership alongside Intertribal Agriculture Council and in conjunction with a youth voice. They show us that youth participation should not be an afterthought or an accommodation to be made, but stands front and center as its own leadership power - when we allow that power to be shifted to others. 
 
For the past year, the National Farm to School Network has been engaged in a strategic planning process for the future of the movement that follows Adaptive Leadership, recognizing that there are many levers of change at all levels - with an emphasis on non-linear. This style generates innovation and fosters learning while allowing for creative problem solving and testing out ideas. It highlights everyone’s strengths and champions diversity while viewing challenges as an opportunity for evolution and sometimes revolution. The key to this approach is buy-in from various stakeholders as it’s an ongoing process and requires various lift points to keep the work moving forward. Vermont Farm to School has implemented this leadership style through its strategic mapping project – you can learn more about that here.

The work of the Native American Agriculture Fund, led by Janie Hipp, NFSN Advisory Board Member, shows us Ecosystem Leadership, keeping the focus on a larger purpose and motivation to achieve a common goal, working across communities and breaking down silos. This approach is not transactional, it’s transformational in that it's not just focused on addressing a problem, but it’s focused on creating a positive environment to support lasting change. It recognizes the intersectional nature of complex problems and seeks to find solutions that are generative. It also disrupts ineffective and/or structural biased systems. NAAF works across Tribal communities, Tribal needs, and Tribal support organizations to assist existing and aspiring Native farmers and ranchers. Its focus is not limited, it’s intentionally broad to create an entirely different environment for success. 

Glyen Holmes, founder of the New North Florida Cooperative, farmer hero and a true father of farm to school has been a shining example of Asset-Based Leadership for decades. Glyen, and this leadership style, sees the potential for change, looking carefully at what is currently working and what could work. It includes the ability to reframe challenges as opportunities for evolution and progress. If people can see a light at the end of the tunnel they will remain engaged in the process of pursuing change. When you decrease your focus on what is wrong (deficit-based thinking) and increase your focus on what is right (Asset-Based Thinking), you build enthusiasm and energy, strengthen relationships, and move people and productivity to the next level. 

The current state of our country is giving us the opportunity to pause and really reassess our leadership styles and development approaches – what is working and what is possible? What ways can you shift your approach to build a more equitable and inclusive system? Who are the potential leaders in your community whose voices have been muffled? If 2020 is teaching us anything, it’s that our old ways of thinking and doing haven’t been advancing justice and health for all communities, so what will we do now to create the future we all dream of? Now is the time to shift the power to create a new equitable reality – let’s get working.
 
If you’re interested in digging in deeper on any of these leadership approaches we suggest the following resources:

Collective Impact:
Collective Impact (Stanford Social Innovation Review-SSIR)
The Dawn of Systems Leadership (SSIR)
The Collective Impact Forum
What is Collective Impact (Community Resource Toolbox)

Diffused/Distributed Leadership:
Diffused Leadership (Positive Mindful Leader)
Distributed Leadership in a Nutshell (Youtube video)

Nontraditional Leadership:
Nontraditional Approaches to Developing Nontraditional Leadership (Leadership Learning Community)
Investing in Community Leaders (Youtube Video)
Inclusive Leadership Matters (Youtube Video)

Adaptive Leadership:
Adaptive Leadership- Introduction (YouTube Video)
Adaptive Leadership (toolshero)
Adaptive Leadership Resource Page (Tamarack Institute)

Ecosystem Leadership:
What is Ecosystem Leadership? (Medium)
Ecosystem Leader (Learning as Leadership)

Asset-Based Leadership:
Asset-Based Leadership (LinkedIn SlideShare)
Leading from the Bottom-Up: Lessons Learnt in Asset-Based Leadership (Church Urban Fund)

New Ways to Farm to School: Georgia-Feeding Families with Hand, Heart, + Soul

NFSN Staff Friday, August 14, 2020
Recognizing the importance of adapting and innovating in this challenging time, we're highlighting five new models that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote and support farm to school, farm to early care and education (ECE), and farm to food bank. Read on for  insights, lessons learned, and ideas for new partnership and collaboration that can keep farm to school moving during a time when everything feels like it's changing.


Photo courtesy of Little Ones Learning Center
Story submitted by: Stacie McQuagge, Farm to ECE Educator at Little Ones Learning Center located in Forest Park, Georgia.

Little Ones Learning Center’s Executive Director is Wande Okunoren-Meadows who is serving her first year on the National Farm to School Network Advisory Board. 
Little Ones Learning Center in Forest Park, Georgia is working hard to adapt their programs and services to meet the needs of the children and families they serve. To continue to provide fresh, local foods to children the Center’s chef is onsite preparing meals using fresh ingredients sourced locally, including from the center’s own garden. When children aren’t on site, the Center features Tasty Tuesdays via Zoom with the Garden Educator. The ingredients are sent home with families the week before so that the participating children can sample the foods at home during the Zoom call. Some of the foods sampled have been berry & yogurt parfaits, blueberry bark, Texas Caviar, and blueberry juice. In addition to Tuesday taste tests, the Center hosts Funtastic Fridays where the Wellness Educator, Stacie McQuagge, hosts a weekly activity for students based on the Harvest of the Month. 


Photo courtesy of Little Ones Learning Center
To extend the Center’s farm to ECE educational program for children at home, Little Ones Learning Center is partnering with the Small Bites Adventure Club for a pilot program which will involve distributing Taste Test kits to the preschool age children who are at home and cannot visit the Center.

Photo courtesy of Little Ones Learning Center 
 For the families at the Center, as well as families with young children in the community, Little Ones has been distributing farm fresh produce through the Hand, Heart + Soul Project's Farmers to Families Food Box. This program involves partnership with farmers, ranchers, specialty crop producers, food processors and distributors, and non-profit organizations to ensure that all Americans have access to the fresh and wholesome food they need during the COVID-19 national emergency. Through this partnership, Little Ones is providing families in the community farm fresh produce every Thursday in July, for 6 weeks. They anticipate distributing about 300 boxes per week.
To hear more about the experience of Little Ones Learning Center staff amidst the COVID-19 crisis and how we can all learn and grow from the lessons learned during the pandemic, check out NFSN’s Advisory Board Perspectives interview series with Wande Okunoren-Meadows and the Little Ones Learning Center team. 

New Ways to Farm to School: Vermont-A Community Collaboration to Address Hunger

NFSN Staff Thursday, August 13, 2020
Recognizing the importance of adapting and innovating in this challenging time, we're highlighting five new models that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote and support farm to school, farm to early care and education (ECE), and farm to food bank. Read on for  insights, lessons learned, and ideas for new partnership and collaboration that can keep farm to school moving during a time when everything feels like it's changing.


Sheila Humphreys (left) of Food Connects and Ali West (right), WSESD Food Service Director and Fresh Picks Cafe, unload food for the first week of the weekend foodbox program. Photo courtesy of Conor Floyd
Story submitted by: Conor Floyd, Farm to School Program Manager at Food Connects in Brattleboro, Vermont.
In Brattleboro, Vermont, there is a strong network of anti-hunger organizations that provides relief to families both before the COVID-19 pandemic and especially now. Organized through the Hunger Council, the network collaborates to best meet the growing food security needs of its community.  

"Many people are needing help for the first time,” noted Christine Colascione, of Foodworks. “Navigating the charitable food system can be difficult for many—either knowing who to call or the stigma associated with accessing help.”

On a Hunger Council call, Sheila Humphreys of Food Connects wondered about the needs that families were communicating with Ali West, Brattleboro Town Food Service Director,  and whether families were being served by Foodworks or if they were falling through the cracks. Out of those questions, an idea began to take shape. Could Foodworks and the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union (WSESU) meal program work together to determine which families were not already receiving regular food deliveries from Foodworks, and launch a new, collaborative program to deliver food to these families through the school meal program delivery system?


Members of the Food Team pose for a physically distant photo. The team consists of staff from Food Connects, the VT Foodbank, Foodworks, and Fresh Picks Cafe. Photo courtesy of Conor Floyd
Within a week, a new “Food Team” was formed with staff from WSESU Food Service, Foodworks, Food Connects, and the Vermont Foodbank, and they quickly came up with a plan. Using Foodworks’ existing account with the Foodbank, and with additional grant funding supplied by the Foodbank, Christine launched a new delivery program to families, managed and distributed by Ali West via the Academy School meal site. 

"Through our existing relationships with area schools and local charitable food organizations, Food Connects was able to build upon existing systems and cover a nutritional gap in our community. This was only possible with the help of our amazing partners and we're proud of how quickly our community jumped into action." - Conor Floyd, Food Connects
The Food Team was able to reflect on the systems and steps that were in place that supported the rapid deployment of folks and resources to meet the needs of over 130 families. Their reflection includes the following recommendations:
  • Start with existing connections
  • Identify key action teams
  • Leverage existing resources
  • Think about sustainability 

Read more about this initiative from Food Connects.

New Ways to Farm to School: Virginia-Virtual Taste Tests

NFSN Staff Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Recognizing the importance of adapting and innovating in this challenging time, we're highlighting five new models that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote and support farm to school, farm to early care and education (ECE), and farm to food bank. Read on for  insights, lessons learned, and ideas for new partnership and collaboration that can keep farm to school moving during a time when everything feels like it's changing.



Photo courtesy of Project GROWS

Story Submitted by: Nichole Barrows, Director of Education at Project GROWS in Staunton, Virginia
Project GROWS is an educational, nonprofit organization with a mission to improve the health of children and youth in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County, Virginia through garden-based education and access to healthy food. With a 10 acre farm producing 12,000+ pounds of food each year, Project GROWS impacts children and families throughout Virginia.

Kids eat their produce at the farm during field trips and summer camps, in school cafeterias year-round, and for special Farm to School Tastings. Individuals and families can find Project GROWS’ produce at the Staunton-Augusta Health Department Farmer’s Market, the Youth-Run Farm Stand at the Boys & Girls Club, or at partner organizations like the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Over 20 families each year are a part of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share program, where members pick up seasonal, fresh Project GROWS produce. So, when the pandemic forced schools to close, field trips to be stopped, and summer camps to be canceled there was a need to continue to provide healthy, local food options for children and families. 

Project GROWS Food Access Manager, Megan Marshall, assists Staunton City Schools School Nutrition Program in handing out hundreds of meals at Shelburne Middle School. 
Photo courtesy of Project GROWS Facebook
Project GROWS provided on-the-ground logistical support to the Staunton City School Nutrition Program’s meal delivery service to ensure a seamless delivery system to children and families during COVID-19 school closures. Additionally, Project GROWS provided freshly harvested and packaged local produce (spring mix and Hakurei turnips!) from the farm to families through the school’s meal delivery service. To support families in eating local, Project GROWS provided a one pager of nutrition information and weekly recipes for that week’s ingredients. 

A photo of the meal kits created and distributed, courtesy of Project GROWS
To continue to support students remotely, Project GROWS established a virtual Harvest of the Month vegetable tasting. Included on the recipe handouts that accompanied the school meals, was a QR code that families used to access an informational video and resources about the vegetable of that month. These resources were available online to download in both English and Spanish. 

Megan Marshall, Director of Food Access, shows how to prepare Project GROWS' Turnip Stir-Fry recipe.
Photo courtesy of Project GROWS
By bringing this program into a virtual format for students to view in their homes, Project GROWS hopes to creatively continue their  Farm to School mission of connecting kids to fresh produce and educating them about the farm where it was grown!

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