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Native F2S Champions: Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs K-8 Academy

NFSN Staff Friday, December 06, 2019
By Katherine Minthorn, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Northwest Region

Photo Credit: Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Oregon K-8 Academy
This blog is part of a series of profiles of Native Farm to School Champions, organized and collated by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, and we are excited to collaborate with IAC on this storytelling project to celebrate farm to school activities happening across Indian Country. These Champion profiles were written and submitted by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and these programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting. Learn more about the IAC at www.indianag.org.

Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs K-8 Academy opened its doors to an estimated 675 students at the beginning of the 2014 school year.  The project budget for the school was $21,472,600; the Tribes and Bureau of Indian Affairs provided 50% of the budget with the Tribes' $4.6 million, and a $6.8 million loan from USDA Rural Development was also used.  Jefferson County School District 509-J provided $10.7 million through a memorandum of agreement and an Inter-agency Education Agreement between Jefferson County School District 509-J and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Mission Statement of the Warm Springs K-8 Academy:
  • We believe our students should feel a sense of pride in themselves, their community and school
  • We believe that the whole child is important
  • We believe that all children should be loved
  • We believe that pride, compassion, culture and diversity build community
  • We believe that learning is lifelong and should be nurtured
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs applied to National Farm to School Network’s Seed Change in Native Communities project.  In 2017, they were awarded a mini grant, which was used to implement farm to school activities in their community and leverage community wide initiatives towards building food security and food sovereignty. As well as, revitalizing the use of traditional foods.  The program has helped students make connections as to where food comes from and how it is part of their cultural heritage by building a greenhouse, planting a school garden, and promoting a healthy snacks program. The garden has also been used for science and nutrition education.  The Academy hosted an end of school year Pow wow which, was attended by over 1,000 students and family members and served a traditional dinner of salmon, fresh foods, and root vegetables.
Learn more about Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs K-8 Academy here: https://warmsprings-nsn.gov/program/k-8-academy/

Native F2S Champions: Hardin School District

NFSN Staff Monday, November 25, 2019
By Kole Fitzpatrick, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Rocky Mountain Region


Photo credit: Hardin School District 
This blog is part of a series of profiles of Native Farm to School Champions, organized and collated by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, and we are excited to collaborate with IAC on this storytelling project to celebrate farm to school activities happening across Indian Country. These Champion profiles were written and submitted by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and these programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting. Learn more about the IAC at www.indianag.org.

Hardin School District has had an enhanced focus on farm to school, specifically through community partnerships, increased access to healthy school meals, and expanded nutrition education. These farm to school initiatives have taken root through the funding and cooperation of our School Nutrition Department, under which the farm to school program functions. Our main focus has been connecting classroom, cafeteria, and community by growing relationships between students and the community to the land and food. 

One of the most exciting ways of furthering this connection is the native orchard planted by students at Crow Agency Public School. At the end of the 2018 school year, students K-5 planted chokecherries, service berries, plums, currants, and elderberries, which was possible through a grant as part of National Farm to School Network’s Seed Change in Native Communities. Our goal in this native orchard project is to empower students in learning about traditional foods, preparation, storage, and ceremony. These plants will serve as a gathering place for classes, a community resource, and most importantly, a native food source for students K-5 to harvest, cook, and learn. 

The variety of traditional berries and plums helps bring students together with elders and community leaders who can pass down and celebrate Crow traditions surrounding these foods. While waiting anxiously on the plants to establish and begin producing, students will continue hands-on cooking, gardening and nutrition lessons in their class. During this time, the farm to school coordinator will work with teachers from each grade level to create an orchard curriculum cookbook. Through this cookbook, teachers will be supported in incorporating the orchard into their classrooms, with lesson plans, community speakers, and recipes for each traditional plant. Each grade will be in charge of a different variety in the orchard, learning all about that variety, while looking forward to a new fruit each school year. For example, the fifth grade classes are in charge of the chokecherries, which community elders will be invited into the classroom to teach students how to make chokecherry jam. Fifth grade students will then harness their entrepreneurship skills by creating a label for the jam to be sold by students at the local farmers market throughout the year. 

Nationwide, farm to school has been an integral part of supporting localization and promoting healthier food access. Although that may look different in each region, school, and community, our farm to school program has grown each year through community partnerships and hands-on educational opportunities to incorporate traditional foods. In our schools, our District Wellness Policy ensures that students k-12 are gaining a much more rounded approach to nutrition by incorporating nutrition education from gym class and extracurriculars to the cafeteria. 

In the last four years, Hardin School Nutrition has also employed a FoodCorps member, who serves to create a positive school-wide culture of health, rooted in hands-on learning and healthy school meals. In this time, we have increased nutrition and garden education from 3 monthly classes to, on average, 30 bi-weekly lessons. Cooking, gardening, and tasting in the class allows students to grow their relationship with their food and the land it comes from. Expanding into the community, students throughout the district have had the opportunity to meet their farmer, take farm field trips, and harvest from the garden. Through this experiential learning, we hope to empower students in their food choices and commitment to community. 


Learn more about Hardin School District here: http://www.hardin.k12.mt.us/

Native F2S Champions: Indian Township School

NFSN Staff Monday, November 18, 2019
By Lea Zeise, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Eastern Region


Photo Credit: Indian Township School
This blog is part of a series of profiles of Native Farm to School Champions, organized and collated by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, and we are excited to collaborate with IAC on this storytelling project to celebrate farm to school activities happening across Indian Country. These Champion profiles were written and submitted by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and these programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting. Learn more about the IAC at www.indianag.org.

Indian Township School sits along the shores of Long Lake in Northern Maine in the small, tight-knit community of the Passamaquoddy Indian Township Reservation. The school enrollment fluctuates depending on the hunting and fishing seasons, between 125 and 145 students in Pre-K to 8th grade. Their farm to school program started three years ago when the School Librarian, Donna Meader-York, approached the Special Education Teacher in Junior High, Brian Giles, to revive the defunct greenhouse on the school grounds and expand the small garden. Teaming up together, Donna and Brian flexed their resourcefulness muscle and reached out to several organizations, including the National Farm to School Network (NFSN). 

Brian attended the very next NFSN Conference where he was especially inspired by a presentation from Intertribal Agriculture Council’s Youth Programs Coordinator, Kelsey Ducheneaux. Brian saw clearly the connection between the issues faced in Native American communities, including Indian Township, and the opportunity to address those issues by empowering the youth to grow and cook their traditional foods. “I realized we’re all fighting the same fight and I felt even more invigorated to help overcome those difficulties,” said Brian, and his commitment soon paid off. Indian Township School received the Seed Change in Native Communities mini-grant and got to work bringing the greenhouse back into working order and building raised beds to increase the garden. They also started Passamaquoddy O.G.’s (Original Gardeners) club to bring a cool factor to the youth participating.

Today the Indian Township School features a functional greenhouse, raised-bed garden, a wild rice pond, and a fruit and nut orchard planted by the students through partnership with ReTreeUS. The school has partnered with the food pantry, offering space in the greenhouse to start seedlings that grow to provide food for dozens of families throughout the harvest season. Students in the afterschool program help to plant the seedlings in the spring and return in the fall to gather and prepare the harvest in cooking classes. They also embark on foraging field trips for chokecherries and return to the school to preserve them into traditional dried leather. In their time spent together, the staff help youth focus on the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health.

When the school opens the doors for community feasts, produce from the garden is served alongside harvested berries, moose and venison for all to enjoy. Families file past the signage in the cafeteria featuring Passamaquoddy and English to share a traditional meal together. These community feasts are just one aspect of their success though – Brian and Donna also created a more secure and culturally-relevant food system, set an example of partnership to achieve their goals, and most importantly, empowered the next generation.

Learn more about Indian Township School here: http://www.indiantownshipschool.org/

Reflections from the Road: Conference on Native American Nutrition

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 09, 2019
By Mackenize Martinez, Partnership Communications Intern

As the Intertribal Agriculture Council Partnership Communications Intern working with National Farm to School Network, I recently had the opportunity to attend and present at the Fourth Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition in Mystic Lake, Minnesota. This is the only conference series in the world devoted to the food and nutrition of Indigenous Peoples. It brings together tribal officials, researchers, practitioners, funders and others to discuss the current state of Indigenous and academic scientific knowledge about Native nutrition, dietary health, and food science, and identify new areas of work. My role in helping co-lead a break out session titled “Farm to School as a Strategy for Advancing Food Sovereignty in Native Communities” with Alena Paisano, NFSN Program Manager,  was certainly a profound learning and networking experience. 

Our session focused on the ways that farm to school can be used as a strategy to decolonize our food system and take back our food sovereignty in Native communities. A key portion of our presentation also shared about the partnership between the National Farm to School Network and the Intertribal Agriculture Council that is helping to advance this work. In addition, NFSN’s recent Seed Change in Native Communities project was also discussed and these successes - which ranged all across Indian Country - were highlighted for audiences to view. In particular, we engaged with audience members from the Mala`ai Kula: Kaua`i Farm-to-School Pilot who participated in Seed Change to support an existing three-year pilot project to create a culturally relevant farm to school program at two Kaua`i schools. On Kaua`i, where 90 percent of food is imported, Mala`ai Kula helped students build a healthier relationship with traditional food systems through school gardens and locally-grown foods in school meals. I enjoyed seeing everyone come together in this space and share their farm to school experiences and knowledge.


Culturally relevant meals served at Kaua`i schools as part of the Mala`ai Kula: Kaua`i Farm-to-School Pilot. 
As a representative on the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance, the national executive board for the Intertribal Agriculture Youth Network, I was very much able to take a first-hand look into the concept of farm to school as a strategy for advancing food sovereignty in Native communities. In order to see how this national partnership is contributing to success in Native communities, it was imperative for me to establish a personal connection and to pinpoint how my passions align in this particular space. Naturally, as I presented to the breakout session, I expressed that my personal connection with farm to school stems from involvement in Intertribal Agriculture Council youth programming. These particular programs are so vital to Native youth because of the emphasis that is placed on developing qualities of leadership, building knowledge of traditional agricultural practices, and being equipped with the skills to take initiative for change back to our communities. While I attended the gathering to help educate others on this, I unequivocally gained a better understanding of how interconnected the roles of National Farm to School Network and Intertribal Agriculture Council are in serving youth through the many forms that farm to school takes. While I have been exposed to the idea of food sovereignty for a few years now, attending this conference gave me a refreshed look into the current efforts of this movement and how essential it is that traditional foods are implemented in school systems serving Native populations. The breakout session that Alena and I led was an effective way to get that particular conversation started.

In addition to helping facilitate our farm to school presentation, I experienced this conference as a first-time attendee. I am still in awe of the energy that this diverse group of individuals carried as we sat in general sessions. Some of my favorite moments from this conference included the keynote speech from Peggy Flanagan, Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. Hearing from one of the highest-ranking Native American women in history was certainly empowering and hopeful. Lieutenant Governor Flanagan spoke of firsthand childhood experiences that included being a recipient of commodity foods and understanding the reality that individuals in these types of nutrition assistance programs face. Knowing that Native communities have her support in moving forward in the reach for food sovereignty is certainly exciting and opens an even wider expanse of opportunities for youth in farm to school.

In addition, through the keynote presentation of Sean Sherman, founder of The Sioux Chef, I learned a lot about the dynamics of Indigenous food systems and actions being taken to revitalize traditional diets on a larger scale. Farm to school is an approach that can help make this type of food revitalization more accessible to Native children because of the direct role that it plays in a child’s wellbeing and everyday life. Schools are institutions that serve as the foundation of a child’s knowledge, and that knowledge shouldn’t stop in the classroom. It should be carried into the cafeteria, as well. Mr. Sherman’s keynote presentation reminded us that in order to take back our food systems and revitalize those traditional diets, we first need to understand them. Farm to school is a way to bridge that gap between the classroom to the cafeteria and help establish traditional knowledge of food and nutrition at earlier ages. In addition, as a tribal member not currently residing on ancestral land, I enjoyed the discussions on access to traditional foods as an urban Native.

As an intern and someone pursuing post-secondary education in the agricultural science field, this conference was a definite experience of growth in knowledge, character, and leadership. I am looking forward to using this event as a milestone to look back on as my time working between the National Farm to School Network and Intertribal Agriculture Council Partnership continues. 

Magic is Growing in Maine

NFSN Staff Thursday, September 21, 2017


By Molly Schintler, Communications Intern 

Less than ten miles from the US-Canada boarder in far eastern Maine, sits the Indian Township school garden and greenhouse. Against the odds of the region’s short growing season, coupled with torrential rains this past spring, and followed by a drought in late summer, magic is growing. Donna Meader-York, the school’s librarian and farm to school champion, shared that this year’s squash harvest from their Three Sisters Garden has been a point of pride for all involved. Additionally, Donna was excited to tell us that the bountiful squash harvest has had an unexpected but positive impact. “Weeds and insects are down with tons of bees. Tons of bees buzzing around the squash blossoms!”

The Three Sisters are the three main agricultural crops - winter squash, maize (corn), and runner beans - of several Native American groups in North America. Traditionally, the Three Sisters are planted together as companion crops. As the plants grow, they support and benefit from each other. The maize grows tall which gives the beans a structure to climb, and the squash vines out along the ground which blocks weeds and holds moisture in the soil. All the while, the beans add nitrogen into the soil, which the corn and squash use to grow. Delicious cooperation! 

During the summer months, the produce from the Three Sisters Garden at Indian Township was donated to a local food pantry. Now that school is in session, each school garden harvest heads to the school kitchen. Donna told us that the spring rains delayed their corn and bean plantings, and that there is not much of a harvest from those crops this season. “There is a lot we learned with this garden, and we hope to get it right next growing season. Meanwhile, this winter, we are going to try to grow lettuce and spinach for our school salad bar in our newly repaired greenhouse!” The National Farm to School Network sees that the health of the soil, students, and entire community is growing in Indian Township, and we think that is pretty magical. 


Indian Township School is the recipient of a National Farm to School Network Seed Change in Native Communities with Farm to School mini-grant. Seed Change in Native Communities is made possible with generous support from the Aetna Foundation, a national foundation based in Hartford, Conn. that supports projects to promote wellness, health and access to high-quality health care for everyone.


Seed Change is Sprouting in Native Communities

NFSN Staff Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Launched in April 2017, the National Farm to School Network's Seed Change in Native Communities with Farm to School project aims to expand farm to school activities in Native communities and leverage community-wide initiatives towards building food security and food sovereignty and revitalizing use of traditional foods. Five Native schools have been awarded Seed Change mini-grants to expand and promote farm to school in their communities in 2017. Here are brief updates about what the school have been working on:

Hardin School District 17H&1 – Crow Reservation: Crow Nation (Montana): From bringing local food into the cafeteria with a Harvest of the Month program, to a farmer visiting classrooms to teach students about local grains, farm to school is taking root in the Hardin School District. Work is being done to prep an unused school field for transformation into an orchard and outdoor learning space with native shrubs, berries bushes, and fruit trees. Students are sure to be harvesting farm to school goodness for years to come! 

Hydaburg City School – Hydaburg, Prince of Wales Island: Haida Nation (Alaska): The school's new garden and greenhouse have been running for less than a year, and already student-grown raspberries and sugar snap peas are being incorporated into the school's lunch program. YUM!

Indian Township School – Indian Township Reservation: Passamaquoddy Tribe (Maine): This farm to school team is led by the school's librarian and after school coordinator. Following an ample harvest of squash from their new three sister's garden this summer, they're already looking forward to planning next season's garden. 

Mala`ai Kula: Kaua`i Farm-to-School Pilot – Kaua`i Island: Native Hawaiians (Hawaii): This farm to school pilot program on the island of Kaua'i aims to connect students to culturally relevant foods, such as taro and sweet potatoes, while also encouraging farmers to grow more of these foods to better align with a native diet. Read more about Mala`ai Kula's commitment to serve culturally relevant foods here

Warm Springs K8 Academy – Warm Springs Reservation: Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Oregon): Warm Springs K8 Academy is creating a community-wide culture of wellness by engage students and their families in farm to school activities. In June, the school year's final family night, attended by over 1,000 students and family members, was a Powwow and dinner that served traditional and fresh foods including salmon and root vegetables. 

Seed Change in Native Communities with Farm to School is made possible with generous support from the Aetna Foundation, a national foundation based in Hartford, Conn. that supports projects to promote wellness, health and access to high-quality health care for everyone.

Serving Up Tradition!

NFSN Staff Thursday, August 31, 2017
By Molly Schintler, Communications Intern

Since farm to school celebrates local food, farmers, communities and traditions, it looks different in every community.  So an important question for our work is, “what do culturally relevant and traditional foods look like in our schools?” Food service directors, garden educators and school administration should ask, ‘Is this food culturally relevant to my students?’ in the same way that they ask, ‘Is this food grown locally?’. The following are two stories of farm to school champions that recognize the importance of structuring farm to school activities to reflect their communities’ food cultures. 

In the capitol of Iowa’s heartland, Executive Chef Chad Taylor has been working in the Des Moines Public Schools for over 20 years. The DMPS district serves 63 locations and an average of 34,000 students daily. While the district has worked with farm to school initiatives through state funded nutrition education programs, FoodCorps, and a USDA Farm to School grant, it was not until several years ago that the district started considering the intersection of culturally relevant foods with farm to school. 

A principal from one of the district’s middle schools approached Chad with a unique challenge involving a group of immigrant students.  These middle school students were going home at lunch to eat and not returning to school because they were uncomfortable with the foods being offered through school lunch, and too embarrassed to bring their traditional foods from home. Chad met with these students and their families and asked what they would like to see offered on the school lunch menu. He did not want the changes to be a one time hit and miss, so DMPS committed to offering noodles and/or rice everyday at this middle school per the students’ request. In the end, it was a win for all students. Chad noted that, “the Midwest native students wanted to try the new foods, too.” 

Today, DMPS Food Service works to provide flavor stations in many of their schools, giving students access to a variety of culturally-relevant herbs, sauces and other flavor enhancers such as locally grown jalapenos. Chad was quick to point out that not every flavor station looks the same because every school has students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Since the 1970’s, the district has included a number of immigrant and refugee populations from Latin America, Asia and Africa. Even within a single school district farm to school is not one size fits all.

About 4,000 miles from Des Moines, a farm to school pilot on the island of Kauai in Hawaii is taking off under the direction of Megan Fox, Executive Director for the nonprofit organization Mala’ai Kula. There are approximately 350 students in the four charter schools that Mala’ai Kula serves. Most of the students are native Hawaiian and have chosen to attend these schools because of programs such as Hawaiian Language immersion, which allows students to learn in their native language before learning in English. The emphasis on the importance of native traditions extends into these schools’ food service and education thanks, in part, to the support from Mala’ai Kula, a recipient of a National Farm to School Network Seed Change in Native Communities* mini-grant. 

Since Hawaii was colonized, the western diet has brought non-traditional foods such as nitrite-filled meats and ultra-processed snacks to the island. Today, Hawaiians have high rates of diet-related diseases such as chronic high blood pressure and diabetes.  This is one of the many reasons that Mala’ai Kula’s farm to school pilot work is so important. Megan described farm to school as a tool for “giving local farmers an outlet for native foods.”  She added that farm to school helps in the effort toward “creating a traditional food way and bringing back a more native diet.”

With funding support from Seed Change, several of the schools’ food service staff attended an Edible Schoolyard training in Berkley, California this summer. This training served as an invaluable tool that inspired one school chef to reconnect with the importance of Hawaii’s native foods, also known as canoe foods. Kalo (taro), ‘Ulu (breadfruit), and ‘Uala (sweet potatoes) are all canoe foods that are now growing in school gardens, being served up on school lunch and breakfast trays, and serving as teaching resources to connect students to their ancestry. 

From a large school district in the Midwest to small, native charter schools in Kauai, a focus on culturally relevant foods can look vastly different depending on the school community.  Many farm to school slogans highlight the power of farm to school’s ability to ‘serve up change.’ The Des Moines Public Schools and Mala’ai Kula remind us that using farm to school to ‘serve up tradition’ can be just as powerful. 


*Seed Change in Native Communities with Farm to School is made possible with generous support from the Aetna Foundation, a national foundation based in Hartford, Conn. that supports projects to promote wellness, health and access to high-quality health care for everyone.

Five Mini-Grants Awarded in Native Communities

NFSN Staff Monday, April 17, 2017

The National Farm to School Network’s new Seed Change in Native Communities with Farm to School project is taking off this month with the selection of five Native schools as mini-grantees. From planting native orchards to serving traditional foods in school meals, the schools will be expanding farm to school activities and leveraging community support to build food security and food sovereignty. Here’s a preview of the projects they’ll be working on:
 
Hardin School District 17H&1Crow Reservation: Crow Nation (Montana)
Partner with local entities and individuals to empower students in learning about traditional foods, preparation, storage and ceremony. Create a native orchard, featuring a variety of native berries, including buffalo berries, june berries and chokecherries.
 
Hydaburg City SchoolHydaburg, Prince of Wales Island: Haida Nation (Alaska)
Connect students with locally grown and traditional foods (such as rutabagas, parsnips and the Haida potato) by expanding the existing school garden to include a greenhouse. In May, students will celebrate Haida Day by giving Elders a tour of the new greenhouse and learning about the village’s old garden site.
 
Indian Township SchoolIndian Township Reservation: Passamaquoddy Tribe (Maine)
Engage students in traditional growing practices by reviving an existing greenhouse and school garden. Students will catch fish to be used as garden fertilizer, and will learn planting techniques like the Three Sisters. Food grown in the garden will supplement the school lunch program, summer food service and elderly food site.
 
Mala`ai Kula: Kaua`i Farm-to-School PilotKaua`i Island: Native Hawaiians (Hawaii)
Support an existing three-year pilot project to create a culturally relevant farm to school program at two Kaua`i schools. On Kaua`i, where 90 percent of food is imported, Mala`ai Kula is helping students build a healthier relationship with traditional food systems through school gardens and locally-grown foods in school meals.
 
Warm Springs K8 Academy Warm Springs Reservation: Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Oregon)
Help students make connections about where food comes from and how it relates to their cultural heritage by planting a school garden and promoting a healthy snacks program. The garden will also be used for science and nutrition education.

Stay tuned to hear more from these schools in the coming months. We'll be sharing their stories and successes in our e-newsletter, social media and here on our blog!
 
 
Seed Change in Native Communities with Farm to School is made possible with generous support from the Aetna Foundation, a national foundation based in Hartford, Conn. that supports projects to promote wellness, health and access to high-quality health care for everyone.

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