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News

This week in farm to school: 2/17/15

NFSN Staff Tuesday, February 17, 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. "Recipes for Success" Contest, Northeast Regional Steering Committee
What’s your recipe for Farm to School success? Enter your best projects, lessons and creative ideas in the Farm to School Recipes for Success contest this February. Great prizes include $500 cash, free registration at the first Farm to Institution Summit in April and seeing your work highlighted at the conference and in a new online “cookbook” of best practices. The contest is sponsored by the Northeast Regional Steering Committee of the National Farm to School Network and is funded by a USDA Farm to School grant with support from the National Education Association. Open to all in the Northeast (New England + New York). Get contest details and enter by March 2 here.

2. Farm to Preschool Mini-Grants available in CA & NY
The Urban & Environmental Policy Institute and Capital District Child Care Council are requesting applications for innovative Farm to Preschool (F2P) projects that strengthen relationships between children and healthy, local foods in the states of California and New York. This mini–grant project is funded through the generosity of The Honest Company.  The F2P mini-grants will support new and expanding F2P projects in California and New York through funding, technical assistance, and the creation of a Learning Community—a network of ECE providers learning with and from each other.  All types of ECE settings and agencies, organizations, farmers and food producers working directly with an ECE site(s) in California or New York are invited to apply. 

3. Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmer and Ranchers Program, USDA
The USDA recently released the Request for Applications (RFA) for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, more commonly known as the 2501 program. The USDA has announced the availability of $9.1 million grant funding for the 2501 program to provide outreach and assistant socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers. This program provides grants to colleges and universities and community based organizations to provide outreach and assistance to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers to overcome the unique challenges they face in owning and operating successful farms and ranches. Applicants have until April 13 to apply. More information can be found on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog

4. USDA Community Food Projects Grant Program Grantees and Applicant Support, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, in collaboration with its partners, offers free one-on-one technical assistance, educational resources, and professional development opportunities for current grantees and applicants to the Community Food Projects grant program of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).For more information, visit this website

Webinars & Events
1. NFSN Webinar, March 10, 1 p.m. EST
Making change: How you can support farm to school policy this spring
Although the Child Nutrition Act (known as CNR) isn't set to expire until September 30, the action in D.C. is happening now, and we need your help. Join us to learn how farm to school legislation is progressing as part of CNR and what you can do to help make sure farm to school gets the support it needs from Congress! We will cover actions that anyone can take to join the effort and become an effective advocate for farm to school. The 20-minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A session. Register here

2. 2015 MAFO National Farmworkers Conference & Convention, April 26-29
MAFO, a National Partnership of Farmworker and Rural Organizations, will hold its 26th Annual National Farmworker Conference & Convention at the Hotel Albuquerque (at Old Town) in Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 26-29, 2015. The conference will focus on “Building Rural Communities.” The 2015 conference will highlight best practices from across the country with challenging workshops by state and federal experts. The conference will also provide creative solutions to workforce development issues in rural communities, strengthen rural Hispanic entrepreneurship, as well as identify future trends that will impact rural communities. For more information on MAFO and the 2015 National Farmworkers Conference, visit www.mafofarmworker.com

3. National Good Food Network Webinar, February 19
A Look Back, A Path Forward - Lessons Learned from the Food Hub Vanguard: Grasshoppers Distribution
Grasshoppers Distribution LLC, an NGFN Food Hub Collaboration Study Hub, was a food hub in Louisville, Kentucky, that was established in 2006 by four Kentucky farmers seeking to connect regional products with local markets. It grew to nearly one million dollars in annual sales of local farm products, before closing its doors in December of 2013. This webinar examines the story behind the evolution of Grasshoppers and explores key challenges, best practices, lessons learned, and the organization’s lasting impact on Kentucky agriculture and the local food sector. Register here


Policy
1. Many More Low-Income Children Starting the Day with School Breakfast, Finds New Reports from the Food Research and Action Center 
School breakfast continues to make significant gains in communities across the U.S., according to two new analyses by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released on February 10, which look at school breakfast participation at the district, state, and national level. During the 2013-2014 school year, an average of 11.2 million low-income children ate a healthy morning meal each day at school, an increase of 320,000 children from the previous school year, according to FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard (pdf) on state trends and School Breakfast -- Making it Work in Large Districts (pdf). 

Jobs and Opportunities 
1. Finance & Operations Director, National Farm to School Network  The National Farm to School Network is now accepting applications for a full time finance and operations director. The position description may be found on our website or downloaded as a PDF here.  The finance and operations director will direct all organizational activities related to finance, budgeting, human resources and general operations. The finance and operations director will be part of the organizational leadership team, serving as a strategic thought partner and reporting directly to the executive director (ED).  Projected start date: April 1, 2015. Please share this listing with anyone you think is interested and qualified. The deadline to apply is February 25, 2015.

2. Nutrition Policy Associate, The Center for Science in the Public Interest
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) is hiring a Nutrition Policy Advocate. The Nutrition Policy Associate advocates for improved nutrition and health policy with local, state and federal policy makers and engages health professionals, academics, and concerned citizens in supporting nutrition policies. For more information, visit the CSIP website

3. Food Service Research Consultant, Farm to Institution New England
Farm to Institution New England’s Contracted Food Service Action Project is currently seeking a consultant to conduct research within two institutions in New England. The intention of the research is to understand their ability to meet their value-based (ex: local, regional, nutritious) purchasing goals as they relate to regional procurement. The individual hired for this position will conduct research at two institutions selected by the project advisory board. This research will work with the facility to analyze financial and other costs and benefits associated with a variety of services offered by a food service management company and/or group purchasing organization (GPO). More information can be found here

4. Director of Development and Community Relations, Farmer Foodshare
The Director of Development and Community Relations is the lead role for development and communications for Farmer Foodshare and reports to the Executive Director. The ideal candidate will be highly organized, detail-oriented, dynamic in approach, a critical thinker, and business driven.  If you are creative, result-oriented, self-starting, willing to learn, and able to manage an unpredictable schedule, working beyond 9-5 as needed, then this may be the job for you. This position is based in Durham NC and is full-time. For more information, visit the Farmer Foodshare website.  

5. Youth Food Justice Zine Call for Submission
You are invited to send submissions for a zine that lifts up the voices of youth food justice activists, as well as intergenerational narratives around youth power within the context of the United States. Send in your art and writings around food justice work, or submit names of amazing youth group doing work around food justice to zine@whyhunger.org. Visit the Youth Food Justice website for more information.


Farm to school in the news
Food To Schools From Farms
An interview on Alaska Public Radio Network with Deborah Kane, Director of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Farm to School Program, and Johanna Herron, Alaska Division of Agriculture’s Farm to School coordinator and NFSN’s Alaska State Lead. More than half the school districts in Alaska are participating in the Farm to School program, feeding more than a hundred thousand kids in the state. (via Alaska Public Media)

Farm-to-school programs help kids make better choices
Colorado House Bill 1088 effectively addresses childhood obesity problems and uneven economic recovery by providing grants to help farmers produce healthy, nutritious food for public school kids. Research shows that farm-to-school programs work for students. They provide kids with healthy food options and teach them about nutrition and food production. (via The Denver Post)

Making healthy choices for our school systems
Serving farm fresh food from local producers could provide the impetus for a true change in the way we feed our children in public schools. A strong relationship between local farmers and schools provides healthy and locally grown products for our kids, and ensures a healthy market for local growers. (via Richmond Times-Dispatch



This week in farm to school: 2/10/15

NFSN Staff Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Every week, we share opportunities, action items and a selection of media stories that relate to the farm to school movement. To submit an item for consideration, send us an email. To be considered, content should be of national interest to the farm to school community. 




Funding & Grants

1. USDA Announces the Availability of $16 Million to Support Food Production
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of more than $16 million in funding to support research, education and Extension efforts to improve food production and increase food security, defined as regular access to affordable, nutritious food. NIFA is funding the grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Food Security program. For more information, read the full press release here

Webinars & Events

1. NFSN Webinar, March 10, 1 p.m. EST
Making change: How you can support farm to school policy this spring
Although the Child Nutrition Act (known as CNR) isn't set to expire until September 30, the action in D.C. is happening now, and we need your help. Join us to learn how farm to school legislation is progressing as part of CNR and what you can do to help make sure farm to school gets the support it needs from Congress! This webinar will cover actions that anyone can take to join the effort and become an effective advocate for farm to school. The 20-minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.


2. Food Policy & Regional Food Systems: Opportunities for Networking across Jurisdictions, February 11
Where does your local food policy council fit within the regional food system? Would you like to play a stronger role in both your locality and at a regional level but not sure how? Functioning with limited resources and volunteer members, it can often be easiest for a food policy council to concentrate locally. By understanding the role of local food policy councils within the context of a regional food system, groups can network across geographies to maximize impact and effectiveness of policy changes.During this webinar, expert panelists will address a number of big picture questions local food policy councils have about regional food systems. Learn more and register here

3.  2015 Summer Meals Webinar Series, USDA Food and Nutrition Services 
Take advantage of the USDA Food and Nutrition Services webinar sessions where you will find the latest resources, funding information, policy updates, technical guidance, best practices, highlights and success stories from around the country, best practices, and many other great tools to make your Summer Meals Program ROCK! More information can be found on the USDA Food and Nutrition Services website. Upcoming webinar include:
Summer Meals: Best Practices for Tackling the Transportation Challenge
Tuesday, February 10th 2015  
3:00pm to 4:00pm EST

Summer Meals: Incorporating Local Foods
Thursday, February 12th 2015 
2:00pm to 3:00pm EST

Summer Meals: SFSP 101 and How to Be A Summer Meals Champion 
Wednesday, February 24th 2015  
1:30pm to 2:30pm EST

4. FRAC February Summer Meals Matter Conference Call, February 12
It might be the height of winter, but February is a prime time to plan for summer, establish your outreach strategy and develop ways to increase the visibility of your summer nutrition programs. Work with schools, advocates, summer program providers and other partners to develop a marketing plan that can increase the visibility of the program and build participation. We will discuss what sponsors and advocates can be doing in February to ensure smooth program operations. You will also hear about effective methods and resources that advocates and program providers use to promote the program and reach the children who will benefit most from summer meal. Register here

5. State and Local Partnerships - Bridging Health Care and Early Education System Transformations to Achieve Kindergarten Readiness in Oregon (Part 2), March 4
The BUILD Initiative invites you to participate in a webinar on March 4 from 2 to 3:30 pm ET to learn more about how Oregon has leveraged opportunities to support a fundamental shift in how the health care and early education systems function and align with each other. For those who participated in the first webinar on January 12, the focus of this one will be on how health and early learning activities are integrated and aligned in communities through the state's system efforts. To participate in the webinar, click here


Jobs

1. Finance & Operations Director, National Farm to School Network  
The National Farm to School Network is now accepting applications for a full time finance and operations director. The position description may be found on our website or downloaded as a PDF here.  The finance and operations director will direct all organizational activities related to finance, budgeting, human resources and general operations. The finance and operations director will be part of the organizational leadership team, serving as a strategic thought partner and reporting directly to the executive director (ED).  Projected start date: April 1, 2015. Please share this listing with anyone you think is interested and qualified. The deadline to apply is February 25, 2015.

2. Education and Training Specialist, National Food Service Management Institute 
NFSMI is looking for qualified applicants who are interest in joining the cutting edge of child nutrition education. NFSMI provides training and resources to child nutrition professionals across the United States. This is a professional position in which the incumbent develops, implements, and evaluates academic courses and training program materials for face-to-face and Web-based delivery. The incumbent manages multiple projects according to grants and cooperative agreement statements of work, utilizing knowledge of nutrition education practices, federal nutrition programs, adult education and instructional design. For more information, please visit the job posting.

3. Program Associate, Renewing the Countryside
Renewing the Countryside is hiring! If you know someone with a passion for early childhood nutrition, education, and/or sustainable food systems, please help spread the word. The Program Associate will assist with the coordination of Renewing the Countryside’s Farm to Child Care and Farm to School programming, primarily through research and outreach support and in-person educational meetings with providers and interested community members in the metro area. Additional information can be found here

Farm to school in the news

Shout out to NFSN's Helen Dombalis for this interview with Food Drive!
3 key factors in the agriculture sector
An interview with Helen Dombalis at the Food Tank Summit on how big business can and should engage in the farm to school movement. (via Food Drive)

Going back to basics
Cheney Public Schools helps battle obesity through education and home cooking. "We believe…that in order to be successful in getting kids excited about eating healthier foods you must: one, make it fun — an adventure. Two, create an environment where the kids learn that it's fun to try new foods and it's also OK if they don't like everything they try…” (via Inlander)

New plans sprouting for RCS greenhouse program

With a possible source of ready to eat vegetables just feet from the school cafeteria, the Robertson County School agriculture instruction program has already been added to the Kentucky Proud Certified programs. The program is working toward a Farm to School version of the Farm to Table program, which could supply fresh lettuce and tomatoes to the cafeteria. (via The Ledger Independent)

This week in farm to school: 2/4/15

NFSN Staff Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Every week, we share opportunities, action items and a selection of media stories that relate to the farm to school movement. To submit an item for consideration, send us an email. To be considered, content should be of national interest to the farm to school community. 




Webinars & Events

1. NFSN Webinar, February 10, 1 p.m. EST
Telling your story: Share your success with the media, the community and funders Your school garden is growing, your lunch line is local, and your community's health and economy are improving thanks to farm to school. But if you don't learn how to tell your story in a concise, compelling way, interest in your program could stagnate. Maintain momentum for farm to school within your community through media relations, funder outreach and community partners with persuasive success stories. The National Farm to School Network's communications staff, Chelsey Simpson and Stacey Malstrom, will offer simple best-practices and easy tips for sharing your story and finding your audience. The 20-minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.

2. USDA Partnering to Conduct Grant Workshops to Support Local Foods
The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently announced a partnership through the Agricultural Marketing Service Technical Assistance (AMSTA) Project to conduct workshops that will help potential grant applicants understand, develop, and submit their Federal grant applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program.

A list of upcoming grant workshop dates and locations can be found at http://www.amsta.net. More workshops will be added soon, and the State representatives listed on the website can be contacted for additional information about upcoming workshops. Some of the workshop sessions will be recorded and available for online viewing for those not able to attend in person. More information can be found here

3. Webinar Series: Farm to School & Youth Leadership, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
This two part webinar series will introduce participants to IATP's high school level Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum. The curriculum is designed to empower youth, teach them about their local food system, engage them in meaningful, hands-on learning activities that also strengthen their school’s Farm to School program and link them directly to farmers in their community.
Part 1: Helping students understand their food systems
Monday, February 9, 2015, 3:30 pm
Register now for Part 1

Part 2: Strengthening Farm to School
Tuesday, February 17, 2015, 3:30 pm


Jobs

1. Finance & Operations Director, National Farm to School Network 
The National Farm to School Network is now accepting applications for a full time finance and operations director. The position description may be found on our website or downloaded as a PDF here. The finance and operations director will direct all organizational activities related to finance, budgeting, human resources and general operations. The finance and operations director will be part of the organizational leadership team, serving as a strategic thought partner and reporting directly to the executive director (ED).  Projected start date: April 1, 2015. Please share this listing with anyone you think is interested and qualified. The deadline to apply is February 25, 2015.


Farm to school in the news

Shout out to NFSN's Helen Dombalis for this video clip of her participation in the Food Tank Summit!
Cultivating Better Urban Food Systems - Helen Dombalis, NFSN
Helen Dombalis, National Farm to School Network, speaking at the 2015 Food Tank Summit in Washington DC in partnership with the George Washington University on a panel called "Cultivating Better Urban Food Systems." (via YouTube)

Students enjoy salmon for lunch
Students at Julius A. Wendt Elementary School and John C. Thomas Middle School got a treat on Tuesday when the local Washington State University Extension Office and commercial fishermen got together to provide healthy and locally sourced salmon for their lunch. (via The Wahkiakum County Eagle)

Wood County Schools Lead in Farm to School Program
Eight years ago, Joel Kuehnhold had the brilliant idea to fix up the school's old green house. His goal was to get his students excited about the idea of agriculture, while teaching them the importance of eating healthy and growing their own food. So far, Lincoln High School students have grown close to 500lbs of salad greens for their school's lunch. (via WSAW-TV) 

The "Veggie Rainbow Garden" Blooms at Sixth Street School
Each kindergarten through fifth grade class spends 45 minutes per week (weather permitting) in the Veggie Rainbow Garden. On bad weather days, the children engage in various nutrition-oriented learning activities indoors. There are numerous growing beds in the Veggie Rainbow Garden, each with distinct plants to teach the children a new lesson. (via The Grant County Bee)

Seed-to-plate program teaches students STEM skills, nutrition
The students then learn how to use the vegetables in smoothies and salads. While they love getting to eat the fruits of their labor, Kim Westrick said that the skills they learn go further than just where their food comes from. (via Journal News)

This week in farm to school: 1/27/15

NFSN Staff Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I'm happy to introduce a new weekly feature on our blog, "This week in farm to school." Every week, we will 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. New Bag the Junk Contest from National Education Association’s Health Information Network 
Calling all educators, food service and other support professionals, administrators, students, and families—NEA's Health Information Network wants to hear your Smart Snacks stories! Share your successes and challenges with healthy school foods from vending machines, cafeteria à la carte lines, school stores, and fundraisers.  Enter here for a chance at $300 and a professional video made about your school for national coverage.  Good luck and don't forget to pass on this opportunity to colleagues and students! Ask bagthejunk@neahin.org any contest questions.


Webinars & Events

1. 10th Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference, February 7-8
Minority and immigrant farmers are invited to participate in the 10th Annual Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference (IMFC).  The conference will be held February 7-8 at the University of Minnesota Continuing Education and Conference Center located at 1890 Buford Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota.The IMCF focuses on the special needs and interests of immigrant and minority farmers and addresses their needs by bringing together farmers, farm advocates, educators, professionals, experts, and agency officials to one conference to exchange knowledge, network, and support. 

The conference is free to farmers.  The cost for other interested people is $60 for one day and $100 for both days.  Language interpretation is available in Spanish, Hmong, Karen, Bhutanese, and Somali. Interested in attending?  Click HERE to register today!

2. Farm to Institution Summit, April 7-9 
The Farm to Institution Summit is a first-year conference that will bring together leaders from the Northeast who are working to get more local and regional food into schools, colleges, health care and other institutions. Please join us -- and up to 800 other farm to institution advocates -- for three exciting days of learning, sharing, exploring and connecting. The Farm to Institution Summit will be held at UMass Amherst in Amherst, Massachusetts on April 7-9, 2015. Learn more at www.farmtoinstitution.org/summit.


Jobs

1. Farm to Preschool Opportunity at 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 outreach and research efforts promoting good food access and awareness in childhood development and education environments. The position will support existing CRFS initiatives and help to develop additional programming capacity in this arena. For the full position description and to learn more about CRFS, visit foodsystems.msu.edu. Applications will be accepted until February 20, 2015 or until a suitable candidate is identified. 


Farm to school in the news

Tok embraces Farm-to-School with year-round greenhouse  
Gateway Greenhouse, built in 2013, is entering its first full year of growing. The goal: provide fresh vegetables to the Alaska Gateway School District, which serves about 375 students. Students get to take part, learn about cultivation and experience the joy of eating fruit and vegetables picked on the spot. (via News Miner)

Farm-to-school movement reaches the Commonwealth  
Last week, 375 interested parties met to applaud farm to school participation in local school — and discuss the challenges that still remain — at the 2015 Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference, held at the College of the Holy Cross here. The tenor of the sold-out gathering was both celebratory (“Look how far we’ve come!”) and hortatory (“Look how far we still have to go”). (via Boston Globe)

Would Kids Eat More Veggies If They Had Recess Before Lunch?  
A study just published in Preventative Medicine suggests it does. Researchers found that students who have recess before lunch tend to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables than kids who eat lunch first. (via NPR News)

Notes From the Garden: Raising the Next Generation of Gardeners  
In terms of health and longevity in this day of fast food and prepared junk food, shouldn’t we be teaching our children good eating habits as well as math? Henry Homeyer recently visited a school where all the kids love veggies and fruits — food grown right at the school. (via Valley News)



Share your story: 5 tips for building better media relationships

Stacey Malstrom Wednesday, January 14, 2015

By Stacey Malstrom, PR & Outreach Manager

Today I’m giving a presentation at the 24th annual conference of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) about how to grow awareness for your farm to school program through targeted media relations. Incredible farm to school work is happening all across the country. School lunch programs are sourcing from family farms, students are working in school gardens and asking their parents to make kale salad at home, and local economies are benefiting. But does your broader community know what’s happening before the bell and beyond the classroom? 


Students in Louisiana enjoy strawberries from their garden. When you pitch to the media, make sure they know the story will have engaging visual elements, like kids in a garden. 

At its core, good media relations is about RELATIONSHIPS. Editorial staffs are shrinking, and journalists are being asked to take on more responsibilities. Their time and attention is limited; now more than ever, media need savvy sources that they can depend on. Follow these five tips to start building better media relationships and engage a wider audience in your work:

  • Stop blasting your entire media list: The quickest way to end up in someone’s junk folder is to send information that is not relevant to them or their audience. For example, a writer who only covers politics at the state capitol should not receive an event announcement for a farm field trip unless there is a policymaker attending. Narrow your media list to those contacts that you genuinely think will be interested in covering this piece of news, based on their outlet, section or personal interests. 
  • Make a connection: Media are people too, and a little attention goes a long way. Read their work, research their recent articles and follow them on twitter. Then shape your pitch for each individual. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it will be worth it when you land that feature on the front page of your regional newspaper. 
  • Be there when they need you: You may not always hear back in response to your story ideas. Don’t get discouraged and be patient—remember how busy they are? But when they’re on deadline, responding quickly and being a resource on more than just your organization is a great way to establish trust. And before you know it, they’ll start responding to your emails and ideas more often. 
  • Send good story ideas: Not every event, report or new resource produced by your organization is media-worthy. Think about what is interesting to their readers and be selective about what you pitch. Some news is better suited for your own newsletter or social media channels. At the end of the day, it’s still the NEWs, and timely, relevant and unique stories always win.
  • Put it in context: Make it easy for media to see the story and how it connects to the bigger picture or their audience. Localize national news or trends by connecting it to your community and your work. Tell them why your program is different than others, what makes the story new now, and who else is working on similar issues. 

Join us for our next Lunch Bites webinar on Feb. 10, at 1 p.m. EST to learn more about storytelling best practices and media relations. And download the Media Tip Sheet from my SSAWG presentation here. 

Farm to school in Arizona: A conversation with Linda Rider

NFSN Staff Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Our Arizona State Lead, Cindy Gentry, recently sent us this great Q&A between Libby Boudreau, a community dietitian at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, and Linda Rider, director of nutrition services for the Tempe Elementary School District in Arizona. Thanks to Libby for conducting the interview, to Cindy for sending it our way and to Linda for her great farm to school work! 

How long have you been doing farm to school?
I feel that I dabble in it. I first did farm to school about five years ago when we received a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, and the Arizona Department of Education gave us a big list of farmers.

What was the first item that you purchased locally?
Since 2009 we’ve purchased local apples every fall–I only want them when they’re being harvested. We expanded to include carrots from Rousseau Farms in 2011. I really want our local produce to come as much as possible from Maricopa County. Part of my initiative is to have a smaller carbon footprint and get food directly from the farms to the district. That means working with smaller farmers to support the local economy.

What other items have you been able to purchase from local farmers?
Last year I was able to bring in specialty lettuce from Duncan Family Farms through the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. It was a pilot project, and the farm was identified through Stern Produce [a local distributor]. It was only four days from harvest to door, and the lettuce was washed and chopped in between. We used it in entrée salads and side salads from November until mid-April.

What is your kitchen setup? Do you have a central processing kitchen or does each school receive and process its own deliveries?
We have a central facility and we send produce out to schools, but most of what we receive is already prepped. We don’t really have to chop and clean, but we could. As I start pulling in smaller farmers, they may not be able to get things processed. That system is still being implemented.

Did your costs increase when you implemented your farm to school program?
They stayed pretty balanced. The cost for carrots was break-even. Apples are a little more costly due to the distribution. I was getting them directly from a farmer at first, and at that time, the cost was equitable. That farmer can no longer deliver directly to the school, so they now come from a distributor called Patagonia Orchards. Because of that, the apples are a little more expensive, but they’re also organic.

What are the biggest challenges of your farm to school program?
Distribution and procurement. A distributor won’t pick up apples from a farm just for me; it doesn’t fit their model. It’s about finding out who can help with that distribution. You have to be creative to get it to come to you, unless it comes through the Department of Defense. Some of the larger distributors are highlighting local products now, and that can be a viable way to help access local farmers.

Another challenge is knowing who is out there, who the smaller farmers are. And then you have to think about food safety. Are they GHP/GAP certified, or have they had another type of third-party audit?

Finally, volume is a challenge. Our organic apples are not the only apples we serve because we don’t get enough to cover all of our needs. They’re mixed in with other apples.

What resources were useful to you as you developed your farm to school program?
There are some good procurement guides that have been very helpful. One, from USDA, is called Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs. Another one, by School Food FOCUS, is called Geographic Preference: A primer on purchasing fresh, local food for schools

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about farm to school programs?
That nobody wants local produce. I hear a lot of school nutrition directors talking about local, but when I call my distributor, they tell me I’m the only person asking for it. I don’t believe that. If you look at what your distributor offers and ask them about local products, there will be a shift. Schools have to tell their distributors that they are looking for local and what local means to them.

What benefits do you see from your farm to school program?
Bringing in local produce is a way to maintain nutrient density and freshness, and that’s why I like it really local – within the county. It’s just so fresh. It’s also exciting to market to the school community and help them be aware of our efforts. I know our families appreciate local, so I’m always finding ways to make them aware of what we do. It’s a customer service issue. And if we can get the teachers involved, then they get the kids excited. That’s the best way to get kids involved. Also, supporting the local economy is important. 

Tell us about your very favorite farm to school moment.
I love seeing all of the apple varieties. We’re getting Pink Lady apples in today, and they’re the perfect size for schools. We just had Fuji apples. They’re always juicy and fresh – just great apples. And they’re pretty! I think people think that if you buy organic or local, the produce is going to be ugly, but it’s not.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: Farm to school policy in 2014 and 2015

NFSN Staff Wednesday, December 17, 2014

By Helen Dombalis, NFSN Policy and Strategic Partnerships Director

As the national policy leaders for the farm to school movement, policy is at the core of what we do as a network. As we near the end of 2014, we want to celebrate this year’s many farm to school policy successes and set the stage for upcoming opportunities in 2015. 

Federal policy success in 2014

  • The Farm Bill (called the Agricultural Act of 2014) was signed into law in February and included a pilot project for procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables. NFSN submitted comments to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) weighing in on implementation of the program, and earlier this month the eight selected pilot states were announced.
  • Building on our work in 2013, NFSN completed a series of nearly two-dozen Child Nutrition Reauthorization listening sessions, which informed our CNR 2015 goals. NFSN and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering on these farm to school priorities next year.
  • USDA announced the third round of annual USDA Farm to School Grant recipients. The grant program was a major policy victory for NFSN in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Demand for the grant program continues to outweigh available funding by nearly five times, demonstrating the high degree of relevance and importance of this grant program across the nation.
  • Other federal programs continue to support farm to school initiatives, including the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, and the Value-Added Producer Grant program. These programs aren’t new, but they are each having an increasing impact on the success of farm to school. 
  • NFSN and many core partners submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration about their implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. We weighed in to voice concerns that the proposed rules, as written, could hinder local and regional food innovations or limit opportunities for family farmers to launch and grow their businesses. 

New Jersey's Acting Governor, Kim Guadagno, signed five farm to school bills into law at a ceremony at Terhune Orchards in central Jersey on August 25th, 2014. 


State policy success in 2014

  • NFSN released a state farm to school legislative report for the first time since 2011. As of 2013, 38 states and DC have legislation on the books that support farm to school/preschool.  
  • Innovative new state legislation supporting farm to school was passed in 2014. Historic farm to school legislation passed in New Jersey, and the District of Columbia passed landmark farm to preschool legislation with its Healthy Tots Act.

Looking at the year ahead 

In 2015, NFSN will continue to advocate for federal policies that support farm to school across the country. We will also continue to track the exciting state policy efforts taking shape. 

  • The Child Nutrition Act is set to expire at the end of September, making 2015 an important year for farm to school stakeholders to weigh in and participate. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization only occurs once every five years. NFSN will need everyone to voice support for our efforts to improve and advance the USDA Farm to School Grant program
  • In February, NFSN will release the next report tracking state level policy. The new report will feature all laws passed this year as well as case studies that dig in to strategies employed for success. We also know that several states are preparing for their 2015 legislative cycles in order to move farm to school forward, and we’ll be tracking their progress and supporting them as needed.

2014 was a successful year for farm to school policy efforts at the state and federal levels. As we look ahead to 2015, we are eager to work with all of you to make even greater policy gains for our nation’s children, farmers and communities. We are truly growing stronger together.

Gifts that give back to the National Farm to School Network

NFSN Staff Monday, December 15, 2014

By Chelsey Simpson, Communications Manager

Making a donation in someone’s name is always a kind and doubly-generous idea, but if you are dying to use your expert wrapping-paper skills, there are ways to give back without giving up on your shopping list. Here are a few gift ideas that support the National Farm to School Network: 

National Farm to School Network shop

Our own shop has some great gems, including notecards and posters created by attendees of our 2012 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference under the leadership of Vermont-based artist Bonnie Acker. And let’s not forget our most popular item: farm to school aprons!

Calendars from Hailey King Photography

Portland-based photographer Hailey King is donating $5 from every calendar she sells to the National Farm to School Network. The calendars feature 12 months of Hailey’s beautiful food photography, taken during her travels all over the country, from citrus in Florida to berries in the Rocky Mountains. See more calendar photos on her blog

Modern Kids Design

Modern Kids Design is full of great ideas for every budget, from this $5 Eco Kids rolling pin to children’s furniture. My favorite find is this $20 wooden fruit cutting set. Just select the National Farm to School Network’s listing before you start shopping, and Modern Kids Design will donate five percent of all your purchases.

And, of course, donations directly to the National Farm to School Network can be made in someone else's name and will help support the growth of the farm to school movement across the country. 

Thank you for your support, and have a happy holiday season!

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