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National Farm to School Network

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Intertribal Agriculture Council Selected As 2019 NFSN National Partner of the Year

NFSN Staff Thursday, January 17, 2019
As a national organization uniquely situated at the intersection of numerous sectors and communities, networking and partnership building are at the core of the National Farm to School Network’s efforts. Partnerships are integral to our success, and are essential to the growth and long-term sustainability of the farm to school movement. That’s why our 2017-2019 Strategic Plan includes a key goal to facilitate expanded engagement in farm to school through new and diverse partnerships and promotion, including the designation of a “National Partner of the Year.” Through intentional programmatic collaboration, resource sharing and cross-promotion, we aim to both educate our members about the work of national partners, and increase knowledge of farm to school and our organization in diverse sectors. 

This year, we are pleased to announce the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) as our 2019 National Partner of the Year. The IAC is a non-profit, Tribal membership organization, serving all tribal producers and communities across the country, established in 1987 to pursue and promote conservation, development and use of Indian agricultural resources for the betterment of Indian communities. The IAC is recognized as the most respected voice within the Indian community and government circles on agricultural policies and programs in Indian Country, and it conducts a wide range of programs designed to further the goal of improving Indian Agriculture, land management, cultural food systems, and local and international marketing. 

A key area of the IAC’s programmatic focuses is cultivating Native youth leaders. Youth leadership development opportunities provided by the IAC - including local, regional and national events - expose Native youth to land conservation and stewardship, traditional food preparation and preservation, agricultural production planning, entrepreneurial business ventures in food and agriculture, and resource management as a community development tool. While Native youth have always been a part of the IAC, efforts to focus on youth programming continue to formalize, and at the 2017 IAC Membership Meeting, the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance (NYFSA) was formed. 

National Farm to School Network has partnered with Native communities since early 2014, with an aim to gain a deeper understanding of the unique food access challenges Native communities face and identify and pursue viable solutions to overcome barriers to implementing farm to school. In partnership with numerous tribal communities and organizations, we’ve been learning that with a community-based and multi-generational framework, farm to school can be a nexus of economic development, food sovereignty, health and nutrition, and cultural revitalization. We’re excited to further this work in our year-long partnership with the IAC. Together, we’ll be exploring programmatic and policy advocacy collaborations, attending each other’s trainings and events, supporting youth leadership development, sharing out key learnings and resources, and promoting ways for our members to get involved in this work. 

Learn more about the Intertribal Agriculture Council on their website or social media sites: 

Stay tuned for opportunities to learn more about the IAC and dig into this partnership with us throughout 2019!

This Week in Farm to School: 1/15/19

NFSN Staff Tuesday, January 15, 2019
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. Winston Equipment Grant
Due: January 31
Applications are open for the Winston Equipment Grant, which provides school nutrition programs with 10 pieces of equipment for their programs. Applications can be submitted by a school nutrition director who has been a member of SNA for at least one year. There are NO eligibility requirements for a certain percentage of free/reduced eligible students! Learn more and apply here

Webinars & Events
1. NFSN WEBINAR Trending Topics in Farm to ECE: Farm to Early Care and Education in Family Child Care
Thursday, February 7, 1-2pm ET
Across the country, there are over 213,000 licensed family child care homes and nearly one quarter of all children spend time in family child care before they reach kindergarten. Farm to early care and education (farm to ECE) – including local food procurement, gardening, and food and agriculture education – is a great fit for family child care. Farm to ECE adapts to diverse ages, abilities, and settings and offers evidenced-based approaches to meeting educational and nutrition standards. Join this National Farm to School Network webinar to learn about new resources to support farm to ECE in family child care, hear about best practices from county level farm to ECE initiatives, and see examples of farm to ECE in family child care success. Register here.

2. Green Apply Day of Service
Green Apple Day of Service is an opportunity to join schools across the world in celebrating the central role that schools play in preparing the next generation of leaders in sustainability. A school’s event improves the learning environment while strengthening student civic leadership, environmental literacy, and project management skills. Since it began in 2012, Green Apple Day of Service has inspired over 900,000 volunteers in 80 countries to act in support of sustainability at their schools. With one in eight people around the globe attending a school every day, there is more work to be done! Schools and the community leaders who support them can choose their own date for their project, and they have access to mini-grants and personalized guidance to help them make their projects a reality. Sign up and register your project by March 15, 2019 to participate at greenapple.org.


Research & Resources
1. Evaluating the Economic Impacts of Farm-to-school Procurement, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
One of the purported benefits of farm-to-school procurement is that it strengthens the local econ­omy by providing expanded market access for local farms and ranches. Despite the claims of positive economic impact, there is limited research to sup­port this. This paper presents a framework for evaluating the economic impacts of farm-to-school programs, adapting the USDA’s “Local Food Economics Toolkit” for this specific context. Read more here.

2. Commit to Healthy Workplaces this New Year with the Healthy Meeting Pledge
Studies show a strong relationship between the physical and social environments of the workplace and the health behaviors of employees. The Healthy Meeting Toolkit, developed by members of the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA), includes guidance on key components of a healthy meeting and resources to help make hosting healthy meetings easier. Take the Healthy Meeting Pledge here.


Job Opportunities
1. Programs Coordinator: Farm to Early Childcare Education Specialist, Mississippi Farm to School Network (Jackson, MS)
The Mississippi Farm to School Network seeks a motivated programs coordinator to help increase its offerings to early childcare programs in Mississippi. The ideal candidate will understand the importance and value of local food and have demonstrated work experience in the world of early childcare. Learn more here

2. FoodCorps Service Member, FoodCorps (Nationwide)
FoodCorps believes that every child - no matter their race, place, or class - has a right to healthy food at school. Applications are now open for the next class of leaders - people who want to serve up change in your community. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Positions are open in 17 states and the D.C. Metro Area. Learn more here.

3. Community Food Systems Mentorship Program, Wallace Center
Applications for the Spring 2019 round of the Community Food Systems Mentorship Program are now open through January 15. Nine mentors with a wide range of expertise and experience will work with food systems leaders over the course of four months to support their continued growth and development as a leader. Applications close January 15, and the mentorship will occur from February 15 – June 15, 2019. Learn more here.


Farm to School in the News
Virginia high school outdoor classroom helps students learn life lessons
The Outdoor Educational Center in Roanoke is a hands-on learning environment where students learn all about agri-science -- from growing a garden to re-potting plants, even feeding chickens and collecting eggs everyday. (ABC 33/40)

South Dakota district locally sources beef for school lunches
The Wall School District in South Dakota is piloting a new school lunch program that sources cafeteria beef from local ranchers. The pilot began this month and lasts until May, but if successful, it will be used again in the coming year, and Superintendent Dan Baldwin hopes it expands to other districts across the state. (KOTA TV

Farm Show experience is a take-home lesson for Pennsylvania students
Education is part of what the Pennsylvania Farm Show is all about, and students can still think about agriculture long after the show is over. That's because of the Pennsylvania Farm to School Network. It teaches kids that their food doesn't just come from grocery stores; there's an entire industry behind it and an important industry at that. (ABC 27)

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: 1/8/19

NFSN Staff Tuesday, January 08, 2019
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. Aim High Grants: Supporting Out-of-School Time Programs Serving Middle School Youth 
Due: January 25
On behalf of the New York Life Foundation, the Afterschool Alliance invites out-of-school time programs to apply for a new competitive grant opportunity to support and bolster the ability of afterschool and summer learning programs help their middle school students make a successful transition from 8th to 9th grade. A total of 26 grant awards will be made nationwide. Grant funds may be used for technical assistance, capacity building, enhancing direct service activities, and/or program expansion. Learn more and apply here


Webinars & Events
1. NFSN WEBINAR Trending Topics: Youth Voice and Engagement in Farm to School
Thursday, January 10 // 1-2pm ET
Engaging youth voice and leadership in farm to school initiatives is essential to advancing the movement and growing the next generation of food systems leaders. Join the National Farm to School Network and Shelburne Farms to celebrate youth engagement in farm to school projects and curriculum. Hear from educators and students from urban, suburban, and rural communities as they share how they are innovatively promoting healthier and more just food systems in their schools and communities through farm to school. Register here

2. Community Food Systems Conference 2019
December 9-11, 2019 // Savannah, GA
Hosted by New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and Georgia Farmers Market Association, the 2019 Community Food Systems Conference will address common underlying themes between food security, social justice and sustainable agriculture including obstacles in urban and rural environments and fostering community empowerment to create and sustain resilient local food systems. Learn more here.


Resources & Research
1. New JAFSCD Paper: Evaluating the Economic Impacts of Farm-to-School Procurement 
The Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development has recently published "Evaluating the Economic Impacts of Farm-to-school Procurement." This paper presents a framework for evaluating the economic impacts of farm-to-school programs, adapting the USDA’s “Local Food Economics Toolkit” for this specific context. The approach combines primary and secondary data to customize an input-output model, reflecting the complex supply chains that link producers and schools. Additionally, to illustrate the approach, the paper summarizes the findings from two case studies of local food procurement by schools between 2016 and 2017. The paper is co-authored by Lacy Stephens, NFSN Program Manager. Read more here


Job Opportunities
1. Executive Director, Common Ground (New Haven, CT)
Common Ground High School, Urban Farm & Environmental Education Center is looking for its next Executive Director. The ED reports to the Board of Directors and is responsible for the organization’s consistent achievement of its mission, strategic priorities, and financial objectives. The ED of Common Ground directly supervises 6 Program Directors as well as the Site Manager. Learn more here.

2. Food Justice Education Coordinator, Common Ground (New Haven, CT)
The Food Justice Education Coordinator plays an important role in supporting educational projects involving the farm, requiring strong skills in leading groups of youth and adults in food justice, cooking and farm based activities. The Food Justice Education Coordinator works closely with Farm, High School and Environmental Education Center Staff to plan and execute educational programs. Learn more here.

3. 2019 Appalachian Food Justice Fellowship Program
The Appalachian Food Justice Institute (AFJI) aims to support youth leaders in Central Appalachia (West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Western Virginia, Western North Carolina) in their learning, experimentation, and action within local and regional food systems change. The AFJI Fellowship program will support 10 students from across Appalachia to learn, experiment, and act to confront injustices within their regional food systems. The Fellowship award will cover all costs associated with attending the 10-day Appalachian Food Justice Institute, as well as a $500 stipend. Learn more here


Farm to School in the News
Local tuna arrives at Oregon school cafeteria, along with the fishermen
Local, sustainably caught tuna was served up in the Driftwood School cafeteria in Port Orford on Thursday, Dec. 13, and the students were treated not only to tuna, but to stories from two local fishermen, who caught the fish, shared about their occupation and what it is like to be out in the ocean. (Bandon Western World)

Pennsylvania schools adds local foods to cafeteria menu through farm-to-table program
Through the district’s participation in a farm-to-table program, new for the 2018-19 school year, students are receiving regionally sourced food in the cafeteria that meets or exceeds school nutrition standards and educational activities in the classroom that emphasize nutrition and local agriculture. (Herald-Standard)

Maryland district seeks local farms for school lunch initiative
Frederick County Public Schools, in cooperation with two local food advocacy organizations, has spent the past year exploring the feasibility of adding more locally and Maryland-grown fruits and vegetables to school lunches. (The Frederick News 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.

Jump with Jill Puts a Rock-and-Roll Twist on Nutrition Education

NFSN Staff Thursday, December 27, 2018


By Anna Defendiefer, Communications Intern

One of the most exciting parts of farm to school is that it looks different in every community. There are countless ways to get kids excited and help them feel knowledgeable about healthy eating and their local food systems. Here’s one creative example: Jump with Jill, a rock-and-roll nutrition show that travels across the country to show students that healthy eating is something to celebrate. I recently had the opportunity to interview the founder of Jump with Jill, Jill Jayne, who spoke with me about her beginnings in nutrition, what she’s learned through her experiences, and what she hopes her show brings to students.

Writing and performing dozens of songs about healthy foods is certainly an uncommon specialty, and I was curious as to how Jill got her inspiration. Growing up, Jill was an ambitious student, performing in her school’s musicals and running for the cross country team, while also achieving valedictorian status. After graduating, these interests merged and led Jill to pursue a nutritional sciences and theater at Penn State University. Her self-proclaimed “big break” came in 2003, when she dressed up as a cow in a video segment about nutrition. Fully embracing the silliness of the segment, Jayne realized she could use her physical humor to work with nutrition in a different way than most dieticians. She realized she had a voice that spoke to kids, and she could make a real difference in nutrition education.

It was in 2006 when the first seeds for Jump with Jill were planted. As part of her master’s thesis, Jill performed a free nutrition and rock and roll street show in New York’s Central Park. Shortly after, Jill signed a record deal and released her debut Jump with Jill album, followed by her first national tour performing for youth across the country. With silly lyrics like “when your craving is cruising for a healthy dose of got your back with that off the hook flavor” from her song “Sweet Beat,” her mix of nutrition education with humor and entertainment was a hit with students.

Until 2011, Jill and her brother performed in every single Jump with Jill show - about 300 a year. When Jill received a call from the city of Philadelphia requesting 150 shows for their students in the coming school year, she knew that she had to make changes to her business structure, quickly shifting her role from performer to businesswoman. Hiring her first Jill “doppelgangers,” she switched from a brother-sister startup to a real company. Now managing a staff of multiple “Jills” and DJ’s, she “took a step back from performing to make the mission possible.”  



Notably, Jill only hires certified teachers as performers in her show. That’s because her ultimate goal is to teach - in an unconventional way - that healthy foods can be exciting and interesting. According to Jill, students only “need ten doses of something to impact behavior.” This philosophy led Jill to create a toolkit containing lesson plans and activities that teachers can easily implement in the classroom after kids have taken part in the performance.

“Every message place counts,” Jill says. “Use watermelons in a math problem instead of pizza slices. Serve apples and cheese as a snack. Make healthy habits entertaining. Kids are learning by what they’re seeing, not what you’re telling them.” She emphasizes that teachers don’t have to make up these lessons if they’re not confident in their ability to teach about nutrition - Jill has already crafted them. The resources she provides to teachers have a 100% utilization rate after the show.

Admiring the dedication and creativity of Jill and her staff to teaching students about such a critical topic, I asked if she has one main idea she wants to convey through her performances. With no hesitation, she said that “you only get one body - one body for your entire life! You are responsible for making healthy choices for your body. You own it.”

Jill and her team have now conveyed that message over 3,000 times, and that number will only continue to grow.

Our Year of Partnership: NFSN and NEA

NFSN Staff Thursday, December 20, 2018

In 2018, National Farm to School Network selected the National Education Association (NEA) as our 2018 National Partner of the Year. As articulated in our 2017-2019 Strategic Plan, this annual designated partnership with a national organization aims to facilitate expanded engagement in farm to school and increase knowledge of farm to school in diverse sectors. NEA, which is committed to advancing the cause of public education and is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, made an exciting fit for NFSN in our efforts to become more connected to key stakeholders in the education sector. 

NEA’s three million members – from every state and more than 14,000 communities – work at every level of education, from preschool to university graduate programs. Included in NEA’s membership are nearly 500,000 Education Support Professionals (ESP) – school support staff who work to meet the needs of the whole student. Working as food service staff, custodians, secretaries, classroom paraeducators, bus drivers, and in many other jobs, these essential educators (who make up nearly one-third of the education workforce) help ensure that children are safe, healthy, well-nourished and well-educated. 

As Tim Barchak, NEA ESP-Quality Senior Policy Analyst, explained on our recent co-hosted webinar, farm to school can benefit educators, ESP and students. With 18 percent of children under age 18 (more than 13 million) living in food-insecure households and nearly 30 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program, farm to school helps ensure school meals are healthy and nutritious, setting up students for success in the classroom and beyond. But to do this, school food systems and food service members must have the right tools and skills to incorporate more fresh, local food into school meal menus. Building up a skilled school nutrition workforce and thinking more holistically about a 21st century school food system can equate to healthier school meals and more strongly invested employees. Providing trainings not only on knife and scratch cooking-skills, but also on bullying prevention, conflict de-escalation, student mentoring and cultural sensitivity give food service members the opportunity to be more fully involved and valued in the life of a school community. It’s a win for school nutrition staff and the students they serve. 

Over this past year, NFSN and NEA have worked together to widely share this vision and other opportunities that farm to school provides to educators and ESP. To spread the word, we co-hosted a webinar on Farm to School and 21st Century Food System Programs, participated in each other’s celebrations - like National Farm to School Month, American Education Week and National Education Support Professional Day - and regularly shared and cross-promoted resources, events and engagement opportunities with each other’s memberships. We presented at each other’s conferences, including at NFSN’s Annual Meeting and NEA’s ESP Conference, and participated in a school garden site visit in Massachusetts. Internally, our staff connected to discuss collaboration on policy initiatives and social justice advocacy. 

Furthermore, our national partnership has spurred new connections for our state-level partners. In Vermont, the Vermont Farm to School Network and Vermont NEA have partnered to advance their mutual interest in advocating for fresh and locally sourced food in K-12 schools. Realizing that school boards, school administrators and other decision makers may not know as much about school food programs, they've teamed up to create an informational toolkit and campaign to promote the new resource to Vermont schools. On the other side of the country, NEA New Mexico and Farm to Table New Mexico have connected to help a school district maintain a self-operated food system that prioritizes fresh, local food for students. Their partnership has continued as they together explore other food policy opportunities in New Mexico. 

This year of partnership has laid the groundwork for exciting ongoing collaboration between NFSN and NEA. To kick off 2019, NFSN is honored to receive a $2,500 donation from NEA to continue growing farm to school and serving as a resource for NEA’s affiliates. In this next year, we also plan to continue cross-promoting resources and learning opportunities that can support each other’s members, and will explore more ways to offer collaborative trainings on farm to school topics like procurement. We’ll continue to keep our members updated on opportunities to get involved, so make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter

As we close out 2018, we extend a hearty thank you to NEA for a valuable year of collaborating, thought-partnering and visioning together. Partnership like this one are what keep the farm to school movement growing strong, and we look forward to keeping the momentum going for years to come!  

You Make Farm to School Happen

NFSN Staff Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The final weeks of 2018 are upon us, and at the National Farm to School Network, we are reflecting on an extraordinary year for farm to school. For that, we have you – our members, donors, partners and friends – to thank. Together, we’re keeping the farm to school movement growing strong! 

Here are several highlights of our 2018 success that you helped make possible: 

National Advocacy: Worked with bipartisan champions in Congress to secure an additional $5 million in discretionary funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program as part of the 2018 appropriations bill. This win has made more funding available for the FY 2019 USDA Farm to School Grants

National Early Care and Education Data: Launched the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey in partnership with Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, which heard from 2,030 respondents serving 255,257 children in 45 states and Washington, D.C. This survey has provided the only national-level data of current farm to ECE participation and trends.

Commitment to Racial & Social Equity: Furthered our commitment to advancing racial and social equity in the farm to school movement by creating new resources – like the Programs and Policy Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool – and prioritizing equity topics and learning opportunities into programmatic content like webinars, blogs and the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference.

National Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Brought together 930 stakeholders from across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada for three days of learning, networking and movement building. The program included 36 workshops, inspiring plenary addresses, a poster session, eight short courses, 11 field trips and countless networking opportunities.

New Resources: Expanded our resource library with new resources for helping farm to school efforts grow in all communities, including two new signature resources – State Farm to School Networks Toolkit and State Farm to School Positions Guide – and new non-English and bilingual farm to school resources

Your donations have made this work possible, and they’re crucial to helping us do more in the new year. 
After all, farm to school doesn’t happen on its own – it takes people like you championing the movement. We need your help to continue this important work. Make your end of year, tax-deductible donation today to keep this movement growing.

Your generosity is what makes our work possible - we couldn’t do it without you! Thank you for being part of the National Farm to School Network and contributing to vibrant communities, healthy kids, farms and families!

This Week in Farm to School: 12/18/18

NFSN Staff Tuesday, December 18, 2018
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. Katie's Krops Garden Grower Grant
Deadline: December 31, 2018
Starting a Katie’s Krops Garden is so much more than just receiving funding to grow a garden. Youth selected as Katie’s Krops Growers are empowered to grow a healthy end to hunger in their community and positively impacting the health of their cities and towns. Learn more and apply here.


Webinars & Events
1. NEW NFSN Webinar Series
Starting in 2019, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) will host quarterly Resource Roundup webinars. These bite-sized webinars provide a brief highlight of a new or innovate farm to school or farm to early care and education resource. Featured resources will include tools and publications from the National Farm to School Network, as well as resources developed by other organizations. Webinars will take place the third Wednesday of February, May, August and November from 4-4:30 PM ET. Save the date and be on the lookout for more information about the February Resource Roundup Webinar soon.

2. Trending Topics: Youth Voice and Engagement in Farm to School
Thursday, January 10 // 1 - 2 PM ET
Engaging youth voice and leadership in farm to school initiatives is essential to advancing the movement and growing the next generation of food systems leaders. Join the National Farm to School Network and Shelburne Farms to celebrate youth engagement in farm to school projects and curriculum. Hear from educators and students from urban, suburban, and rural communities as they share how they are innovatively promoting healthier and more just food systems in their schools and communities through farm to school. Register here

3. Farm to Cafeteria Canada National Farm to School Conference - Call for Proposals
Farm to Cafeteria Canada's (F2CC) National Farm to School Conference will be held in Victoria, British Columbia, May 15-17, 2019 and we are now accepting proposals. Building on the success of the 2015 Changing the Menu conference, this event is designed to advance activity to bring more healthy, local and sustainable foods into the minds and onto the plates of students in preschools, schools (K-12) and campuses across Canada. We invite you to join your colleagues from across Canada as they INSPIRE, INNOVATE, and organize for IMPACT. Deadline to submit is December 20, 2018. Learn more here.


Job Opportunities
1. Executive Director, National Farm to School Network (Remote) 
National Farm to School Network seeks a dynamic, values-driven and collaborative leader as Executive Director. The Executive Director leads innovation and strategic growth toward accomplishing the mission of the organization. Location is flexible (anywhere within the U.S., with preference for proximity to Washington, D.C.). The deadline to apply is Jan. 7, 2019. Learn more here

2. Farm to School Director, Community Groundworks (Madison, WI)
Community GroundWorks is looking for a .8 FTE Farm to School Director. The Farm to School Director is responsible for the oversight and programming for the Farm to School and Farm to Early Care and Education programs. Our mission is to ensure that every child across Wisconsin has access to healthy, local foods, and hands-on education in nutrition, food, and agriculture. Learn more here.

3. Coalition Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (Washington, D.C.)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is seeking an energetic, passionate, experienced and collaborative Coalition Director to provide executive-level leadership to NSAC, its staff, governing body, and membership. The Coalition Director must be deeply committed to serving the sustainable agriculture movement’s policy and grassroots work and to becoming an integral part of our high-performing, passionate, and diverse team. The Coalition Director is a full-time, salaried position and is based in Washington, DC. Learn more here

4. CRM/Database Consultant, Massachusetts Farm to School (Remote)
Massachusetts Farm to School is looking for a consultant to assess our current and projected database needs and identify and implement a new database and CRM platform to better meet the organization’s communications, development, and data management needs. Read the full RFP here.


Farm to School in the News
Making Healthy School Lunches Free for All Should Be a National Priority
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans to lower nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program and roll them back to pre-Obama era levels. A professor argues we should destigmatize and better shape school meals to provide much-needed support to children and their families. (Civil Eats)

An elementary school program is growing gardeners in Alaska
Cold, gray winter may be settling on Juneau, but kids at Riverbend and Glacier Valley elementary schools are still talking about the rainbow of fruits and vegetables they helped grow this summer. Gold and purple potatoes, purple and orange carrots, red tomatoes. (KTOO Public Media)

Illinois high tech school gardening programs teach students important life skills
Growing Healthy People, a non-profit organization, has created year-round gardening programs at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Waukegan, Lake Forest Country Day School and Bowen Park Urban Ag Lab in Waukegan. The organization utilizes cutting edge gardening technology including hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics in greenhouses to allow students to grow food year-round during the entire academic school year. (Daily Herald)

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.

Kids counting on us: Give healthier school meals a chance

NFSN Staff Wednesday, December 12, 2018
By National Farm to School Network Staff

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a final rule that will relax nutrition standards for meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP) and other federal child nutrition programs that were implemented in 2012. The rule will: 

  • Change whole grain requirements so that half of the total weekly grains served in menus be whole grain-rich. Previously, all breads, cereals and pastas had to be at least 50% whole grain. Now, a school could serve foods that are not whole grain-rich, as long as at least 50% of the total weekly menu complies. 
  • Lengthen the amount of time for sodium reduction in meals, requiring Target 2 be met by School Year 2024-2015, and eliminate the Final Target. Previously, the rule was designed to meet the Final Target and cut sodium levels in half by 2022. 
  • Allow more flavored milk options - like chocolate and strawberry 1% - to be served. Previously, flavoring was only permitted in fat-free milks. 
While the final rule does not come as a surprise, it is disappointing. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required USDA to update nutrition standards for the first time in three decades, and the healthier standards went into effect School Year 2012-2013. In 2014, USDA reported that 90 percent of schools were successfully meeting these updated nutrition standards. 

Beyond successful implementation, we know that the healthier standards can and are working to get students eating more fruits and vegetables, maintaining NSLP participation, and not increasing plate waste. But these positive impacts have taken time to come to fruition. 

At the National Farm to School Network, we know implementing healthier nutrition standards is like teaching kids how to ride a bicycle. We don’t prop them up on the seat, plant their feet on the pedals, and expect them to be able to ride on two wheels at their first go. Often times, we give them an extra set of wheels - training wheels - to teach them how to balance, feel comfortable, and catch a first thrill of self-propelled forward motion. We expect it will take a few tries before the training wheels come off, and a few tumbles before new riders are really cruising. 

Developing healthy eating habits goes much the same way. We shouldn’t expect kids to always like the taste of a new vegetable, or love whole grain pizza crust at first bite after being accustomed to white flour. That’s where farm to school makes its biggest impact. Activities like taste tests, school gardens, farm visits, and cooking demonstrations help students get excited about trying and liking new, healthier foods. This is something we hear over and over and over again, and it’s what the research tells us. Simply put, farm to school activities are the training wheels that make healthier nutrition standards stick with students

Giving kids repeated opportunities to learn about their food — by gardening, meeting farmers, cooking — and opportunities to try new foods — with Harvest of the Month, salad bars, and new menu item samples — add up to more receptiveness and enthusiasm for healthier school meals. Farm to school doesn’t guarantee that kids will like everything served to them, but it does aim to give kids every opportunity to build healthy habits that will last them a lifetime.  

Once you learn how to ride a bike, backwards is not a direction you want to move in. As our kids continue to grow accustomed to the healthier nutrition standards, now is not the time to go backwards. We owe it to our nation’s children, and they’re counting on us. With more than 30 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program, it’s crucial that we continue to give them strong opportunities for a bright and healthy future. 

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