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Sea to School: models of local, sustainable seafood for schools

NFSN Staff Monday, October 05, 2015
By Simca Horwitz, Massachusetts Farm to School

 Photo credit: North Coast Sedfood
At school districts around the country, farm to school programs are looking beyond the field and out to sea. From coastal New England to the Alaskan shores, schools are incorporating locally caught seafood into school meal programs as a healthy protein whose purchase strengthens coastal communities. 

In Massachusetts, expanding school food procurement to include locally caught fish is a sensible opportunity – after all, our state is home to many of the country’s oldest fishing communities. The fishing industry has faced significant hardship in recent years though, with strict catch limits imposed on some of the most popular species of fish.  While fishermen are making strong efforts to fish sustainably, catching only abundant species, most consumers are unfamiliar and uninterested in these available seafood options. Schools provide the perfect outlet for these underutilized fish, offering a new market for struggling fishermen and an affordable protein alternative in the lunchroom.  

The partnership between Gloucester Public School District and a local Community Supported Fishery is a shining example of sea to school success. A small city north of Boston, Gloucester has been an important center of the fishing industry for hundreds of years. So when Food Service Director Phil Padulsky joined the school district and saw Alaskan Pollock fish sticks on the menu, he knew their had to be a better fresh and local alternative. 

Thanks to a few introductions from community partners, Padulsky was able to form a relationship with nearby Cape Ann Fresh Catch (CAFC), a local non-profit and the country’s largest Community Supported Fishery. Together, they’re bringing fresh seafood that’s landed in small fishing boats off Gloucester straight into the cafeteria. But the partnership is more than just procurement oriented. CAFC also conducts fish preparing trainings for school food service staff, hosts student taste tests and offers extensive promotional materials for the district to use. 

And the efforts and perseverance have paid off: Gloucester now offers locally caught fish at its high school every other Friday, and is aiming to expand the program to the district’s elementary schools. 

 Photo Credit: North Coast Seafood
Gloucester and Cape Ann Fresh Catch aren’t the only sea to school partnership in Massachusetts. North Coast Seafoods, a local seafood distributor, is working with dozens of school districts to help identify and procure appropriate species of fish for the school setting. For example, underutilized species such as Acadian Redfish and New England Sole are abundantly available and sustainably fished in waters around Massachusetts, making these affordable for schools at under 75 cents per serving. 

Another economical seafood option is the odd sized pieces of fish generated from the mechanized filleting process. These special cuts can be used to make dishes like fish burgers, fish tacos, Coconut Crusted Acadian Redfish and “Fish-in-Chips” (wild caught Gulf of Maine Redfish in a low-fat Cape Cod Potato Chip crumb). What was once a wasted food product is now a healthy, delicious meal that’s easy on the wallet and has students coming back for more. 

Chicopee Public Schools knows this is true. With 65% of students qualifying for free and reduced price meals, Chicopee found that regional seafood was one of the most economical protein options for its cafeterias.  So, it recently became the first school district to source 100% sustainably harvested seafood from the nearby Gulf of Maine, giving its 7,800 students regular access to affordable, sustainable and nutritious meals. There are over 30 districts like Chicopee in Massachusetts now serving fresh, sustainable and regional seafood.

With effective partnerships, a transparent supply chain, and a little creativity and perseverance, these sea to school efforts are bringing fresh, local foods to thousands of students, and providing robust economic opportunities for the sustainable fishing industry throughout the New England region. From Gloucester to Nantucket, this is the next exciting wave of our Massachusetts farm to school story. 

Farm to School Month arrives – a time for action!

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 01, 2015
By Stacey Malstrom, Communications Director

National Farm to School Month has arrived! And there couldn’t be a better time to lift up the connections students are making to local food and farmers across the country. This annual celebration of food education, school gardens and lunch trays filled with healthy, local ingredients was brought to life by Congress in 2010 in order to raise awareness of the importance of farm to school as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies and educate communities about the origin of their food. 

Since 2010, Farm to School Month has brought together thousands of kids, teachers, parents, farmers, food enthusiasts, business owners, school lunch professionals and advocates from diverse sectors who believe in the power of farm to school to benefit people, planet and profit. 

What do these people have in common? They know that farm to school works to improve child nutrition and solve many of the challenges schools face in the lunchroom, while at the same time creating economic opportunities for farmers and communities. Students who are properly introduced to new foods through farm to school are more likely to adopt long-term healthy eating habits, participate in their school’s meal plan and are less likely to waste food, which results in a better bottom line for schools and healthier kids.

This year, Farm to School Month is more than just a celebration – it is a time for action. Yesterday, Congress missed its deadline to pass a new version of the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR), the bill that funds the USDA Farm to School Program and many other important programs for kids. Now more than ever, Congress needs to hear from you about why farm to school is important to your kids, your farmers and your community to ensure that these federal programs can meet the needs of schools and farmers nationwide. 

Throughout October, join us on our blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as we celebrate stories of farm to school success and innovation across the country. With your help, we can elevate the conversation around farm to school and demonstrate that this is the path to a healthier next generation. Here’s how you can get involved:
1. Spread the word: Share your farm to school stories with friends and neighbors; post our Farm to School Month graphics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; use the hashtags #farmtoschool and #F2SMonth on social media; alert local media to what’s happening in your area. Farm to school has grown from a few schools in the 1990s to more than 40,000 today because of people like you educating their communities and policymakers. For more ideas on how you can raise your voice, explore our Communications Toolkit
2. Join our Big Day of Action: Pledge to make yourself heard on Oct. 22. It’s time for Congress to finish CNR and strengthen the USDA Farm to School Program. Call your legislator, tweet a photo of your school garden or local lunch, and use the hashtag #moreF2SinCNR to show your support for the Farm to School Act of 2015. Sign on today! 
3. Become a member: Join our network of 12,000+ farm to school advocates to stay up-to-date on the latest stories, best practices, learning opportunities and policy actions to continue the growth of farm to school nationwide. Already a member? Submit a farm to school story or tell us why farm to school is important to your community using our Share Form. Check back soon to learn about our Farm to School Month sweepstakes for new members and storytellers. 

New to farm to school? Join us on Tuesday, Oct. 13 from 12-12:30pm CT for an introduction to the movement in our Farm to School 101 webinar. Helen Dombalis, National Farm to School Network's Director of Programs, and Andrea Northup, Farm to School Coordinator at Minneapolis Public Schools, will discuss the three core elements of farm to school - procurement, education and school gardens - and how the movement is working to connect children in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. to healthy food. You can register for the webinar here

Whatever you do this month, take a moment to appreciate the harvest, thank a farmer, and smile about the more than 23.5 million students who are engaging with local food through taste tests and school gardens, connecting with their community and neighbors on farm field trips, and growing up to be informed eaters. 

Thank you to our Farm to School Month sponsors Organic Valley, Chartwells, Mamma Chia and Stand2Learn, as well as the hundreds of Outreach Partners who are helping us spread the word about farm to school throughout October. And, thanks to you for being a farm to school champion all year.  

Happy National Farm to School Month! 

This week in farm to school: 9/29/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, September 29, 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. 



Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: National Farm to School Network
Farm to School 101
Tuesday, Oct. 13, 12-12:30pm CT
Mark your calendar for a Farm to School 101 webinar! On Tuesday, October 13 we’ll discuss the basics of the farm to school movement, its core elements, and how it is working to connect 23.5 million children to local food in schools all over the country. Register here.  

2. Webinar: NOFA-VT
Put your money where your values are: Institutional procurement tools for regional food buying
October 15, 1pm ET
Does your organization or institution need a template to assist with articulating your goals for buying local? In this webinar, NOFA-VT staff will provide an overview of research on how institutions incorporate values in their local and regional purchasing programs and show the tools they created. Please join this webinar from your computer, tablet or smartphone: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/228327701 You can also dial in using your phone: (872) 240-3212, Access Code: 228-327-701 Learn more here

3. Webinar recording: Georgetown University’s National Center for Cultural Competence 
Community Engagement to Address Cultural Competence
Cultural competence and linguistic competence are widely recognized by policy makers, researchers, educators, and providers as fundamental aspects of quality in health care – particularly for diverse patient populations. A key feature of the Public Health Accreditation Board’s Standards and Measures is partnership and collaboration with communities and populations that are impacted by the strategies and actions implemented. This type of community engagement is a cornerstone of creating culturally and linguistically competent public health policies, programs and services. Watch the webinar here

4. NESAWG's 2015 Conference - Putting MOVE in the Movement, Nov 13-14, Saratoga Spring, NY
Civil rights, labor, women’s rights—the movements that transformed our world can give us insight on ways to accelerate food systems change.  What can we learn from leaders past and present?  How can we better organize our work, our networks, our message, our media? At this year’s Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s conference, Nov 13-14 in Saratoga Spring, NY, learn and strategize with farm and food systems practitioners across the region—from farmers to researchers to policymakers—as we work to build a movement and realize the change we want to see.  Check out the conference website to learn more about the conference and register. 

5. Save the Date: 2016 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
Save the date for the 2016 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, to be held June 1-4, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. The National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is a biennial event that convenes a diverse group of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement who are working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America. The conference is hosted by the National Farm to School Network, in partnership with local host organizations. More information to come soon. 

6. Green Schools Conference & Expo, March 31-April 1, 2016, Pittsburgh, PA
Mark your calendars for the Green Schools Conference & Expo, March 31-April 1, 2016. The events brings together green schools thought-leaders and champions, connecting educators, school administrators, non-profit and corporate partners, and elected officials to advance the shared mission of green schools for all within this generation. Do you believe that all students deserve to learn and play in environments that are healthy, safe and resource-efficient? Are you looking for new ideas to start or expand your school’s sustainability goals? Learn more about the 2016 Green Schools Conference & Expo here

Policy & Action
1. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015

Jobs & Opportunities
1. Program Director, School Food FOCUS
School Food FOCUS seeks a dynamic, organized team leader to direct its core program implementation and development. The selected candidate will oversee a growing staff as well as a team of consultants associated with all FOCUS programs. This includes FOCUS regional and national Learning Labs as well as the supportive functions of research, data, and evaluation; supply chain; communications; peer learning; and administration. Learn more about the position here.

2. Policy Specialist, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is currently seeking a Policy Specialist for its Marketing, Food Systems, and Rural Development portfolio. This position is located at NSAC’s DC office on Capitol Hill. See the full job description here

3. Youth in Action Awards, National 4-H Council
National 4-H Council’s 4-H Youth in Action (YIA) Award is one of the highest honors a 4-H’er can achieve. The YIA Awards honor four 4-H’ers who have gained critical life skills through their 4-H experience and have utilized those skills to overcome a challenge, or challenges, they have faced. Each of the honorees are outstanding 4-H’ers who epitomize 4-H youth empowerment and leadership. For qualifications, application rules, and information on past honorees, please visit the Youth in Action Award website. All applications must be submitted by 12:00 PM ET on Monday, November 30, 2015.

Farm to school in the news
Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week celebrated
During Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture showcases schools that connect with New Jersey farmers to purchase local produce for school meals to increase student consumption of healthy produce. (via My Central Jersey)

Farm-To-School: New Program Brings The Field Trip To The Classroom
At Hillsboro Elementary School in Virginia, teachers are bringing the farm into their classrooms. They’ve created a yearlong program that is meant to connect students with local food, farmers and nutrition education. (via Leesburg Today)

Farm Fresh Fridays initiative to connect schools with farmers
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has launched a Farm Fresh Fridays initiative. Its aim is to connect schools and communities with local farmers and ranchers, and raise awareness about healthy, Texas-grown produce. “By fostering these connections and serving healthy, locally grown meals, we are building a stronger future for our state.” (via KXAN)

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. 

DC chefs help kids bring farm to plate

NFSN Staff Friday, September 25, 2015

By Lea Howe, Farm to School Director, DC Greens

 (All photos courtesy of DC Greens)

A few months ago, summer school 6th graders at Walker Jones Education Campus excitedly shuffled through the gates of the K Street Farm in Washington, D.C. It was a special day, as two local chefs – Jeremiah and Chris – would be joining the students in the garden. It may seem odd that this encounter did not take place in the school's new state-of-the-art food lab. After all, what were these chefs doing on an urban farm and not in the kitchen?

But farms like K Street are exactly where you'll find Jeremiah Langhorne, executive chef and owner of The Dabney, most afternoons. As he prepares to open his first restaurant this fall, Jeremiah has visited dozens of local farms and urban gardens from which he will source almost 100% of the ingredients needed for his seasonal menus. From heritage breed animals to West Virginia salt, he's taking farm to table to the next level and giving his diners an authentic taste of the Mid-Atlantic.

Today his line cooks were 6th graders. The students led Jeremiah and his sous chef, Chris, around the farm, where together they harvested armfuls of herbs and veggies: basil, mint, swiss chard, collard greens, shiso, garlic, onions, squash, tomatoes and peppers. They hauled their bounty up one block to the Walker Jones Education Campus where in the food lab, students watched with awe as the chefs finely minced the freshly harvested produce. But the chefs weren’t the only ones cooking. The 6th graders helped pluck, chop, peel, mix, and – of course – sample along the way. Their final dish: a Johnnycake with smokey pimento cheese sauce and K Street Farm relish. 

This was the first time most of theses students had experienced the full cycle of farm to plate – harvesting raw ingredients in the garden, preparing a meal from scratch and eating it together with friends. Yet, the power of gardens and food education to teach life skills, share culture and bring people together was obvious from the start of the day’s activities. 

Our mission at DC Greens is to use the power of partnerships to support food education, food access, and food policy so that all students can have these kinds of experiences. As part of our effort to build an equitable, sustainable food system, we believe in putting food education on the menu in every District classroom. That’s why we deploy our Cooking Corps of healthy eating instructors to DC schools with mobile cooking carts and hands-on lesson plans. To expand our reach, we train DC teachers how to incorporate school gardens and food system knowledge into their curricula year-round. And, we help District youth develop entrepreneurial skills by running School Garden Markets that sell affordable local produce to nearby households. We also operate three thriving urban agriculture sites across DC - including the K Street Farm – and work to unite food-focused organizations in our community to promote smart food policy, identify solutions, and make the most of our shared resources. 

We know that the more opportunities young people have to positively engage with fresh fruits and vegetables, the more likely they are to adopt healthy habits that will last a lifetime. That's why programs that connect students with chefs can be so important: it provides an opportunity to introduce students to knowledge, skills and desire to become healthier eaters. We look forward to expanding upon and deepening these opportunities with ongoing chef visits, cooking demonstrations and taste tests throughout the school year, because it’s experiences like these that can spark a child's appreciation of good food and healthy eating for a lifetime.



This week in farm to school: 9/22/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, September 22, 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. Building Healthy Communities in the South & Appalachia
The Health Impact Project will award seven grants of up to $45,000 to help communities identify their most pressing health equity challenges and the factors outside of the health care sector that help drive them (for example, housing or education). Grants are available in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wester Virginia. Applicants from outside of the public health sector are encouraged to apply, and experience conducting health impact assessment is not required. An informational webinar is scheduled for 2pm ET on Sept. 30, 2015. View the call for proposals here. Proposals are due Nov. 13, 2015. 

Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: National Farm to School Network
Farm to School 101
Tuesday, Oct. 13, 12-12:30pm CT
Mark your calendar for a Farm to School 101 webinar! On Tuesday, October 13 we’ll discuss the basics of the farm to school movement, its core elements, and how it is working to connect 23.5 million children to local food in schools all over the country. Register here

2. Webinars: Barnraiser, Crowdfunding 101
Crowdfunding for Good Food & Healthy Living
Every Thursday, 10am PT
Calling all farm to school advocates, farmers, producers, and school gardeners. Join Barnraiser's weekly webinars to learn the 5 keys to successful crowdfunding on Barnraiser. Hear the stories of successful campaigns, as well as tips, tricks and insider knowledge from the Barnriaser team to get your farm to school project successfully funded. Register for the webinar here

3. Webinar: edWeb.net
Next Generation Science in the Garden
Monday, Sep. 28, 4-5pm ET
In this webinar, Life Lab will share how to use a garden as a meaningful context in which students can engage in next generation science and engineering practices to examine disciplinary core ideas and cross-cutting concepts. Where better to explore ecological interdependence, growth and development of organisms, structure and function, adaptation, and the environmental impact of human activity than in an outdoor garden classroom? Formal and informal educators interested in using a garden to enrich science learning and connect to the new Next Generation Science Standards in grades K-5 will benefit from this live, interactive webinar. Register here.

4. Webinar: Exploring Innovation
Food Entrepreneurship: A Proven Approach to Build Your Local Economy and Jobs
Thursday, Oct. 1, 2-3:15pm CT
This discussion will highlights the economic impacts of local food systems and how food entrepreneurship can assist a community’s efforts to build a thriving economy and create jobs. Register here

5. Yale Food Systems Symposium, Oct. 30-31, New Haven, CT
The Yale Food Systems Symposium (YFSS) is a student led, interdisciplinary conference initiated by students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The aim of the YFSS is to provide a space where researchers, practitioners, theorists, and eaters can come together to answer the pragmatic question: how can we get from here, to a just, sustainable food system? An effort by students, for students (in a broad sense of the word), the YFSS privileges new ideas that push the conventional boundaries of food systems thinking, and as such seeks to highlight emerging researchers, innovative projects, truly interdisciplinary thinking, and  non-traditional collaboration. Learn more here

6. Register for the Food Day Apple Crunch on Oct. 22, 2015
On and around Food Day 2015 (Oct. 24, 2015), millions of people around the country will crunch into an apple in a unifying action to raise awareness about eating better diets for our health and the environment, access and affordability of fruits and vegetables, and supporting local farmers. Hundreds of thousands of school students will crunch into an apple at lunch time, joined by Americans at public Food Day events, in corporate cafeterias and at home. Because Food Day falls on a Saturday this year, most schools will be participating in the Apple Crunch on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. Start planning now to join the Food Day Apple Crunch and register your event at the link below.
Click here to watch the Food Day 2015 Apple Crunch video
Click here to register for the Food Day 2015 Apple Crunch!

7. Save the Date: 2016 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
Save the date for the 2016 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, to be held June 1-4, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. The National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is a biennial event that convenes a diverse group of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement who are working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America. The conference is hosted by the National Farm to School Network, in partnership with local host organizations. More information to come soon. 

Policy & Action
1. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015

Jobs & Opportunities
1. Farm to School Coordinator, Georgia Organics 
Georgia Organics is a dynamic nonprofit working to connect organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families. The organization is currently seeking a full-time Farm to School Coordinator to work at its office in Atlanta. The Farm to School Coordinator will work directly with and provide key support to the Farm to School Director to strengthen and expand farm to school programming in Georgia in Pre-K-12 grades. Visit the Georgia Organics website for more information about this position and application instruction. 

2. Farm & Food Policy Analyst, Cornucopia Institute
The Cornucopia Institute is seeking an employee to join its team conducting research and investigations into organic and sustainable food and farming production practices with an emphasis on livestock and livestock-based food products. Get details here

Farm to school in the news
What Happens When You Teach Math in the Garden?
In garden-based education, the core curriculum helps frame the work of growing food and vice versa. Read how garden-based math lessons are working in Massachusetts. (via Civil Eats)

School greenhouse about to sprout
The new greenhouse at Mount Desert Elementary School will contain much more than plants; it will hold what school officials see as almost limitless opportunities for learning and developing life skills. (via Mount Desert Islander)

Students harvest vegetables, learning from the garden
"We see kids struggle in the classroom to pay attention, stay focused, and behave. They need a lot of assistance. But, when they get out into the garden, they don't have those problems. They are on an equal playing field, and they literally see the fruit of their labor blooming and growing." (via MassLive)

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. 

New report highlights success of USDA Farm to School Grant Program

NFSN Staff Tuesday, September 15, 2015

“Farm to school partnerships have a proven track record of encouraging kids to eat more healthy foods and creating new market opportunities for the farmers that grow them.”               –Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Photo credit: USDA Farm to School Program

Last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new report that provides an in-depth look at the first three years of the USDA’s Farm to School Grant Program. The report shows the program has helped 12,300 schools improve healthful meal options with local ingredients, and that this increase in local food procurement has expanded market opportunities for food producers around the country.

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 tasked USDA with supporting farm to school efforts through grants, training, technical assistance and research. To date, the USDA Farm to School Grant Program has funded 221 farm to school projects in 49 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Here are a few exciting highlights about these awards:

  • Millions of students benefit: 12,3000 schools and 6.9 million students are estimated to have been reached through activities funded by USDA Farm to School grants.

  • Healthier food in cafeterias: 50 percent of funded projects included expanding healthy meal options offered in the cafeteria.

  • More agriculture and nutrition-based education: A majority of grantee proposals (65 percent) included activities related to teaching kids about nutrition, agriculture and where their food comes from. 

  • Rural and urban impact: 40 percent of schools or districts impacted by a USDA Farm to School Grant were considered rural, and 56 percent were considered urban. 38 percent of grants were distributed in StrikeForce states and territories to address challenges associated with rural poverty. 

  • Focus on children eligible for free or reduced-price meals: 78 percent of awards went to support schools or districts with free or reduced-price meal eligibility rated great than 50 percent.

  • Demand is 5x higher than available funding: To date, a total of 1,067 applicants have requested $78.4 million in grant funds. 221 applicants have received $15.1 million – an overall award rate of 21 percent. 

“These numbers underscore why it is important that Congress increase access to the USDA Farm to School Grant Program through the Child Nutrition Reauthorization this fall,” says Anupama Joshi, National Farm to School Network’s Executive Director and Co-Founder. “As demonstrated by this report, farm to school strategies enable school districts to comply with the new nutrition standards and help engage students in learning healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.”  

Together with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and our network of supporters across the country, we are calling on Congress to continue its support for the highly successful USDA Farm to School Grant Program by fully incorporating the Farm to School Act of 2015 into the upcoming Child Nutrition Act reauthorization package. The bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015 would strengthen the grant program by fully including preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers. The proposed legislation also aims to improve program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Join us in asking Congress to continue and expand upon the success of farm to school by adding your name to our citizen and organizational sign-on letters. Already signed on? Consider writing a letter to the editor of your newspaper, inviting your representative to lunch at your child’s school, or calling your federal legislators to let them know how farm to school is positively impacting your community. 

Communities know that farm to school is growing healthier kids, supporting farmers and building vibrant communities. Now is the time to make sure our legislators know that farm to school works, too.

This week in farm to school: 9/15/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, September 15, 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. Whole Kids Foundation School Garden Grant Program
Created in partnership with FoodCorps, the Whole Kids Foundation School Garden Grant program provides a $2,000 monetary grant to a K-12 school, or a nonprofit working in partnership with a K-12 school, to support a new or existing edible garden on school grounds. Applications for the 2016 Garden Grant Program are now open, and close on October 31. Visit the Whole Kids Foundation website for complete program guidelines, FAQ, and the online application form.

2. Let’s Move! Child Care Celebrates 4th Anniversary - Complete an action plan to win
Let’s Move! Child Care (LMCC) gives child care and early education providers the tools to help children develop healthy habits for life. As part of the anniversary of LMCC, the program is highlighting child care centers that have not only signed up, but completed their action plans to work toward creating a healthier environment at their center. Let’s Move! Child Care is awarding healthy toolkits to enable early care and education providers to continue to meet the goals of the program. These toolkits include supplies and materials on healthy meal times, physical activity, and the importance of healthy beverages. Learn more and develop an Action Plan by September 18th for a chance to win.

Events & Webinars
1. Tweet Chat: National Farm to School Network & Slow Food USA
School Gardens & #CNR2015 : Getting Involved Now 
From containers in the classroom to multi-acre farms, school gardens are sprouting up in every type of community around the country. These green spaces are providing opportunities for kids to connect with food from the soil up, and in turn, have proven to be an effective tool for helping kids learn to try and like new foods. Simply put, hands-on agriculture and nutrition education are helping shape a healthier next generation. This month, Congress has the opportunity to show its support for school gardens and other farm to school programs as it debates Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Join the National Farm to School Network (@farmtoschool) and Slow Food USA (@SlowFoodUSA) for a tweet chat on Wednesday, September 16 from 2-3pm EDT to discuss school gardens, CNR, and how the USDA Farm to School Grant Program can support healthier kids. Join the conversation by using the hashtag #gardens4CNR

2. Webinar: Food Research & Action Center
New Spanish Language Nutrition and Wellness Resources for Child Care
Friday, September 18, 1-2:30pm EDT
Join USDA, FRAC and Robert Wood Johnson to learn how you can create healthier child care environments with the newly released Spanish language version of USDA's "Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program," and other Spanish language resources, including the Look and Cook Recipe Cards and the Two Bite Club. This is an opportunity to learn and ask questions, and the webinar will be presented in English and Spanish. Register here

3. Register for the Food Day Apple Crunch on Oct. 22, 2015
On and around Food Day 2015 (Oct. 24, 2015), millions of people around the country will crunch into an apple in a unifying action to raise awareness about eating better diets for our health and the environment, access and affordability of fruits and vegetables, and supporting local farmers. Hundreds of thousands of school students will crunch into an apple at lunch time, joined by Americans at public Food Day events, in corporate cafeterias and at home. Because Food Day falls on a Saturday this year, most schools will be participating in the Apple Crunch on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. Start planning now to join the Food Day Apple Crunch and register your event at the link below.
Click here to watch the Food Day 2015 Apple Crunch video
4. Save the Date: 2016 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
Save the date for the 2016 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, to be held June 1-4, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. The National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is a biennial event that convenes a diverse group of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement who are working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America. The conference is hosted by the National Farm to School Network, in partnership with local host organizations. More information to come soon. 

5. Field to Tray, Mid-Atlantic Regional Farm to School Conference, Nov 4-5, Rockville, MD
Field to Tray: Strengthening Farm to School Purchasing in the Mid-Atlantic will bring together farmers, food service directors, suppliers and other stakeholders from the region for a day of digging in to local food procurement strategies. The Mid-Atlantic region has experienced significant growth in farm to school practices over the past several years, and this conference will be a sharing, learning and networking opportunity for key farm to school players in the region. Register by September 5 to receive the early bird discount. Learn more about the conference and register here

6. Canada's first national school food conference, Montreal, Nov. 12 -14
Changing the Menu, the first-ever Canadian national school food conference aims to advance activities to get more healthy, local and sustainable food into the minds and onto the plates of students. The event will bring together a diverse group of participants from various sectors including health, education, food service, recreation, agriculture, policy and research. Some 400 people from coast to coast including members of indigenous communities are expected to attend the Montreal event. Find more information and register here.  

7. Growing Minds Farm to School Conference, Nov 14, Asheville, NC
With more than 10 years of experience in farm to school training and programming, ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School Program offers a combination of creative ideas and practical applications for school environments. This year’s conference will feature workshops focused on four specialized tracks: Early Childhood, Health and Community, Cafeteria, and Classroom. Each track features content for folks new to farm to school as well as those that want to improve their existing programs. For more information please visit the Growing Minds website.

Resources & Research
1. New USDA Farm to School Grant Program Report
Last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the release of a new report that shows that USDA’s Farm to School Grant Program, established and funded through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, has helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities. Through its Farm to School Grant Program, USDA has awarded 221 grants in 49 States, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands over the past three years. Fifty percent of funded projects included expanding healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria; 46 percent included training for food service staff about menu planning, meal preparation, and cooking with local and regional foods; and 65 percent included nutrition education activities. Read the full report here

Jobs & Opportunities
1. Farm to School Coordinator, Georgia Organics 
Georgia Organics is a dynamic nonprofit working to connect organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families. The organization is currently seeking a full-time Farm to School Coordinator to work at its office in Atlanta. The Farm to School Coordinator will work directly with and provide key support to the Farm to School Director to strengthen and expand farm to school programming in Georgia in Pre-K-12 grades. Visit the Georgia Organics website for more information about this position and application instruction. 

Policy & Action
1. Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 
Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2015 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. The Farm to School Act of 2015 builds on the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by proposing an increase in funding from $5 million to $15 million for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The bill would also ensure that the grant program fully includes preschools, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To learn more, download this fact sheet or visit farmtoschool.org/cnr2015

Farm to school in the news
School nutrition leader sees produce mandate as essential - shoutout to NFSN Advisory Board member, Bertrand Weber! 
Bertrand Weber, director of the Minneapolis Public School Culinary and Nutrition Services, discusses how students in Minneapolis have come to love fruits & vegetables. Spurred by salad bars and the farm to school program, he says the consumption of fruits and vegetables in the Minneapolis district has more than quadrupled in three years. (via The Packer)

Fighting food insecurity in Detroit
How are programs in Michigan working to combat food insecurity & ensure our youngest eaters have healthy food to eat? Farm to school and farm to preschool practices play a large part. (via Model D Media)

Preston Elementary showcases local produce
Maryland kicked off the eighth annual Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week with a Farm to School celebration at Preston Elementary School Thursday, Sept. 10. From locally sourced lunches to taste tests and farm visits, see how schools will be celebrating local food all week. (via My Eastern Shore MD)


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. 

More than one good day: seeding change with farm to school

NFSN Staff Tuesday, September 08, 2015

By Sara Tedeschi, Seed Change Program Manager

Seed Change Program Manager Sara Tedeschi and Program Associate Lihlani Skipper recently visited Seed Change demonstration sites in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Louisiana. 

Some days at work are just better than others, no question.

The day we hit “send” to award $.5 million in mini grants directly to schools to build and expand farm to school activities was a really good day at work.

This fall, 100 schools in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania will each receive $5,000 Seed Change mini grants to fund a wide variety of farm to school activities, including building new school gardens, leading farm field trips and hosting community dinners featuring farm fresh food and local farmers. Direct funding at this level is a first for the National Farm to School Network, and as the mini grant projects take off with the start of the new school year, we’re taking a moment to recognize the impact this new initiative will have.  

Indeed, Seed Change is a new and exciting initiative for the National Farm to School Network. It is the first time we have received a grant (in this case, a generous donation by the Walmart Foundation) and re-granted funds directly at the local level to stimulate state-wide networking and jumpstart school and community participation in farm to school. Sharing in our excitement for this new initiative are our Seed Change state coordinator and partners: Kentucky Department of Agriculture (Ky.), Marketumbrella.org (La.), and The Food Trust (Pa.).  In addition to conducting outreach and training activities, these partners led the state committees that reviewed 185 grant applications in order to select the 100 mini grantees.

You might be wondering about the 85 applicants who, instead of receiving good news on this day, learned that we were unable to fund their proposals. Was our really good day hampered by the blow of also hitting send on these less-than-exciting emails? It was not, and here’s why: the large number of applications we received is great validation for the future of Seed Change and the farm to school movement. These applicants have shown us that schools are excited and ready to start connecting children to local food, and that’s good news as we continue to build partnerships and expand models for seeding change at the local level.

In addition to awarding mini grants, the Seed Change model in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania incorporates six “demonstration site” school districts, two in each state. Selected for their experience in farm to school leadership, these sites will serve as training hubs for the mini grantees, offering half-day farm to school tours and trainings this fall semester. In addition to modeling successful farm to school programs, these trainings will offer resources and provide opportunities for mini grantees to meet and learn from their colleagues across the state.

Having recently visited all six demonstration sites, I can heartily report that these school districts and their staff are beyond inspirational. Each site is distinctly unique in its farm to school programming and innovations, facilities, and the champions who help make these programs grow. But there is one consistent thread: everyone expressed a sense of commitment to and excitement about their role in helping farm to school thrive. In other words, these folks were having good days, too! Their contagious passion for farm to school and their “can do” entrepreneurial spirits will surely inspire the mini grantees soon to arrive on their campuses.

So, as you can see, our really good day at work did not end when we hit “send” on the mini grant award email. In fact, that was only the beginning of Seed Change, with the most exciting parts yet to unfold. Stay tuned for more good days to come.

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