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Connect with your state

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

National Farm to School Network


Where does yogurt come from? And how do you milk a cow?

NFSN Staff Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Those are the questions preschoolers in northeast Iowa were asking recently while participating in Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative’s (FFI) Farm to Preschool program. Teachers across the region got creative to teach children where yogurt comes from and all the many ways to enjoy it.

In West Union, Head Start teacher Sara Converse filled a rubber glove with water and attached it to a cardboard cow cutout to teach children where milk comes from and how to milk a cow. At South Winneshiek Elementary’s Jump Start Preschool, students tried three different flavors of yogurt and graphed their favorite as part of a math lesson. At New Hampton Preschool, children made yogurt dip and smoothies and took home yogurt information and recipes for their families to try.

FFI’s Farm to Preschool program introduces a new local food to children each month, covering the same foods that are included in farm to school programs at K-12 school districts in the region. Since the program began in January, children have learned about yogurt, eggs, oats and cucumbers. Preschool students are given opportunities to cook, taste and learn about the foods through various activities during the month.

The program’s positive benefits reach beyond the classroom: Each of the preschools sends information about the foods home with children, including recipes that the kids learned at school and can repeat at home. Some sites also hold monthly farm to preschool celebrations to which parents are invited.  

One class also had a chance to share their Farm to Preschool experience with the school board.  “The principal asked me to present at the school board meeting,” said Shanna Putnam Dibble, Lead Teacher at Jump Start Preschool. “The kids made yogurt popsicles, and the principal and board members tried them.”

Green Ribbon Schools, Senator Leahy and the Green Apple Day of Service

Chelsey Simpson Monday, July 28, 2014

Last week our deputy director, Mary Stein (left), and policy and strategic partnerships director, Helen Dombalis (right), attended the 2014 U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools Celebration, where they had the pleasure of meeting with Senator Leahy, a long-time congressional champion for farm to school.

The Green Ribbon Schools Celebration is hosted by the Center for Green Schools at the US Green Building Council (USGBC). USGBC also organizes the Green Apple Day of Service through which they encourage individuals and communities to dedicate a day to making their schools a safer, healthier place through projects like planting school gardens. This year's day of service will take place on Saturday, September 27. 

NFSN advisory board member testifies before Senate Agriculture Committee

NFSN Staff Friday, July 25, 2014

Earlier this week, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry held a hearing, “Meeting the Challenges of Feeding America’s School Children.” The hearing – which was the second to be held by the Committee in preparation for the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act – focused on school meal program operations and related procurement for school meals. This hearing was held because the current Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is set to expire at the end of September 2015.

The witness list included:

  • Betti Wiggins, Executive Director, Office of Food Services at Detroit Public Schools, and advisory board member for the National Farm to School Network;
  • Scott Clements, Director of the Office of Healthy Schools and Child Nutrition at the Mississippi Department of Education;
  • Julia Bauscher, President of the School Nutrition Association and Director of School and Community Nutrition Services for Jefferson Public Schools;
  • Dr. Katie Wilson, Executive Director for the National Food Service Management Institute at the University of Mississippi; and
  • Phil Muir, President and CEO at Muir Copper Canyon Farms in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The majority of Agriculture Committee members were present and posed questions to the witnesses on a variety of topics related to procurement, school gardens, and nutrition standards. In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) noted that “students are learning about where their food comes from through farm to school garden efforts that are very exciting.”  

Well-versed in the opportunities presented by school gardens, Ms. Wiggins extoled the virtues of Detroit’s 71 school gardens and discussed the role the gardens play in engaging students and the community.  Detroit’s farm to school practices are “generating healthy returns for farmers and children,” she said, adding that teenagers are eating Michigan-grown asparagus and like it. 

Addressing the issues with implementing the USDA school lunch standards, she noted that short-term pains “pale in comparison to the benefits from reform that is highly desirable and attainable.” 

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) asked Ms. Wiggins to talk about her experience with urban gardening and how it may be used as a model for other cities across the country. She described the importance of the community partnerships she formed with groups like Detroit Eastern Market (represented on NFSN’s advisory board) and the farmers that distribute there, as well as Michigan State University (NFSN’s Michigan State Lead). Through these partnerships with NFSN Core Partners, she created the Detroit School Garden Collaborative that has taught children to garden, has educated teachers about gardens as learning spaces, and has cultivated youth garden ambassadors. The children planted zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes, which were later used in a “Stoplight Salad.”

Many of the Senators in attendance talked about the benefit of local food systems. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) described how proud Indiana farmers are when they see their products being used in their community’s schools. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) remarked that food hubs allow farmers to reach underserved areas with local produce. Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) described farm to school as a good bridge between our nation’s farmers and our children. 

National Farm to School Network congratulates Betti Wiggins on her impactful testimony and her great work providing nutritious, locally grown produce to Detroit’s 50,000 students.

New pilot program for locally-grown produce accepting applications

NFSN Staff Wednesday, July 23, 2014

By: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition staff

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a request for applications from states interested in participating in the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Kevin Concannon, the USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, announced that under the pilot, up to eight states across five regions will be granted flexibility in using a portion of their USDA Foods entitlement dollars to purchase locally-grown, unprocessed fruits and vegetables for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

The pilot project “offers states an additional opportunity to bolster local farm economies while providing the children who participate in our school meals programs with healthy food from within their own communities,” said Under Secretary Concannon.

USDA’s FNS and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will be working closely together to implement the pilot project and anticipate having deliveries start in the middle of the 2014-2015 School Year.


Applications must be submitted via email using the forms and instructions in the request for applications. Interested State Distributing Agencies (SDAs) must submit an application by September 30, 2014 to be considered for selection for the 2014-2015 school year. The pilot projects are anticipated to be multi-year and may involve additional requests for applications. 

In states selected to participate in the pilot project, school food authorities (SFAs) or SDAs (acting on behalf of participating SFAs), will be permitted to competitively solicit a USDA-approved vendor using USDA NSLP entitlement funds for unprocessed fruits and vegetables. SDAs or SFAs will be able to use their pre-existing commercial distribution channels and relationships with farmers, produce wholesalers and distributors, as well as apply geographic preference in procurement.

State and vendor selection process and pilot project details

The Farm Bill requires that at least one project be located in a state from each of the five regions of the U.S.: Pacific Northwest, Northeast, Western, Midwest, and  Southern. FNS plans to prioritize applications based on: the quantity and variety of growers of local fruits and vegetables in the applicant states on a per capita basis; the demonstrated commitment of the States to farm to school efforts; and whether the states contain a sufficient quantity of SFAs, varying population sizes and geographic locations.

Once pilot project states are selected, AMS will work with those states to identify approved vendors, such as farmers, food hubs, wholesalers, distributors and processors. Vendors must submit documentation certifying compliance with AMS requirements regarding a comprehensive food safety program, 100 percent domestic origin and food defense. AMS will publish an approved vendor list on the AMS website. SFAs or SDAs from pilot project states can then procure unprocessed fruits and vegetables from these vendors, up to the amount of USDA entitlement that the states set aside for the pilot project. SDAs must submit monthly reports to FNS and AMS summarizing delivery and pricing information from all USDA-approved vendors, who are then paid by AMS in accordance with these reports.

USDA technical assistance and contact information for state applicants

FNS plans to conduct conference calls on August 7th and September 10th to answer questions and provide technical assistance with the application process to states that wish to apply. Details from USDA are forthcoming.

For questions regarding the pilot project and application, SDAs should contact:

Carolyn Smalkowski (703-305-2674) or Christina Conell (415-705-1353)

Milton, Vermont serves up farm to school

NFSN Staff Tuesday, July 08, 2014

By Mary Stein
Deputy Director

Delicious grilled chicken slices on a bed of freshly harvested greens. Just picked strawberries bursting with the flavor of summer sunshine. This isn’t how I remember cafeteria lunches as a kid, but it is a wonderful reality for the children participating in Milton Town, Vermont's summer food service program in, who I was lucky to share lunch with last week.  

Milton school food service director Steve Marinelli and his team provide 340 daily summer meals at four different sites in the community.  All of the summer food service sites are linked to activities (sports camp, gardening club, cooking classes and more), which increases participation rates and expands the reach of this delicious bounty.   

Marinelli arrived in Milton a few years back along with a new superintendent, John Barone. With a shared vision centered on the importance of healthy food to foster learning and mental/physical growth, the duo have built a remarkable year-round program that supports children, families and the community.  

The partnership around good food for kids in Milton now extends well beyond Marinelli and Barone. The Milton Community Task Force is a local coalition that has helped secure funding from a variety of sources and bridged an important relationship with the local hospital to further support healthy living in Milton.  A USDA Farm to School grant has allowed the district to bring on a farm to school educator, Brook Gannon, to expand local procurement and experiential learning opportunities for children. 

This concerted effort to connect children to healthy, fresh food is paying off in Milton. Test scores have risen and discipline incidents have declined. Participation rates in school and summer meals are up, with more kids and more teachers and staff enjoying the delicious change. To learn more, visit Milton Town School District Food Services' website.

Kids CAN make healthy food choices: Education is key

NFSN Staff Tuesday, June 17, 2014

By Anupama Joshi, Executive Director of the National Farm to School Network

While politicians in Washington debate implementation of school nutrition standards, the next generation’s leaders are sitting in a school cafeteria, deciding whether or not broccoli salad is “gross.” In both cases, the stakes are high. 

A 2012 study by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicted that obesity rates in the U.S. could exceed 44 percent by 2030, costing our country an additional $66 billion per year in medical expenses. But here’s the good news: After years of focused initiatives to address childhood health and nutrition, including the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, obesity rates among children are on the decline. 

And there’s more good news. In the great eat-it-or-toss-it debate that plays out in lunchrooms across America, schools have a powerful tool. More than 23 million students are now more likely to say yes to broccoli salad – as well as other healthy fruits and veggies, like roasted sweet potatoes, carrot sticks and watermelon salsa – thanks to their school’s participation in farm to school. Farm to school activities enrich the connection kids have with fresh, healthy food and local farmers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools. Kids gain access to healthy, local foods in their cafeteria as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips. 

Research shows that kids eat what they know and toss what they don’t, and there’s no better way to know your food than getting your hands dirty in a garden. Local food tastes better in many cases, too, because it has been picked ripe and delivered fresh. 

Implementing farm to school practices does take time and effort, but new data released this month by the USDA shows that more than 40,000 schools across all 50 states and D.C. are already engaging in farm to school activities thanks to hard-working school nutrition professionals, farmers, parents, teachers and community partners. Most schools start small: a garden patch, samples of local foods or perhaps a visit from a farmer during National Farm to School Month in October. 

Farm to school is a critical tool for school nutrition professionals, who are superheroes navigating a complex, underfunded and demanding system every day. Students who are properly introduced to new foods through farm to school are more likely to participate in their school’s meal plan and less likely to waste food, which results in a better bottom line and healthier kids. 

We don’t expect children to master riding a bike without a little practice and training.  Nor do we expect them to succeed in calculus without first learning algebra. Why, then, are children expected to immediately like new foods without a little instruction or practice? Research says kids need to try new foods anywhere from 7 to 15 times before they acquire a taste for them. Farm to school activities serve as the “training wheels” that introduce children to new food options, setting them up for a lifelong ride of healthy eating.

The new school meal standards are based on sound science and recommendations from the non-partisan Institute of Medicine. They provide a clear roadmap of changes needed to reverse childhood obesity. We shouldn’t be debating if or when the standards should be implemented, we should be working to ensure that all students have access to farm to school activities so their daily decision whether to try or toss a new food ends on the correct side of the trashcan. 

FoodTalks: Stories of motivation and change from FoodCorps service members

NFSN Staff Thursday, June 12, 2014

FoodCorps, a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders that brings farm to school in 15 states around the country, convened in Austin, Texas in April as part of NFSN's National Farm to Cafeteria Conference. At the conference they shared FoodTalks, an evening of stories about farm to school in action. Seven service members and one alum speaker gave short, engrossing talks about what motivates them to serve, and how they know they are succeeding.

When Stephanie finished culinary school, the only career path she imagined was one in restaurants. After a year of FoodCorps service in Arizona with Tohono O'odham Community Action, she realized there were opportunities to do great and rewarding work in the world of school food. She also realized that school cooks are "rock stars. This is her story: 

FoodCorps will be adding more of the talks to their YouTube channel in the coming weeks. Subscribe to stay in the loop!

New USDA census results show 23.5 million kids participating in farm to school

Chelsey Simpson Wednesday, June 11, 2014

This week the USDA released the final results of the Farm to School Census, a first-of-its-kind effort to measure the amount and type of farm to school activity taking place across the country. Initial results were released last year, but the data now includes new or updated information from 1,500 school districts, resulting in an overall school district response rate of 75 percent. The data reflects farm to school activity during the 2011 - 2012 school year.

The new census data is also packaged in an updated website that offers a customized search tool, raw data downloads and infographics, all aimed at helping users find and share detailed information and local statistics. The survey results demonstrate that farm to school is taking root across America, impacting the health of kids and their communities:

  • 23.5 million kids are participating in farm to school activities
  • 40, 328 schools are using farm to school practices
  • $385+ million dollars were spent on local food for schools 

Since our network first took shape in 2007, we have encouraged the expansion of farm to school practices across the country by serving as a resource and information hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and preschools. We advocated for and informed the content of the census, and we applaud the USDA Farm to School Program for their great execution of this important piece of work. We are thrilled that farm to school is quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception and that we have the data to prove it! 

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