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National Farm to School Network


Prioritizing Racial and Social Equity: Our Journey

NFSN Staff Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Advancing racial and social equity is a key priority for the National Farm to School Network, articulated in our 2017-2019 Strategic Plan and Theory of Change. Since 2014, we have taken several steps to prioritize equity in our programming, internal operations and organizational structure, and have elevated it as a strategic priority in 2017, to guide all our activities. Our overarching goals with advancing equity are to: 

  • Frame and promote racial and social equity as a central tenet of farm to school
  • Offer training opportunities for NFSN Core and Supporting Partners, Advisors and staff on advancing racial and social equity in our work 
  • Articulate clear organizational goals and outcomes for advancing racial and social equity and track progress towards these
  • Elevate diverse leaders as NFSN Core and Supporting Partners, Advisors and staff; engage more and diverse constituencies and communities in the farm to school movement
  • Explore and leverage opportunities for policy advocacy, programming and partnerships around a diverse set of barriers to participation in farm to school including but not limited to race, age, gender, socio-economic status and disability
  • Leverage NFSN’s information channels and resource creation to promote equitable access to farm to school (e.g., blogs, webinars, translation of materials, photographs used)
Concerted efforts to focus our programming on diverse stakeholders have facilitated a deeper understanding of the need to centralize racial and social equity in farm to school efforts. Our journey has been led internally with staff volunteering to guide conversations and incorporating aspects into programmatic activities. More recently, the staff Leadership Team has transitioned to review the goals in our strategic plan and articulate specific activities to benchmark progress. 

  • Since 2014, we have convened two cohorts of leaders from Native communities, providing training and networking opportunities, facilitated conversations with USDA for easing barriers to incorporating traditional foods in school meal and child nutrition programs and included support for farm to school in Native communities in our federal policy asks. 
  • Our Equity in Farm to Early Care and Education Subgroup is exploring the complexities of equity in early care and elevating examples of farm to school from diverse communities of color.
  • Our biennial National Farm to Cafeteria Conference has provided a space to discuss racial and social equity with stakeholders across the movement. Recent conferences included dedicated skill building sessions on dismantling racism and featured speakers to elevate equity as a central priority for farm to cafeteria efforts. 
  • Focusing internally, NFSN staff participated in the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge hosted by Food Solutions New England in 2016 and 2017, and engage in ongoing discussions and learning on this topic. 
  • We are striving to make our staff and Advisory Board more diverse and representative of our network and the farm to school movement. 
  • In early 2017, we made a strategic shift in our structure to focus resources and efforts at the state level and expand support to the U.S. Territories, now partnering with more than 200 diverse organizations, state agencies and universities as Core and Supporting Partners
  • At the first meeting of these partners in May 2017, we discussed racial equity within farm to school to ground ourselves in a common understanding. Participants engaged with our own personal experiences, biases and understandings – it resonated with some, it raised questions for others – and we recognized that this was only the beginning of a long path of discovery, reflection and action. 
As we implement our 2017-2019 Strategic Plan, our strategies, services, and communications will start reflecting changes to accomplish the goals outlined above. We invited you to join us in this work of prioritizing racial and social equity in the farm to school movement. We will continue to share the process of our journey in this work here on our blog and in our monthly newsletters. We’d also like to hear from you: share with us your stories of challenges and successes in making farm to school more equitable by sending us a note here

Learn more about our commitment to advancing racial and social equity in farm to school, as well as find resources to support your efforts, here