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Farm to school is taking place in all 50 states, D.C. and U.S. Territories! Select a location from the list below to learn more or contact a Core Partner. 

National Farm to School Network

News

Building farm to school policy in Hawai’i

NFSN Staff Thursday, November 12, 2015
 Photo credit: Hawai'i Governor's Office
From reimbursements for locally sourced school meals to clarity on food safety regulations, state policies are an effective tool for growing robust farm to school program that connect children with fresh, healthy food and support local food producers. The National Farm to School Network is proud to provide the resources, information and support needed for farm to school advocates to achieve state policy success. 

Here’s a recent example: in 2014, a group of farm to school advocates from Hawai’i attended our National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Austin, Texas, where they learned about state legislation and its power to affect change. Energized and filled with new ideas, they left the conference and began identifying their policies needs – like the need for an official state farm to school coordinator to orchestrate the multiple programmatic efforts happening around Hawai’i.

With a policy goal identified, the National Farm to School Network worked with Hawai’i leaders and offered resources and information to drive their legislative process forward. Our  “Benefits of Farm to School” and “Farm to School Advocacy” factsheets proved to be helpful tools for raising awareness of farm to school activities and encouraging Hawaiians to become politically active in the farm to school movement. Our network of state and regional leads offered the Hawai’i leaders insight on how other states fund farm to school positions. And, our Policy Team provided written testimony to be considered by lawmakers as the bill made its way through the legislative process. 

In July 2015, all of the hard work paid off. The bill unanimously passed both Hawai’i legislative chambers, creating a statewide farm to school program and providing funds for a farm to school program coordinator position in the Department of Agriculture. In addition to signing the bill into law, Hawai’i Governor David Ige made a proclamation in support of farm to school. Proclamations like this can often lead to greater awareness of farm to school activities in states and ideally, grow stronger statewide support in the form of resources and legislation.

Legislative wins don’t always come this easily. That’s why the National Farm to School Network is committed to building upon its tools and resources that help set up farm to school champions for policy success. There are now more than 40 states with enacted farm to school legislation, including Oregon and Louisiana – two additional states that passed strong farm to school legislation this year. Learn about every enacted, defeated and pending farm to school-related bill from 2002-2014 in our State Farm to School Legislative Survey

Help us continue to support state policies that strengthen farm to school by giving to the National Farm to School Network on #GivingTuesday. Donate on Tuesday, Dec. 1 and Newman's Own Foundation will match all gifts up to $10,000. Together, we can help kids, farmers and communities in every state thrive. 

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This week in farm to school: 11/10/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, November 10, 2015

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 Community Food Project Grant Program
The 2016 USDA Community Food Projects Grant Program Request for Applications is open, with $8.4 million in grant funding available. Community Food Projects are designed to increase food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs. Eligible grant applicants include food program service providers, tribal organizations, or private nonprofit entities, including gleaners. The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project is providing free one-on-one technical assistance and resources to organizations interested in applying for the Community Food Projects Grant Program through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information and to apply for technical assistance, please visit the Community Food Projects' website. Applications are due Monday, November 30, 2015 at 5:00 pm EST.


Webinars & Events
1. Proposals now accepted for National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
Organizers of the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference are seeking proposals for workshops, posters and lightning talks to feature during the two-day gathering in Madison, Wis., June 2-4, 2016. This event is the premier gathering of individuals and organizations working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America. Cafeterias in schools and early care, colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons and other institutional settings serve tens of millions of Americans every day, placing the farm to cafeteria movement at the forefront of the fight to end obesity and strengthen local food systems. The 2016 conference theme Moving Forward Together lifts up new and innovative partnerships to continue building momentum and ensure long-term sustainability in the movement. The application period is open now through Dec. 4, 2015. Learn more at farmtocafeteriaconference.org.


Policy & Action
1. A National Survey of Early Care Settings: Local Procurement, Gardens and Food and Farm Education
The National Farm to School Network is currently conducting a survey of early care and education staff and providers to gain a better understanding of current farm to preschool practices as well as barriers and challenges to implementing farm to preschool/early care initiatives. Please share the following survey link with early care and education staff and providers in your networks: www.surveymonkey.com/r/NFSNfarmtopreschool. The survey will close November 17. Thank you for your time and assistance in capturing this important information! If you have any questions or concerns, please contact NFSN Farm to Preschool Associate, Lacy Stephens (lacy@farmtoschool.org) or Principal Investigator, Lydia Oberholzer (lydiaoberholtzer@gmail.com).


Jobs & Opportunities
1. Executive Director, Growing Gardens
Growing Gardens seeks a highly skilled and passionate individual to serve as Executive Director and uphold its mission to strengthen people and communities to grow their own food. Growing Gardens accomplishes this through a Home Gardens program working with families, a Youth Grow program in local schools, the Lettuce Grow program serving inmates in Oregon’s correctional facilities, and educational workshops. Learn more and apply here

2. Call for papers: Childhood Obesity in Underserved Populations
Childhood Obesity plans to publish a special issue dedicated to Childhood Obesity in Underserved Populations. New ideas and initiatives are needed for understanding the factors that predispose or lead to obesity in these populations (biological, behavioral, and ecological). New analyses that enable us to understand why previous programs have not been successful (especially mediation and moderator analyses), and for innovative programs that deliberately attempt to minimize previous recognized problems and take new approaches to better serve these populations are needed. Editors are interested in original research and meta-analyses in regard to any aspect of childhood obesity in underserved populations. The deadline for manuscript submission is March 15, 2016. More information here

3. Program Director, Land-Based Learning
Land-Based Learning is hiring a Program Director, based at its main office in Winters, Calif. at the Farm on Putah Creek. This position will be responsible for continuing the existing training and incubator programs; supervising 3 full-time CFA staff; writing and managing grants; creating and updating annual program budgets; working with an Advisory Committee of agricultural professionals, farmers and educators; launching an urban farm in a development currently under construction at The Cannery in Davis, CA; working with our West Sacramento urban farming program to oversee farm sites, expand marketing opportunities and explore aggregation; and, in partnership with another farmer training organization, developing an accredited farm apprenticeship program. Learn more here

4. Legislative Assistant, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree
Progressive Maine Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree seeks an experienced and proactive legislative assistant to handle her sustainable agriculture legislative portfolio and other legislative issues in her Washington D.C. office. Congresswoman Pingree is a national leader on local food and sustainable agriculture issues and the ideal candidate should have strong connections in these issue areas. Excellent writing and analytical skills, a proven record of generating and advancing legislative ideas, and a demonstrated ability to work with other offices and committees to advance the member’s agenda are important. Experience on Capitol Hill either in a Member office/committee or as an outside advocate is desired. The legislative assistant will be responsible for developing initiatives, tracking legislation, drafting correspondence and floor statements, and representing the Member in meetings and working closely with the district staff on outreach opportunities. Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter to Pingree.Resume@mail.house.gov. Position will begin January 2016. 

5. Development Director, The Food Literacy Project 
The Food Literacy Project seeks a Development Director to join their team in Louisville, KY. The Development Director will plan, manage and evaluate the Food Literacy Project’s resource development efforts. The primary responsibilities are to develop and oversee the annual fundraising plan in collaboration with the Executive Director and Board of Directors. Learn more here.  

6. Fellows, DC Greens
DC Greens is hiring two fellows for its 2016 Fellowship Programs. These two immersive year-long, professional development experiences are intended to cultivate growth into a career. The fellowships will provide hands on work in food access and food education and numerous opportunities for relationship building amongst our partners. Over the course of the position, the Fellows will learn the in’s and out’s of the nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses that make up the DC food landscape. Learn more here


Farm to school in the news
Collier County schools lead the way in farm-to-school push
"When a child gets that ripe strawberry, it's a great strawberry. They'll think 'Wow, I want to eat this more often,' and that's what we want," said Dawn Houser, head of nutrition services for the Collier County school district. "And since we are the largest multiunit food service operation in Collier county ... schools are the perfect partner for farmers." (via Naples Daily News)

Mountain View students take a food adventure
The Corvallis Environmental Center puts on the food adventures as part of its Farm to School program, which also puts on monthly tasting tables with fresh fruits and vegetables for Corvallis and Philomath schools. (via Corvallis Gazette-Times)

Granville students start a fish farm
Behind Granville High School is a different type of school: one that consists of about 130 finger-length, iridescent tilapia, swimming together in two large, black tanks within a greenhouse nestled between the school parking lots. If all goes according to plan, the tilapia will survive the winter and ultimately land as a delectable dish on students’ lunch trays come spring. (via The Columbus Dispatch

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. 

Growing stronger from the start

NFSN Staff Friday, November 06, 2015

Farm to school isn’t just for K-12 students; connecting young children to healthy food and nutrition education in preschool and early care settings is an essential component of growing a healthier next generation. The National Farm to School Network is dedicated to engaging more children age 0-5 in activities and experiences that increase acceptance of healthy foods and support life long healthy habits. Through leadership, advocacy, and networking, we’re bringing more farm to preschool to more of our nation’s littlest eaters. 

Earlier this year, Lacy Stephens joined our team as a dedicated farm to preschool specialist, and her work is elevating and prioritizing preschool and early care settings within the wider farm to school and child wellness movements. Lacy represents the National Farm to School Network on the Child and Adult Care Food Program National Advisory Committee and the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight Policy Roundtable, giving the farm to school movement an important voice in conversations about the health and wellness of our nation’s youngest eaters. Our strong partnerships with these organizations and leaders continue to multiply our efforts and outreach at the national, state and local levels. 

We’re also driving the movement forward by gathering data and research that provide insight on the specific needs and opportunities to expand farm to preschool to more children. Our National Survey of Early Care and Education Settings will give us the valuable information to develop new resources and outreach approaches, and the Early Childhood Good Food Access Research (in partnership with Partners for Change and the BUILD Initiative) will identify innovative strategies and policies for increasing access to healthy foods for young children. 

In addition, we’re spreading awareness of farm to preschool by bringing you great stories on our blog, like:


In 2016, we’ll be reconvening the National Farm to School Network Farm to Preschool Group to bring together key stakeholders from early care and education, academia and state and federal agencies to grow and strengthen farm to preschool. We’re also looking forward to offering a robust farm to preschool track at the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, June 2-4, 2016, in Madison, Wis. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the farm to preschool movement!

Join us in strengthening these efforts to give our littlest eaters a healthy start, and help us ensure that every growing child has access to fresh, healthy food. Donate to the National Farm to School Network on #GivingTuesday, and Newman's Own Foundation will match all gifts up to $10,000. A donation in any amount is an investment in our children. Together, we can make sure they all have access to a bright and healthy future. 

This week in farm to school: 11/03/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, November 03, 2015

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. Educator Grants, Herb Society of America
The Herb Society of America's mission is to promote the knowledge, use, and delight of herbs through educational programs, research, and sharing the experience of its members with the community. Through the Grant for Educators program, the society will award a grant or two totaling up to $5,000 to a project(s) that enhances herbal education in school systems, communities, or in any public forum (electronic or person-to-person).Visit the Herb Society's website for complete program guidelines and application instructions.  

2. USDA funding available to support new farmer training programs
The USDA recently announced the availability of $18 million to fund new farmer training and education programs across the country. These federal grants are made available to non-profit and community-based organizations, as well as academic institutions and government entities, through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). BFRDP is the only national program that explicitly provides funding to train the next generation of farmers. Grant applications are due January 21, 2016. Learn more here


Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: USDA
New Markets & Growth Opportunities with GroupGAP
Thursday, Nov 12, 2pm EST
The Agriculture Marketing Services' Specialty Crops Inspection Division, in partnership with the Wallace Center at Winrock International, will present a webinar on GroupGAP, a new certification option for the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit program.  This program makes GAP certification more accessible to small and medium size producers by allowing multiple growers to work together to obtain a single certification as a group.  GroupGAP certification offers growers a cost-effective means to show adherence to GAP requirements. Learn more and register here

2. Webinar: California Farm to School
Evaluating Farm to School 
Monday, Nov 16, 3:30pm CST
Join California Farm to school to learn about the National Farm to School Network’s Evaluation Framework, a tool to offer guidelines and metrics for clear Farm to School outcomes and impacts. The workshop will provide an overview of the framework as well as practical examples of how it has been used in Yolo County Farm to School programs. Register here

3. Proposals now accepted for National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
Organizers of the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference are seeking proposals for workshops, posters and lightning talks to feature during the two-day gathering in Madison, Wis., June 2-4, 2016. This event is the premier gathering of individuals and organizations working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America. Cafeterias in schools and early care, colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons and other institutional settings serve tens of millions of Americans every day, placing the farm to cafeteria movement at the forefront of the fight to end obesity and strengthen local food systems. The 2016 conference theme Moving Forward Together lifts up new and innovative partnerships to continue building momentum and ensure long-term sustainability in the movement. The application period is open now through Dec. 4, 2015. Learn more at farmtocafeteriaconference.org.

4. Save the date: Children & Nature Network 2016 International Conference and Cities & Nature Summit
May 24th – 27th, 2016, Saint Paul River Centre Saint Paul, MN
Innovation, collaboration & commitment are the key ingredients for meaningful grassroots change. Join the Children & Nature Network and leaders from around the world to learn, connect & build the future of the children and nature movement. Early bird registration closes Nov 30. Learn more here


Research & Resources
1. USDA New Farmers Tool
The USDA has announced a new, tailored web tool designed to connect burgeoning farm entrepreneurs with programs and resources available to help them get started. The new web tool is available at www.usda.gov/newfarmers. The site features advice and guidance on everything a new farm business owner needs to know, from writing a business plan, to obtaining a loan to grow their business, to filing taxes as a new small business owner. By answering a series of questions about their operation, farmers can use the site’s Discovery Tool to build a personalized set of recommendations of USDA programs and services that may meet their needs. Learn more here

2. Cultivating collective action: The ecology of a statewide food network
In order to continue to foster and grow a sustainable partnership with food network leaders across the state, University of Minnesota Extension Health and Nutrition educators explored the opportunities and challenges presented by the emergence of a statewide food network in Minnesota and the role of Extension within it. This report provides a summary of the findings and highlights opportunities, challenges, and best practices that emerged through 10 categories that describe the different phases and key activities of a network. Additionally, the report findings are presented through an overarching concept of understanding networks as ecosystems, because the processes at play within food networks mimic many of those found in nature. Read the report here

3. State School Health Policy Matrix 2.0
The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, National Association of State Boards of Education and the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) have released the State School Health Policy Matrix 2.0, an updated guide to state-level school health policies in all 50 states for the following topics: competitive foods and beverages, physical education and physical activity and administration of medication in the school environment. Learn more here

4. New Harvard cost benefit study on childhood obesity interventions
The Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost Effectiveness Study (CHOICES) team at the Harvard Prevention Research Center has just released a new study highlighting the importance of prioritizing primary prevention for policy makers aiming to reduce childhood obesity. The paper identifies three interventions that would more than pay for themselves by reducing healthcare costs related to obesity: an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages; elimination of the tax subsidy for advertising unhealthy food to children; and nutrition standards for food and drinks sold in schools outside of school meals. The study also underscores the importance of maintaining policies already in place. Improvements in school meal nutrition standards and current Smart Snacks regulation make the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 one of the most important national obesity prevention policy achievements in recent decades. Read the study here

5. Food Policy Council Directory
The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Food Policy Networks project began surveying food policy councils (FPCs) and similar groups across North America annually in 2012. The FPC directory and map have been updated for 2015, which include updated contact information, goals, webpages and social media sites, governance structures, top priorities, and notable accomplishments for the 282 active FPCs listed across North America. Visit the directory here

6. Documentary: Food for Thought, Food For Life
Food for Thought, Food for Life is a short documentary film that educates people about the negative impact our current methods of agriculture have on the earth. In addition to providing vital information, the film gives viewers the necessary tools to make a difference in their own lives. The film is offered without a screening license fee to those who convene screening events designed to actively engage people in conversations about the food and farming sustainability issues raised by the film. Visit the Food for Thought website for a full screening kit, discussion guide, and materials.


Policy & Action
1. A National Survey of Early Care Settings: Local Procurement, Gardens and Food and Farm Education
The National Farm to School Network is currently conducting a survey of early care and education staff and providers to gain a better understanding of current farm to preschool practices as well as barriers and challenges to implementing farm to preschool/early care initiatives. Please share the following survey link with early care and education staff and providers in your networks: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NFSNfarmtopreschool. The survey will close November 17. Thank you for your time and assistance in capturing this important information! If you have any questions or concerns, please contact NFSN Farm to Preschool Associate, Lacy Stephens (lacy@farmtoschool.org) or Principal Investigator, Lydia Oberholzer (lydiaoberholtzer@gmail.com).


Jobs & Opportunities
1. Garden Manager, Colorado Rocky Mountain School
Colorado Rocky Mountain School is accepting applications for its Garden Manager position, deadline is November 20, 2015. Applicants must possess three years of gardening, organic agriculture, and horticulture in an institutional setting including two years of supervisory experience. Learn more here


Farm to school in the news
Farm to school: the battle for healthy eating
Palm Springs Unified School District is bringing more local food into the cafeteria with the support of local farmers. Farmer Bob Knight says, ”With farm to school, there's this opportunity to keep farming here forever as a healthy economic enterprise (and) as a healthy community enterprise that will make our community so much richer." (via The Desert Sun)

500 Minnesota districts eating farm to school lunches
Students at 1,351 schools across Minnesota are eating nutritious, locally-grown meals through farm to school programs. The initiative is a welcome boost for Minnesota’s farmers, increasing farm income by an average of 5 percent. (via Fox 9)

Creative baking from Kalispell Public School Central Kitchen
A new central kitchen has increased scratch cooking at Kalispell Public Schools - and has resulted in a decrease in plate waste. The kitchen also uses creative baking to incorporate more than 400 pounds of kitchen garden produce into student meals. (via The Daily Inter Lake)


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. 

Roundup: Farm to School Month 2015

NFSN Staff Friday, October 30, 2015

This week's Farm to School Month blogs are sponsored by the Orfalea Foundation School Food Initiative, which has empowered campus food service operations to serve fresh, healthy school meals; installed school gardens; launched food literacy programs; and assisted school districts in their aspirations to become centers of health and wellness. The Orfalea Foundation applauds the efforts of National Farm to School Network and is proud to be a sponsor of Farm to School Month. 

 Photo credit: Pioneer Elementary, Ashwaubenon, Wis.; photo submitted by Live54218

For the past 30 days, millions of schools, farmers and communities around the country have been celebrating the movement that’s connecting kids to fresh, healthy food and supporting local economies. From Maine to Alaska and everywhere in between, people are recognizing the power of farm to school to benefit people, planet and profit. That’s what National Farm to School Month is all about! 

At the National Farm to School Network, we’ve been leading Farm to School Month celebrations by sharing great stories of farm to school innovations, successes and impacts – like how schools are incorporating local, sustainably caught seafood into lunches and voices of youth who are leading the next generation in food activism. 

We also hosted a Big Day of Action to urge Congress to finish the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization (CNR) and strengthen farm to school across the country. More than 400 people posted messages on social media about the positive impact farm to school has in their communities, and many made calls to their legislators to urge support for more farm to school in CNR. Thank you to everyone who joined in! See highlights here.

Regionally, students celebrated Farm to School Month with events like the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch, which had more than 500,000 student participants across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio chomping into local apples. In the Midwest, thousands of students enjoyed fresh, healthy food with a “Midwest Menu” on October 22, featuring local chicken, vegetables, apples, and a whole grain side that showcased local autumn bounty.  

In fact, there have been Farm to School Month celebrations in every state this month. Governors in Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Utah made proclamations declaring October Farm to School Month in their states. Vermont encouraged kids to try new foods with “Taste Test Mania,” Georgia got kids to dig their hands in the soil with “Rooting for Carrots,” and Washington students sampled local food for Taste Washington Day. We could keep going! 

 Photo credit: Odom Elementary School, Moultri, Ga. 

Dozens of you sent in your farm to school stories, as well. We heard that 8th graders in Maine participated in a Jr. Chef Challenge, students in Alabama harvested sweet potatoes, and chefs visited schools in New Jersey. Thanks to all who shared their farm to school stories and joined our network this month! And, a special congratulations to our sweepstakes winners -  Jayne W., Jennifer K., Carol T.S. and Ally M.! 

Farm to school happens year-round, and there are 336 days to continue growing and strengthening the movement before Farm to School Month 2016.  Join our network to stay up-to-date on the latest stories, new resources, policy actions, and learning opportunities – like the upcoming 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, June 2-4, 2016 in Madison, Wis. Let's keep the momentum going!

Thank you to each of our Farm to School Month sponsors – Orfalea Foundation, Organic Valley, Aetna Foundation, Chartwells, Mamma Chia and Stand2Learn – and the 160+ outreach partner organizations that have helped make Farm to School Month 2015 a success.  

Youth for Healthy Schools

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 28, 2015
This week's Farm to School Month blogs are sponsored by the Orfalea Foundation School Food Initiative, which has empowered campus food service operations to serve fresh, healthy school meals; installed school gardens; launched food literacy programs; and assisted school districts in their aspirations to become centers of health and wellness. The Orfalea Foundation applauds the efforts of National Farm to School Network and is proud to be a sponsor of Farm to School Month. 
 Photo credit: Food Justice Collective 
Bottom photo: Ron Triggs at VEGGI Farmers' Cooperative 
By Ron Triggs, Grade 8, Edgar P Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy, New Orleans

I have always lived in a food desert, meaning fresh and healthy food options are not readily available where I live. Instead, there’s a gas station corner store down the street from my house where most people buy food. At school, I want to see more fresh, healthy, culturally relevant foods in our school lunches. The New Orleans student of color population is at risk when it comes to eating nutritious and culturally relevant school meals. In Orleans Parish, an alarming 83.8% of public school students are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch compared to the national average of 48.1%. And, students eligible for free or reduced-priced are disproportionately students of color - 88.1% of eligible students are Black

During the 2012-2013 school year, I and other youth organizers from Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools surveyed students, staff, and administrators in New Orleans schools about their perceptions of school food. Most students reported that school food is critical to getting them through the school day, and that they care about access to fresh, healthy and local food.

Try putting yourself in a student’s shoes. Why do you think students of color struggle to get food that is nutritious, healthy, culturally relevant and tasty in their schools? Is it just because they’re low income or there a bigger problem? I think the problem is not only about giving students access to healthy food at lunch – which is important – but is a problem directly related to our food system. 

We operate in an economy that privileges profit over people. The people who grow our food work hard for a living, but the majority of dollars generated in the food system go to those at the top – not the farmers. It’s a system that benefits corporations, not people. 

To better address the root causes of these issues – which we know affect the quality of our school meals – I joined a group called the Food Justice Collective, a collaboration between Rethink and VEGGI Farmers’ Cooperative. The Food Justice Collective is a multi-lingual and multi-ethnic youth of color farming cooperative that shares the practice of collectively maintaining a farm plot as a way to unearth systems of racism and colonization that are at the root of why marginalized people lack access to healthy food, land and opportunities. Together, we’re working towards food sovereignty. 

We are engaged in farming to gain knowledge and skills to grow our own fresh, healthy, and culturally relevant food - the kind of food we are working to get in our schools. We are a ten member collective and we have invested our own money and time to make this collective work. We maintain and operate our own budget, purchase seeds and tools, and are developing relationships and an accountability structure necessary to carry out our farm plan.

In the Food Justice Collective, we practice cooperative economics: everyone works together with equal decision making power and ownership. We believe that by building a youth cooperative we can begin to rebuild a food system that guarantees money is invested within our own community, and that the quality of food available is our community is fresh, healthy, and culturally relevant. Our Food Justice Collective is a way for young farmers like myself to give my peers access the healthy food we really want. 

For us, food justice isn’t just about ending hunger or only about getting better school lunches. It’s about growing food naturally and being able to have food that is affordable, accessible and high quality. I would like to end with this Vietnamese proverb that we say at every Food Justice Collective meeting: 

An qua nho ke trong cay (in Vietnamese) 
Cuando comes fruta, recuerda quien planto el árbol (in Spanish) 
When eating fruit, remember who planted the tree. 


Kids Rethink New Orleans and VEGGI Farmer’s Cooperative are partner organizations of Youth for Healthy Schools, a collaborative organizing network of 15 youth and parent organizations of color in 10 states. Youth for Healthy Schools builds youth power in organizing for healthy and fresh school meals and snacks, safe places to play and exercise, strong school food standards and wellness policies and school wellness centers. Learn more about Youth for Healthy Schools here. 

Keeping indigenous food knowledge alive with farm to school

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 27, 2015
This week's Farm to School Month blogs are sponsored by the Orfalea Foundation School Food Initiative, which has empowered campus food service operations to serve fresh, healthy school meals; installed school gardens; launched food literacy programs; and assisted school districts in their aspirations to become centers of health and wellness. The Orfalea Foundation applauds the efforts of National Farm to School Network and is proud to be a sponsor of Farm to School Month. 

 Photo Credit: FoodCorps
By FoodCorps, with featured writing from Service Member Will Conway 
From medicinal plants to preparation of traditional meals, food has always been central to the cultural teachings of Native peoples in North America. But today, Native communities experience some of the highest incidence of type 2 diabetes among children and young adults, as well the lowest access to fresh foods. That’s why from North Carolina to Arizona, and Oregon to the Hawaiian islands, FoodCorps and its local partners are committed to helping to reverse those trends and supporting efforts to celebrate and expand indigenous food knowledge.

For Native communities, the principles of farm to school make sense, but they’re not new. As FoodCorps Arizona Service Member Will Conway explains: “Prior to the existence of schools, indigenous elders educated Native youth about agricultural practices and food. As the modern world encroaches on the traditions of Native people, what is now called ‘farm to school’ has become a means for reclaiming Native identity in Native communities. Educating Native youth about the sacred importance of food to their culture has become a weapon in the fight against the damaging impacts of the food system, which has disproportionally affected Native Americans.”

In Arizona alone, FoodCorps serves the Navajo, Tohono O’odham, and Apache tribes. On Navajo Nation, Tyrone Thompson is serving a second year with the STAR School, where he is bringing his experience as a farmer in the community to connect and engage kids with fresh, healthy food. 

“Schools are the biggest institution that feeds people in our community,” Tyrone explains. So he’s helping his student take part in the entire process of bringing food from soil to tray. They plant seeds, tend to growing plants on the school farm, harvest produce, and deliver vegetables to the school’s cafeteria, where they’re used in the school lunch program. For the STAR school, farm to school means going straight from the school garden through the doors of the cafeteria!

But getting fresh foods into students’ mouths is just one piece of farm to school in Native communities. Reconnecting kids with indigenous foods, culture and traditions is an important piece of the equation. “We connect with the elders,” Tyrone explains, “because that’s where most of the indigenous knowledge is held.” 

 
Students plants native corn in Painted Desert, Arizona (Photo Credit: FoodCrops) 
In Tuba City, Will Conway works with Navajo farmers and elders to help connect kids to traditional food knowledge. They’ve set up an education plot at the community farm where the farmers and elders can teach kids about traditional plants and growing methods. “Children ranging from pre-k to 6th grade are planting native corn, melons, and beans using traditional tools,” he explains. “The elder recently taught the youth the role of corn in the Hopi creation story and the importance of preserving the corn seeds native to Tuba City.” 

And in White River, FoodCorps service member Maya Harjo is helping students from the White Mountain Apache Tribe think about food as a powerful economic tool for the community. She teamed up with the Arrowhead Business Group Camp for cooking challenge where students had 30 minutes to create a unique food product that incorporated traditional foods, as well as a sale pitch that connected the product to their tribal community. The challenge was an entertaining jumping-off point for getting students to think about food as a means of strengthening the community's economic independence and bolstering traditional food ways. 

This hands-on food education is giving students in Native communities an opportunity to rekindle their connection with Native heritage, as well as empowering them to make healthy food choices that improve health outcomes. Tapping into these roots helps gives farm to school in these communities staying power.

“Indigenous knowledge is being lost,” says Tyrone, “but it’s something we are able to keep alive through food.”


To read more about healthy habits and heritage in native communities, visit the FoodCorps Arizona blog.

School Food Justice: strengthening school meals & farm to school in Vermont

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 21, 2015
By Anore Horton, Nutrition Initiatives Director, Hunger Free Vermont, and Betsy Rosenbluth, Project Director, Vermont FEED

 Photo Credit: Vermont FEED

When Douglas has a full stomach at school, he can focus better on that sticky math problem in front of him.

When Farmer Lauren can sell her veggies or beef to the local school, she can run a stronger business that feeds her community and keeps farms viable.

When Chef Nancy has more students lining up for lunch in her school cafeteria, she has the revenue to expand her offerings and buy more local foods.

It’s easy to connect the dots between these items. And it’s why anti-hunger organizations have been teaming up with farm to school advocates in Vermont to strengthen school meal programs.

To borrow a term from the business world, we call it the “virtuous cycle” of school meals. By expanding meal participation and the food programs offered (like afterschool meals), we ensure that fewer children are hungry, so they are more likely to be ready to learn and participate.  With more kids participating in school meal programs, program revenue climbs, so schools can buy more fresh, nutritious, and local products. And with higher quality meals (along with the greater sense of ownership local food brings) more students buy those meals, boosting participation even more. And so the cycle continues. 

But where’s the leverage point to nudge this wheel into motion?

There are several. Over the past three years, Hunger-Free Vermont and VT FEED (a project of Shelburne Farms and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of VT), have focused on expanding universal meals through the new Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the 2010 School Nutrition Act —along with promoting Provision 2 of the National School Lunch Act.  

In just two years, these two programs have brought universal meals to around 50 Vermont schools – more than 15% of Vermont’s students. 

After using the CEP less than six months, school principals reported at least a  10% increase in  participation in school meals (and as high as 38%). They also reported improved school meal program finances, and greater use of local foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. The cycle set in motion!

According to Winooski Schools Superintendent Sean McMannon, “The positive financial impact of CEP has given us more flexibility to purchase local foods.  We have more local food on the salad bar, and have been able to provide more variety in our offerings.”  

James Taffel, Co-Principal at Barre City Elementary and Middle School, also celebrated their move to universal meals, which has given students more variety and choice.  “We started offering virtually limitless fruits and vegetables of many kinds, supporting local farms and farmers whenever we can.  Kids just take what they want, and the fabulous part is that they love it!”

Then there are the “spin-off” impacts. Schools reported fewer behavior referrals and school nurse visits. One more check in the “plus” column! And by providing breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students, they’ve erased the stigma of receiving a “free” or “reduced price” meal. Another plus!  The increase in demand for local foods also makes wholesale school food programs more viable and identifies them as important customers, rather than simply recipients of donated or low cost products.

In addition to taking advantage of CEP, the Vermont farm to school/anti-hunger coalition has been urging schools to move breakfast after the bell. Research shows that the single most effective intervention a school can make to increase breakfast participation is to move breakfast after the bell in some form (grab and go, classroom, ‘second chance’, etc.). 

Over 31 million children receive low cost or free lunches through the National School Lunch Program, which runs every school day, 180 days a year. Those lunches – especially when you factor in growing breakfast, afterschool snack and summer programs – are essential for student health and nutrition. 

By putting more fresh local products on the menu, farm to school programs simply make those lunches and snacks healthier. And by getting students to taste, grow, and cook these foods, farm to school ensures the food makes it into their bellies! All students can participate in the benefits of the local foods movement!
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