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Fertile ground for farm to preschool

NFSN Staff Thursday, August 06, 2015

By Lacy Stephens, Farm to Preschool Associate

Lacy Stephens is the National Farm to School Network’s new Farm to Preschool Associate. Joining the team from Bozeman, Mont., Lacy will help us continue to elevate preschool and early child care needs as a permanent and essential component of the wider farm to school movement. 

If you’ve ever watched a young child bite into a sun-ripened strawberry or a toddler waddle through a pumpkin patch, then you know farm to preschool activities are a natural fit for zero to five-year-olds. Thankfully, the success of farm to school programs in K-12 schools across the nation has set the stage for expansion of the movement to early childhood audiences. While many states have some form of farm to preschool, there is still immense opportunity to reach more children with these impactful initiatives. Here are a few reasons why farm to preschool is a great fit for our littlest eaters: 

Promotes lifelong healthy eating 
In the years before kindergarten, children develop taste preferences and eating habits that will impact their health for a lifetime. Repeated exposure to healthy foods through taste testing, seasonal foods at lunchtime, and garden nibbles encourages adventurous eating and a diverse diet. Variety is vital to ensuring children get the wide-range of nutrients their growing bodies need, and promotes a lifelong habit of healthy food choices. 

Capitalizes on curiosity 
Farm to preschool activities integrate seamlessly with the learning styles of young children. Gardening capitalizes on children’s natural curiosity and encourages them to engage all of their senses. Children gain knowledge about the natural environment and a connection to where their food comes from by exploring in garden beds. And, as children grow older and prepare for kindergarten, the garden is a perfect place to master important skills like counting, identifying colors and practicing the alphabet. 

Benefits beyond the child
The benefits of farm to preschool activities in early care and education settings reach far beyond the child. A child’s enthusiasm for harvesting fresh vegetables and tasting new foods can be a motivating factor for parents to make changes in the foods they serve to their families. Many farm to preschool programs even offer special farm to table family events or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships for families to ensure the health and education benefits of farm to preschool are continued at home. Preschool programs have the potential to develop strong connections to small local farmers, as well. Class field trips, using produce in meals and snacks and promoting the farmer’s goods to families creates new marketing opportunities for growers. Farm to preschool is truly a win for kids, families, farmers and communities. 

Now is the time to continue growing farm to preschool and capitalize on the momentum of the movement. This year, the role of farm to preschool in promoting child health has been at the forefront of child nutrition policy. In March, the USDA released a memorandum highlighting the use of local foods in Child and Adult Care Food Program. Additional support for farm to preschool has also been asked for in the Farm to School Act of 2015. If the policy ideas and expanded funding proposed in this bill are included in the final reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, all early care and education programs will benefit from access to the USDA Farm to School Grant program. 

State level farm to preschool policy has also been expanding. In Washington, D.C., the passage of the D.C. Healthy Tots Act in 2014 set an important precedent for farm to preschool legislation. This comprehensive bill has a strong emphasis on farm to preschool activities, including all three core elements of farm to school: local procurement, gardens and education. Now is the time to encourage more states and communities to adopt similar polices that will create greater access to farm to preschool for all young learners. 

Many farm to preschool leaders have spent years developing valuable resources and exemplary programs. Moving forward, our challenge is to reach more early care educators with the farm to preschool message and ensure that all programs – from the smallest home care providers to the largest Head Start centers – have the opportunity to be a part of this movement. The more children we reach with farm to preschool, the healthier our next generation will be. 

Learn more about farm to preschool here and access farm to preschool tips and tools in our resource library by searching under the Preschool / Early Care setting. 


This week in farm to school: 8/4/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 04, 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. Target Accepting Applications for K-12 Field Trip Grants Program
Target Corporation is accepting applications from education professionals for the Target Field Trip Grants program, an annual program designed to expose K-12 students in the United States to museums, historical sites, and cultural organizations. More than 3,600 grants of up to $700 each will be awarded in January 2015. Applications will be accepted from August 1, 2015, to September 30, 2015. Visit the Target website for complete program guidelines and access to the application form.

Research & Resources
1. New study shows healthier lunches in secondary schools
Last week, Bridging the Gap published a study showing that lunches in U.S. middle and high schools have been getting healthier in recent years. In particular, significantly more students were in schools with healthy lunches the first year of the national standards than were just two years earlier. The study also found that, prior to the national standards, students in predominantly white schools and large schools were far more likely than those in more diverse and small schools to have access to healthier lunches, but that after the first year of the national standards many of those differences were no longer significant. Read the study abstract 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

2. Show Your Support for the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act of 2015 
Early this year, Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) introduced the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act to expand and strengthen the Child and Adult Care Food Program so even more children have access to nutritious meals. That means less hunger, less obesity, and better eating habits. Individuals can encourage your Senators to cosponsor this bill here.

Jobs & Opportunities
1. Network Coordinator, Pioneer Valley Grows, Massachusetts 
Pioneer Valley Grows is a collaborative network dedicated to enhancing the ecological and economic sustainability and vitality of the Pioneer Valley, Mass. food system. The Network Coordinator is responsible for strengthening the PVGrows network, including facilitating Steering Committee activities, managing membership outreach and networking, fundraising, collaboration with the PVGrows Investment Fund, and planning the annual Forum or other networking and educational events.  The Network Coordinator position is a part-time consultant under contract with CISA, PVGrows’ host organization. Find more information and the full job description here

2. Organic Policy Coordinator, The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association 
The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is hiring an Organic Policy Coordinator. The Organic Policy Coordinator will research and advocate for organic integrity and spearhead efforts to promote the interests of family-scale organic farmers with national and state regulators. The Organic Policy Coordinator will identify and implement strategies and tactics to prevent dilution of the organic standards and ensure that consumers expectations of the standard environmental stewardship, family-scale farming, fair labor practices, high animal welfare standards, zero tolerance for GMOs, freedom from chemical residues, and wholesomeness are met. Learn more about the position here

3. Research & Education Director, The Farmers Market Coalition
The Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) is seeking a detail-oriented and creative professional to direct the research and education initiatives for a non-profit devoted to strengthening farmers markets nationwide. With a small staff, FMC operates a ‘virtual office,’ with a high value on independence and initiative. Reporting to and in partnership with the Executive Director (ED), the Research & Education Director will spearhead a variety of initiatives seeking to improve stakeholder understanding of the characteristics of farmers markets in the United States, and the roles they play in public health, local economies, farm viability, and community development. Learn more about the position here

Farm to school in the news
Back to school also means back to the garden
Some teachers are preparing more than their classrooms for a new year of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. They’re also are prepping for gardening. Read what five teachers say they’re committed to school gardens. (via Arizona Daily Star)

Bringing free, farm-fresh food to kids during the summer
Green Mountain Farm to School runs a food truck for ten weeks in the summer to bring good, free fresh food to kids. About 60% of the food budget of the program goes to local food provided by twelve Vermont farms and food producers. (via WCAX-TV)

School food service staff go to boot camp
“We try to buy as much local as we can. It is a good way to promote fruits and vegetables to your students. It is a really good opportunity to talk with students about how this came from Clayton Farms or this came from Harris Farms. We are not about bringing it out of the box anymore. We are about color and freshness.” (via Statesman Journal)

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. 

Making school gardens accessible

NFSN Staff Wednesday, July 29, 2015

By Anna Mullen, Digital Media Associate

School gardens are one of the three core elements of farm to school programs, and the benefits of these green spaces are endless. Gardens create positive learning environments, increase children’s willingness to try new fruits and vegetables, and serve as a valuable tool for engaging students in a number of academic subjects.  

Moreover, school gardens can be engaging learning spaces for all students. They function as interdisciplinary classrooms that welcome every type of learner, regardless of age or ability. Unlike traditional classrooms, school gardens help level the playing field for students with physical disabilities, learning and behavior challenges, and other special classroom needs by empowering everyone to contribute to the process of growing food from seed to harvest. 

But accessibility in the garden doesn’t only mean wider paths and raised beds. Designing your school garden as a space of exploration and learning for all students means paying attention to the details. Whether your school garden is well established or just in the planning phase, there are easy ways to make sure these green growing spaces are learning places for every student.  

We recently spotted this list of tips for creating accessible school gardens and garden activities on the National Gardening Association’s resource website, KidsGardening.org. Here are three of our favorite ideas that can be implemented at any stage of your school garden’s growth: 

  • Consider all five senses
    Tasty garden treats and visual beauty are top factors when picking out plants for any garden. But more of our senses can be engaged! Activate students’ sense of smell by planting edible flowers and highly fragrant herbs. Want students to experience the garden through touch? Incorporate a variety of plant textures – smooth, hairy, delicate, woody. And, don’t forget sounds! Add a wind chime, water feature or feeder to attract singing birds. 
  • Adapt garden tools
    Be intentional in making a variety of garden tools available for all body types and ability levels so that every student can contribute and learn in your school’s garden. Have tools of different lengths and sizes, of varying weights, and kneeling pads stocked in your shed. KidsGardening.org recommends having Velcro straps handy to secure tools to students’ arms, which can help distribute the weight and steady tools in their hands. 
  • Go vertical 
    For some students, reaching up may be easier than stretching out. There are lots of designs for vertical gardens that make the most of your available square footage on the ground and may be easier for some students to reach than traditional garden beds. Try vertical trellises for vining plants like cucumbers and squash, or plant a wall of leafy greens out of discarded wooden pallets. 

To learn more about starting and maintaining school gardens or incorporating school gardens into the classroom with lesson plans, check out the great resources available from our partners at SlowFood USA  and The Edible Schoolyard Project.

Are there ways you’ve made your school garden an accessible learning space for all? We’d love to hear about it! Share your ideas with us via our story form, or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook to let us know how your school garden is growing.  


This week in farm to school: 7/28/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, July 28, 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: Center for Science in the Public Interest
Clearing Up Confusion about Sodium
July 29, 12-1 pm EDT
There is tremendous progress underway toward improving schools foods. One sticking point is sodium.  Some food companies, school food service organizations, and Members of Congress are trying to weaken or prevent steps toward continued improvement in school meals, particularly, helping kids to reduce their salt intake. Please join the Center for Science in the Public Interest for a webinar to hear the latest about what’s happening with school foods and the science behind the need for sodium reduction in school meals. Register here

2. Webinar: AMS Fruit and Vegetable Programs
Pilot Project for the Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables (UFV Pilot)
August 13, 2pm EST
AMS’ Commodity Procurement Program is seeking additional vendors for our UFV Pilot; this webinar details how to become one!  Click here for the pilot’s website. The UFV Pilot helps schools in eight states (CA, WA, OR, MI, WI, CT, NY, VA) promote “local” purchases and farm-to-school initiatives. Register for the webinar here. AMS Fruit and Vegetable Programs will host additional webinars on programs and services throughout the year.  To view previous webinars online, visit this Webinar Archive

Research & Resources
1. Traditional foods in school meals
American Indian communities have a rich history of eating native, local foods and a strong interest in serving these traditional foods through federal Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs). In a new memo, Child Nutrition Programs and Traditional Foods, USDA reinforces that many traditional foods can contribute towards reimbursable meals in CNPs. While USDA’s Food Buying Guide is an important tool for school food authorities, it doesn’t contain an exhaustive list of traditional foods; the new memo is an important supplement to help assist tribal communities. For additional guidance concerning this memo, please reach out to your regional USDA Farm to School Regional Lead or USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations.

2. Cultural and Linguistic Competence: Implications for the Healthy Places for Kids to Eat Project
Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence presented this webinar on cultural competence recently. This webinar provides definitions and conceptual frameworks for cultural competence and linguistic competence and delineate the implications of these frameworks for the HPKE Project. A recording of the webinar can be found here, on Advancing Health Through Leader’s website in the Resource section. NCCC will be presenting this webinar again on September 17, 2015 at 2pm EST.

3. Report: Community Food Projects Indicators of Success FY 2014
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project has recently released its Community Food Projects Indicators of Success FY 2014 report. This report illustrates the collective impact of Community Food Project grantees from FY 2014 based on the metrics from Whole Measures for Community Food Systems. It includes metrics from the 6 areas of impact from Whole Measures: Healthy People, Strong Communities, Thriving Local Economies, Sustainable Ecosystems, Vibrant Farms and Gardens and Fairness and Justice. Additionally, it includes two case studies of current grantees. Read the full report here

4. Improved financing options available for produce farmers
Whether selling to a regional wholesaler or trucking down to the weekend farmers’ market, the ability to safely wash, package, and store any commodity produced on-farm is a critical component of nearly every fruit and vegetable farm. That’s why NSAC is excited about a recent announcement made this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve federal financing options available for cold storage and handling facilities and equipment. Read more about this new opportunity for farmers on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog

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. FoodCorps, multiple positions open
FoodCorps is a fast-growing national nonprofit that provides a scalable response to the epidemics of childhood obesity and food insecurity, while training a new generation of leaders in the fields of food, health, education and sustainability. FoodCorps places motivated leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service transforming school food. Multiple administrative position are now open. Visit foodcorps.hiringthing.com for more information.  

2. Academic Specialist, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems  
The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) is accepting applications for an Academic Specialist to support existing CRFS initiatives, including the Michigan Good Food Fund. This position will provide outreach and business assistance to Michigan food businesses to increase good food access in low-income communities. This is a full-time, annual year position.  Applications will be accepted until Monday, August 10, 2015, or until a suitable candidate is identified. Please read the full position description for more details about the position and information to submit an application on the MSU Jobs Website. 

3. Agricultural Marketing Specialists, Agricultural Marketing Services, USAJobs
There are up to 3 agricultural marketing specialist (research) vacancies with Agricultural Marketing Services. More about these positions can be found on USAJobs. Please note that this vacancy is limited to the first 40 applications received, and closes on Thursday, July 30. Find more information and application details here

Farm to school in the news
School garden becomes summer hub for lessons on farming, healthy foods
This acre-sized school garden in Oregon fuels a school's cafeteria and surrounding community, and acts as an outdoor classroom. This summer, the garden is a hub for camps teaching kids more about where food comes from. (via The Oregonian)

Local food is growing business in New York
Farm to school programs are helping grow local business in New York. In the state, there are over 2,944 schools spending more than $40 million on local food. These numbers show that not only is the local food movement alive and well, it is growing up and becoming an established part of the broader marketplace. (via Niagara Gazette)

Garden lessons
“Gardening is not just about planting the seed,” Alison Duncan says. “The students learn lots of other lessons. They learn to work as a team, and senior gardeners work with younger gardeners and learn leadership skills.” Read more about the lessons students in North Carolina are learning in their school garden. (via Winston-Salem Monthly)


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: 7/21/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, July 21, 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. 



Funding & Grants
1. Captain Planet Foundation Grant
The Captain Planet Foundation provides grants between $500 and $2,500 to school and community groups to support hands-on environmental projects. The objective of the foundation is to encourage innovative programs that empower children and youth around the world to work individually and collectively to solve environmental problems in their neighborhoods and communities. The next deadline is September 30, 2015. Learn more here

2. CHS Classroom Grant
CHS and National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO) are offering five $1,500 classroom grants to teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade. The funds can be used for schoolyard or classroom gardens, animal science and other projects that educate K-12 students in general education classrooms about the source of their food, fiber and fuel. The deadline for applications is Sept. 15, 2015. Learn more and apply here

Webinars & Events
1. Webinar: New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, July 23, 1pm EST
Whole Measures for Community Food Projects
This webinar will introduce Whole Measure for Community Food Systems (WM CFS), a values-based, community-oriented tool for planning and evaluation of Community Food Projects. It will discuss how CFP grantees can utilize the Whole Measures CFS frame for their annual Indicators of Success reporting, a collective impact report for all CFPs, as well as a tool for community organizing. The presenter will be Jeanette Abi-Nader of the City Schoolyard Garden and formerly of the Community Food Security Coalition. Register here

2. Food Day Green Meal initiative
Green Meal is a national initiative created by Food Day, The Humane Society of the United States, Health Care Without Harm, and Meatless Monday to raise awareness about the critical importance of eating less meat and enjoying more whole plant-based foods as a way to become healthier and to help animals and the environment. During Food Day on October 24, millions of meals will be served to celebrate a green and healthy plant-strong diet. You’re invited to join the Food Day Green Meal initiative! Learn more and sign up to participate here.

Research & Resources
1. New USDA newsletter
To better serve its stakeholders in the growing area of local and regional food systems, USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative has launched a new newsletter. If you do not currently receive the newsletter, you are welcome to sign up to receive it by emailing intergovernmental@osec.usda.gov and replying “YES.” You can view the inaugural edition here

2. Advancing Farm to School: Lessons from the Field
This "Farm to School 2.0" resource is meant for those that are hoping to expand or fine-tune farm to school programming in their community. The contents reflect the experience of fourteen Wisconsin communities, as they worked to establish and strengthen farm to school efforts in their respective regions. Chapter topics range from designing a successful Harvest of the Month program to strategies for fostering farm to school program sustainability. Actionable tips and insight are provided through case studies, distilled 'lessons learned', and field-tested resource recommendations. View the resource here

3. AGree: Food and Agriculture Education in the United States
Food and agriculture education in the U.S. has changed dramatically over our nation’s history. Topics to study and careers to pursue go beyond production agriculture and include food and nutrition, natural resources, and information technology. The education system must be strengthened to address the challenges and opportunities facing our global food system and support the young people who will define it. A new AGree paper examines the evolution of U.S. food and ag education, its current structure, and how it must adapt to meet emerging challenges. Read the full paper here

4. Small Farmers Can Make Food Safety Work: The GroupGAP Pilot in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
This case study provides an overview of the processes, challenges, benefits, and lessons learned from the Group Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) pilot project in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The project goal was to test how a group-based farm-based food safety certification process could benefit small farmers. This pilot study confirms that good agricultural practices (GAP) certification can meet group needs at an affordable cost working with small and very small farms. Read the case study here

5. Journal of School Health: School Gardens Enhance Academic Performance and Dietary Outcomes in Children
Schools face increasing demands to provide education on healthy living and improve core academic performance. Although these appear to be competing concerns, they may interact beneficially. This article focuses on school garden programs and their effects on students' academic and dietary outcomes. This small set of studies offers evidence that garden-based learning does not negatively impact academic performance or FV consumption and may favorably impact both. Additional studies with more robust experimental designs and outcome measures are necessary to understand the effects of experiential garden-based learning on children's academic and dietary outcomes. Read the article 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

2. Give us your feedback on "Lunch Bites" webinars 
NFSN’s monthly 20-minute “Lunch Bites” webinars have been on a short hiatus, and we’re gearing up to bring them back later this summer. Please take 5 minutes to answer 8 short questions, provide your feedback and help us continue to make this webinar series informative and engaging. Take the survey and you’ll be automatically entered to win one of three NFSN aprons or t-shirts! The survey closes this Friday, July 24, 2015. Your feedback is greatly appreciated! 

Farm to school in the news
Heart group uses 'Parks and Rec' star in satirical video on school lunch regs
The American Heart Association (AHA) is using satire to fight back against special interest groups and lawmakers over regulations that force schools to serve healthier lunches. Watch the video here. Read an article about the video on The Hill

Washington County Public Schools workers prep and process produce
A school district in Maryland is working this summer to develop new systems for prepping and processing produce so that local food can be served year-round. (via Herald Mail Media)

Twist on 'Foodapalooza' takes educators on a field trip
"Everyone involved in the local food chain" came together last Tuesday in Louisiana to show educators how to get local, fresh produce into their schools and communities. (via The Town Talk)

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.  

Ramping up local in upstate New York

NFSN Staff Monday, July 20, 2015

By Anna Mullen, Digital Media Associate

Saranac Lake High School students harvest celeriac at Fledging Crow Vegetables Farm.       (Photo courtesy of SLHS Green Storm) 

Before Saranac Lake Central School District (Saranac Lake, N.Y.) was awarded a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant, local produce in the cafeteria was rare. But serving local foods on special occasions like Farm to School Month had been successful at getting students excited to try new vegetables, so Food Service Director Ruth Pino was eager to do more. 

“I realized I could help young people learn about good food and healthy eating by serving them real, fresh food,” Pino says. “At our school, 36 percent of students receive free and reduced-price lunch. But the real challenge is that the district is very rural and spread out, so when students are hungry, there are not many options for accessing good, local food, aside from school.” Plus, she notes, “Farm to school is also about supporting local farmers, and there are many in our area.” 

Beginning this fall, three local farmers will supply the district’s five school with fresh, local produce including carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, onions and potatoes. Fresh fruit will be brought in from a nearby orchard. Other relationships are thriving as well, such as with Paul Smith’s College, whose culinary students teamed up with Pino this spring to prepare and serve locally raised chicken to the district’s students. “It’s helping support our community,” Pino says, “and students are getting excited when they see that we have new foods for them to try.” 

Less than 150 miles west of Saranac Lake, a similar initiative is taking root in New York’s Watertown City School District. In partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, Watertown was also awarded a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant for FY 2015. With the grant, Watertown set goals of incorporating more locally grown foods into its meal programs to improve student health and link nutrition to lifelong learning.  

In addition to introducing new local foods in the cafeteria, the district’s five elementary schools launched a harvest of the month initiative, where students not only learn about and try new local foods, but also meet the farmers who produce them. “A local dairy farmer came in February with a demonstration cow, and there was a butter-making station,” district Farm to School Coordinator April Neujean said. “The state dairy princess came, too!”

Students at North Elementary School learn about cow from local farmer Ron Kuck during February’s Harvest of the Month activities. (Photo courtesy of WCSD Farm to School) 

The district’s middle and high school students are learning about local food systems as well, with guest lectures on hydroponics, beneficial and invasive bugs, and robotic tilling. Furthermore, the district has planted its first school garden, giving students the opportunity to engage in growing their own food. As Neujean explains, “This education has been a good way to help students become excited about the food changes in the cafeteria. When kids have a farm to school program, they have a positive attachment to food because they know where it comes from.”

Getting kids excited about healthy eating isn’t the only benefit of these farm to school programs. What makes farm to school at Watertown and Saranac Lake school districts impressive is their drive for collaboration and growing the movement throughout upstate New York. “The community support and excitement has been remarkable,” Neujean said. The two districts have worked together to share ideas and build capacity for making more local procurement possible. And, Saranac Lake is actively encouraging nearby school districts to join them in farm to school activities. By encouraging more schools to buy local, the districts are helping open the doors to new institutional markets for local family farmers. 

Thanks to these two USDA Farm to School grantees, an entire region is poised for local food transformation. Their initiatives are helping kids develop healthy eating habits, providing new markets for farmers and building up strong partnerships that foster vibrant communities. These programs are not only ramping up local procurement in their cafeterias, but also laying the groundwork for schools across upstate New York to go local.  That’s a delicious win for students, an economic win for farmers, and an energizing win for all of upstate New York. 

This week in farm to school: 7/14/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, July 14, 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. 



Funding & Grants
1. Project Produce: Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools
The Chef Ann Foundation has teamed up with Skoop, a superfoods company committed to bringing the health benefits of superfoods to every American. Together they have launched Project Produce: Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools. These $2,500 grants assist in expanding students’ palates, and encouraging increased consumption of and exposure to fresh produce through engagement in lunchroom education activities that encourage students to taste new vegetables and fruits offered either in a dish, cooked, or raw. Learn more about the grant and find details to apply on The Lunch Box

2. Local Foods, Local Places 2015-2016 Application
Communities are invited to apply for a new round of technical assistance from Local Foods, Local Places. Local Foods, Local Places helps communities create walkable, healthy, economically vibrant neighborhoods through the development of local food systems. A team of experts will help community members develop action plans that use local foods to support healthy families and communities and to drive downtown and neighborhood revitalization. The assistance process features a community workshop that brings people together to develop shared goals and steps to achieve them. This is not a grant program. Applications dues September 15, 2015. Learn more here

Research & Resources
1. New USDA farm to preschool resource
USDA Farm to School team has published a new two-page fact sheet focused on preschool settings. Farm to Preschool: Local Food and Learning in Early Child Care and Education Settings presents basic information about farm to preschool efforts, including tips and resources. The fact sheet is available here

2. Farm to Early Childhood Programs: A Step-By-Step Guide
Michigan Farm to School has recently released Farm to Early Childhood Programs: A Step-By-Step Guide. Freely downloadable, this new guide provides tools and resources to help early childhood program providers of all types and sizes purchase and use local foods in their meals and snacks. Find a pdf copy of the guide here

3. Urban-Rural Differences in Childhood and Adolescent Obesity in the United States: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
This is a systematic literature review and subsequent meta-analysis performed to investigate differences in childhood obesity between urban and rural areas in the United States. All but one study suggested that residence in rural areas was associated with higher prevalence or increased odds of childhood obesity, compared to children living in urban areas. A meta-analysis of 74,168 pooled participants ages 2–19 found that rural children have 26% greater odds of obesity, compared to urban children. Read the full study here

4. Obesity: Americans Much Heavier Than in 1960
The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that over the past 45 years both men and women in the United States have gained weight and that "the average American woman now weighs 166.2 pounds – nearly identical to what American men weighed in the 1960s  … up from about 140 pounds in 1960." In addition, more than one in five U.S. children between the ages of 12 and 19 are considered obese, with 17.7 percent of kids ages 6–11 also weighing in at obesity levels. Read more about the study here

Webinars & Events
1. Canada’s first national school food conference, Nov 12-14, Montreal
Changing the Menu, Canada’s first-ever 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 three-day event will feature field trips to inspirational projects in Quebec, keynote speakers, presentations, workshops and networking opportunities. The conference will bring together a diverse group of participants from various sectors including health, education, agriculture, food service, recreation, policy and research. Early bird registration now open through September 15. Learn more about the conference on the Changing the Menu website

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 Officer for Food Communities & Public Health Program, The John Hopkins Center for  Livable Future
The primary role of this position is to manage the Center’s Food Policy Networks (FPN) project, in close collaboration with senior staff at the Center for a Livable Future. As a core and senior member of the Food Communities and Public Health program team, the Program Officer will also contribute to other CLF projects within the FCPH program portfolio, such as the Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast (EFSNE) project, Meatless Monday and actively fulfill Center-wide activities as needed. Learn more about the position here.

2. Research, Data & Evaluation Manager, FOCUS
School Food FOCUS (FOCUS) is a national collaborative that leverages the knowledge and procurement power of 43 large school districts across the country that collectively represent more than 4.9 million children. FOCUS seeks a Manager to coordinate research, evaluation and procurement data activities across the organization. View the full job description here

Farm to school in the news
Farm to school on The Many Shades of Green featuring NFSN Director of Development, Jaime Lockwood!
Jaime Lockwood was last week’s guest on The Many Shades of Green radio show. She discusses how farm to school works to bring fresh, local foods into school across the U.S., and how the Farm to School Act of 2015 can help strengthen the farm to school movement. Listen here

Op-ed: Don’t reverse progress toward healthier school lunches
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged Congress not to roll back the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act healthier school meal standards in an opinion piece this week. (via The Salt Lake Tribune)

Oregon to drastically change the way children get their school lunches
Oregon is taking its farm-to-schools statewide. As part of a spending bill, lawmakers agreed to pour $3.3 million of general fund money toward expanding the program, from the 19 school districts that currently enjoy farm-to-school benefits to every K-12 in the state. (via Portland Business Journal)

Ige Signs Law Creating Farm-to-School Program in Hawaii
Last week, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a bill that is intended to increase the amount of local food students eat in Hawaii’s public school system. The bill creates a state-wide farm to school program, and funds a full-time farm to school coordinator position. (via Civil Beat)

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: 7/7/2015

NFSN Staff Tuesday, July 07, 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. Food Justice Webinar with Closing the Hunger Gap & Oregon Food Bank
Food Justice & Emergency Food Providers
Wednesday, July 15, 10:30-11:45 a.m. PST; 1:30-2:45 pm EST
What is food justice and how can emergency food providers support food justice efforts? During the webinar, Jess Powers from WhyHunger will outline what food justice means and two organizations will discuss how they use food justice to inform their work. Mireille Massac from Child Development Support Corporation in Brooklyn will discuss the injustices she sees in her neighborhood and the solutions the pantry has put in to place. Shannon Cogan from Portland’s Sisters Of The Road will talk about how her organization offers a space to empower community members, dine with dignity, and organize for justice and human rights for all. Register here and learn more about the speakers 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. Director, D.C. Hunger Solutions
The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), seeks a highly motivated and skilled leader for the organization’s work to create a hunger-free community and improve the nutrition, health, economic security and well-being of low-income residents in Washington, D.C. The ideal candidate must be a highly skilled public policy advocate, manager and leader; evidence a strong commitment to social justice; be an effective supervisor of a talented staff; be creative and a self-starter; have a proven ability to excel at working in partnerships; and have experience balancing the needs of diverse stakeholders. This full-time, director-level position is located in Washington, D.C. and reports to FRAC’s president. For more information,click here

2. Garden Coordinator, CitySprouts 
CitySprouts is a nonprofit school garden organization that partners with public schools in Boston and Cambridge to integrate academic and environmental education in the schools and neighborhood. The Garden Coordinator is a 10-month staff position, March 1 to December 30. The Garden Coordinator maintains the physical space, supports teachers’ use of the garden for teaching during the school year, and is a lead teacher in the 8-week summer youth internship program. Applications due Friday, July 10, 2015. For more information and to apply, please visit the CitySprouts website

Farm to school in the news
MSU researchers study 'Beef to School' benefits with new grant
A team of researchers at MSU is working on a way to get more local beef into Montana schools. The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave MSU a three-year, $220,000 grant to help Montana beef producers and meat processors increase the use of local meat in K-12 schools. (via NBC Montana)

Fellowship of the farm: Teens tend school garden through summer
High school students in Oregon are participating in a program in which local students work at Corvallis High School’s garden and sell its produce at a weekly farmers market. The fellowship pays students a stipend for working at the garden for a few hours three days a week. (via Corvallis Gazette-Times)

Farm to School Win-Win in Illinois
School cafeterias around Illinois are using more locally-sourced fruits and vegetables, while teaching children about the benefits of healthy eating. Wes King, executive director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, says these opportunities help to put children in the "driver's seat" of a healthier diet. (via Public News Service)

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.  

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