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National Farm to School Network

News

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.

Farm to school in rural Louisiana restores local food connections

NFSN Staff Wednesday, May 04, 2016
By Nicole Mabry, Louisiana Farm to School Alliance 
 Rory Gresham leads a tour of the Richland Parish School Board hydroponic growing system.
(Photo credit: Jason Van Haverbeke)

In the transnational push for more sustainable local food systems, rural communities face unique challenges that city-centric conversations can fail to capture. Across Louisiana, rural parishes are finding innovative, collaborative ways to revitalize local food economies that can often feel disinvested from the community. Leading this movement to stimulate local food systems in rural Louisiana are schools.

With support from Seed Change, a National Farm to School Network initiative aimed at expanding farm to school activities at the state and community levels, and the Louisiana Farm to School Alliance, a statewide network of organizations working in food, farming, nutrition and education, schools across the state are bringing fresh, healthy food into cafeterias and increasing food and agricultural literacy in the classroom. 

A look at three different rural Seed Change Louisiana sites offers a glimpse into how dedicated educators, administrators and growers are finding fresh ways to restore connection and inspire growth through school food. 

Richland Parish School Board

Since the beginning of 2016, Richland Parish School Board’s greenhouse program has supplied their Food Service Department with more than 4,200 heads of lettuce to be served in the district’s twelve schools. This is particularly impressive considering the greenhouse is only 20x48 feet – or roughly the size of two adjacent school buses. Serving as a Seed Change Demonstration Site in northeast Louisiana, Richland Parish School Board invested its Seed Change grant funding into building the greenhouse along with the high-efficiency hydroponic growing system it houses. Rory Gresham, greenhouse manager for Richland Parish School Food Service, has noticed a considerable increase in the amount of greens the students are eating. “It’s amazing how many students come up and tell me that they didn’t know lettuce had a taste,” he says. Far beyond the cafeteria, Richland’s hydroponic greenhouse is also having an impact across the region. Gresham regularly hosts visitors from throughout the south who are eager to replicate this innovative system in their own school districts and communities. With a professional internship program in partnership with the local university slated to begin next year, Richland may well have a hand in producing a new crop of Louisiana farmers along with its lettuce and tomatoes. 

Northwest High School, Opelousas
Cody Manuel, agriculture teacher at Northwest High School and Seed Change Louisiana mini-grantee, often views his classes as a hands-on course in communication skills. Inspired by a Seed Change training held at the Richland Parish School Board Demonstration Site, Manuel hopes to expand his existing garden based curriculum and small-scale hydroponic growing system where he says students are learning meaningful career skills such as, “How to accept constructive criticism, how to work together, how to communicate.” Manuel adds that he’s noticed a niche market emerging for high quality, locally grown crops, and students in his classes are also taking note. Manuel hopes Northwest’s farm to school program will support students’ entry into sustainable farming. “Those that enjoy growing things and see there’s money to be made in it, they’ll pursue it. I think it’s going that way, it’s not just a trend.”

LaSalle Parish School Board

Kelly Thompson, Child Nutrition Supervisor at LaSalle Parish Schools and lifelong gardener, has always been attracted to the idea of incorporating gardening into classroom curriculum. “What a great way to teach students leadership, responsibility and to help them develop a sense of place about our community,” she says. After being selected as a Seed Change Louisiana mini-grantee, Thompson was able to turn her vision into reality. Equipped with training and funding, raised bed gardens have been installed at all four of LaSalle Parish’s elementary schools – and the impacts have been noticeable. “Students having so much fun and smiling. Even their behavior has changed, with a new peace and calmness.” The gardens are also gaining interest and support from many in the community. Some of the community’s most knowledgeable local gardeners now volunteer and are helping to keep the gardens thriving. Through these school-community partnerships, LaSalle Parish is restoring the community’s intergenerational knowledge of the land and teaching the parish’s littlest learners how to grow.
(Photo credit: LaSalle Parish School Board)

Funding and support provided by Seed Change has sparked an upwelling of new opportunities for farm to school projects across the region. Katie Mularz, Executive Director for the Louisiana Farm to School Alliance and Seed Change State Coordinator said, “Even modest farm to school funding supports schools to be innovative agents of change—leading the way to healthier, more sustainable systems while addressing community needs and inspiring youth to see a brighter future.”

Learn more about the National Farm to School Network’s Seed Change initiative and how we’re growing farm to school state by state here

Seed Change in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania is made possible by a generous grant from the Walmart Foundation, which shares the National Farm to School Network’s commitment to improving child and community healthy through innovative partnerships

Winter planning for spring chickens

NFSN Staff Thursday, February 04, 2016
By Nora Jungbluth, Programs Intern

 Photo credit: Jason Van Haverbeke
Although the ground is still covered in snow and the spring thaw feels distant, students and staff at Bald Eagle Area School District in Pennsylvania are busy preparing for an exciting (and tasty) new project. As a recipient of a Seed Change mini grant, the school district is ramping up its farm to school efforts with a unique “Chicken and Corn to Cafeteria” initiative. Starting this spring, students will be involved in every step of bringing chicken from eggshell to table. 
 
With support from the grant, the district plans to build its agricultural program, with a twist: raising chickens and growing sweet corn to prepare a large batch of chicken and corn chowder to feed students and the wider community. 

While teachers and staff have been preparing for the project for months – such as attending a farm to school training last fall with other Seed Change grant recipients – student involvement has recently taken off as the project has been integrated into classroom curriculum. Over the past few weeks, students have been preparing for the arrival of 40 fertilized eggs that will be hatched and raised to adulthood on the school grounds this spring. 

When the eggs arrive, kindergarten students will be responsible for watching over the incubators until the eggs hatch. This lesson in caring for the eggs will be integrated into their science curriculum, teaching them the process of hatching eggs and identifying the conditions young chicks need to live and grow. 

Middle and high school students in the woodshop and agriculture classes have been constructing brooder boxes that will keep the newly hatched chicks warm and cozy in their infant stage. The classes are also designing and constructing a hen house for when the chicks grow larger. Later this spring, after the birds have grown to full size, both the agriculture and family and consumer science classes will be directly involved in butchering and processing the chickens for chowder.

While the project initially intended for student to grow their own corn for the chowder, an unusually wet summer prevented them from having a successful growing season. Therefore, corn was purchased from a nearby farmer, which family and consumer science classes processed and froze to be used in the chowder later this spring. Currently, the students are researching chicken corn chowder recipes, testing different methods of preparing soup, as well as learning about ways of processing and storing chicken and corn. 

Once the chicken corn chowder is made, the district plans to sell the soup as a fundraiser to fund the project’s continuation next year. In this way, they hope the project will become a self-sustaining school tradition. 

“Innovative projects like this have a significant impact on entire communities,” says Kelsey Porter, Pennsylvania’s Seed Change state coordinator. “Students are engaging in agriculture in new and exciting ways, teachers are utilizing new tools in the classroom, and communities are renewing their excitement about local food.”   

Learn more about our Seed Change initiative and how we're growing farm to school state by state here

Seed Change in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania is made possible by a generous grant from the Walmart Foundation, which shares the National Farm to School Network’s commitment to improving child and community healthy through innovative partnerships. 

With farm to school trainings, the learning goes both ways

NFSN Staff Friday, October 09, 2015
By Lihlani Skipper, Seed Change Program Associate


On a warm day in late September, teachers, school food service staff, administrators, and parents from across Kentucky gathered outside Boyle County High School for a special day of education. 

The students: Teams from Seed Change grantee schools hoping to jumpstart farm to school activities in their own communities.

The trainers: Ag-science teachers, University of Kentucky extensions agents, school nutrition staff and high schools students eager to share their passion for connecting kids to local food and farms. 

The subject: All things farm to school

With a packed schedule, these trainees spent the day learning about greenhouse hydroponics, high tunnel production and maintenance of raised bed gardens. They also met with the Food Service Director Judy Ellis, who highlighted the garden program and explained how garden produce is incorporated into school meals. In the afternoon, the trainees talked with University of Kentucky Horticultural experts and Cooperative Extension agents, who have been instrumental in helping Boyle County HS develop their program, choose appropriate equipment, and consider important issues of sustainability.

The training at Boyle County HS is just one component of the National Farm to School Network’s new Seed Change initiative in Kentucky, which aims to rapidly scale up farm to school activities across the state by connecting hundreds of farm to school advocates to share best practices, build community engagement and bring more local food into schools. It is one of several school-based initiatives across the country supported by the Walmart Foundation, which has as focus of improving child nutrition through school meal programs and access to nutrition education. 

This peer-learning model is bringing people together – some new to farm to school, some veterans – but all are learning from each other. As Toni Myers, Agricultural Science teacher and FFA advisor explained, “These trainings are a two-way street. In fact, I’ll be changing some of our own practices in the greenhouse and gardens because of ideas shared by the trainees!” 

Kara Shelton, a senior at Boyle County HS, is one of Toni’s “Garden Girls,” a group of FFA students that led a tour of the raised bed gardens and greenhouse hydroponic system at the Seed Change training. Not only are these students practicing their public speaking skills, building confidence and strengthening their job skills, but they’re also sharing their passions for working in the school garden and inspiring visiting teachers and school staff. 

“Before I worked in the garden, my idea of community service was limited. But now, I see that there are more ways to help in my community than I thought,” said Kara. “Last summer, I had the opportunity to deliver fresh produce we had grown in the school gardens to a weekend backpack program, which helps provide food for young students and families in need. This made working in our gardens a more personal experience for me. Before I was introduced to the families, all I could see when I went to the garden was twelve 8’x4’ raised beds, but now I’m able to connect the gardens to a person, and see the effect it had on other people. Seeing a little girl run up to me and hug my leg and say ‘Thank you so much for all my food!’ definitely added more fuel to my fire. It made me want to see the gardens grow. I wanted to produce as much as I could to feed this little girl and her family.” 

The schools that are part of Seed Change are empowering students to be better eaters, to be farmers, teachers, and leaders in their communities. These same students are, in turn, inspiring other schools and communities to build their own farm to school programs. 

The training at Boyle County School District was the first of 15 Seed Change trainings that will take place at six demonstration sites across Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Louisiana this fall and early winter. Seed Change grantees will use these trainings to help implement their projects and catalyze school gardens, take farm field trips, host local food tastings, and integrate experiential nutrition and agriculture education into school curriculum. 


Seed Change in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania is made possible by a generous grant from the Walmart Foundation, which shares the National Farm to School Network’s commitment to improving child and community healthy through innovative partnerships. Learn more about Seed Change here

More than one good day: seeding change with farm to school

NFSN Staff Tuesday, September 08, 2015

By Sara Tedeschi, Seed Change Program Manager

Seed Change Program Manager Sara Tedeschi and Program Associate Lihlani Skipper recently visited Seed Change demonstration sites in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Louisiana. 

Some days at work are just better than others, no question.

The day we hit “send” to award $.5 million in mini grants directly to schools to build and expand farm to school activities was a really good day at work.

This fall, 100 schools in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania will each receive $5,000 Seed Change mini grants to fund a wide variety of farm to school activities, including building new school gardens, leading farm field trips and hosting community dinners featuring farm fresh food and local farmers. Direct funding at this level is a first for the National Farm to School Network, and as the mini grant projects take off with the start of the new school year, we’re taking a moment to recognize the impact this new initiative will have.  

Indeed, Seed Change is a new and exciting initiative for the National Farm to School Network. It is the first time we have received a grant (in this case, a generous donation by the Walmart Foundation) and re-granted funds directly at the local level to stimulate state-wide networking and jumpstart school and community participation in farm to school. Sharing in our excitement for this new initiative are our Seed Change state coordinator and partners: Kentucky Department of Agriculture (Ky.), Marketumbrella.org (La.), and The Food Trust (Pa.).  In addition to conducting outreach and training activities, these partners led the state committees that reviewed 185 grant applications in order to select the 100 mini grantees.

You might be wondering about the 85 applicants who, instead of receiving good news on this day, learned that we were unable to fund their proposals. Was our really good day hampered by the blow of also hitting send on these less-than-exciting emails? It was not, and here’s why: the large number of applications we received is great validation for the future of Seed Change and the farm to school movement. These applicants have shown us that schools are excited and ready to start connecting children to local food, and that’s good news as we continue to build partnerships and expand models for seeding change at the local level.

In addition to awarding mini grants, the Seed Change model in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania incorporates six “demonstration site” school districts, two in each state. Selected for their experience in farm to school leadership, these sites will serve as training hubs for the mini grantees, offering half-day farm to school tours and trainings this fall semester. In addition to modeling successful farm to school programs, these trainings will offer resources and provide opportunities for mini grantees to meet and learn from their colleagues across the state.

Having recently visited all six demonstration sites, I can heartily report that these school districts and their staff are beyond inspirational. Each site is distinctly unique in its farm to school programming and innovations, facilities, and the champions who help make these programs grow. But there is one consistent thread: everyone expressed a sense of commitment to and excitement about their role in helping farm to school thrive. In other words, these folks were having good days, too! Their contagious passion for farm to school and their “can do” entrepreneurial spirits will surely inspire the mini grantees soon to arrive on their campuses.

So, as you can see, our really good day at work did not end when we hit “send” on the mini grant award email. In fact, that was only the beginning of Seed Change, with the most exciting parts yet to unfold. Stay tuned for more good days to come.

Growing farm to school in Mississippi

NFSN Staff Wednesday, August 19, 2015
By Sunny Young, Mississippi Farm to School Network and NFSN Mississippi State Co-Lead 


In April of 2014, Dorothy Grady-Scarborough and I met at the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Austin, Texas, to talk about a Mississippi Farm to School Network. Between her work with Mississippians Engaged in Greener Agriculture (MEGA) and relationships with farmers across the state, and my school food reform experience and work with Good Food for Oxford Schools, we felt a partnership would lead to bigger and better things than working alone. 

I'm proud to say that one year later, our partnership is thriving. We are working together as co-State Leads for the National Farm to School Network and, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, are making our state farm to school network dreams a reality through Seed Change, an initiative by the National Farm to School Network to rapidly scale up farm to school at the state level and strengthen partnerships for long-term sustainability. 

The intent of the Mississippi Farm to School Network is to build on all of the wonderful farm to school initiatives that have existed for years in Mississippi while increasing statewide efforts to connect practitioners and train new leaders. It's to learn from all the experience of programs and individuals around the state and strengthen partnerships to move forward together. It's to utilize our strengths to set new farm to school activities in motion and, with the support of our state and national farm to school networks, and evaluate our work so it is stronger each year. 

So what will the Mississippi Farm to School Network mean for Mississippi schools and farmers? We have outlined a number of goals and priorities for the upcoming three years of funding, including:
Developing the Network: The network will promote farm to school activities as well as bring together a diverse audience of individual stakeholders and organizations from across the state. Within three years, the state network hopes to engage more than 500 active members and an Advisory Board to help guide the future of farm to school in Mississippi.   

Request an Expert: A database of experts in farm to school related fields will be developed to provide dedicated support to schools facing questions or barriers. These experts will be deployed to assist schools in starting new activities or expanding existing programs. 

Outreach and Networking Events: From local mixers and cafeteria taste tests to the statewide Mississippi Farm to Cafeteria Conference, the Mississippi Farm to School Network will build awareness of and support for farm to school activities with parents, farmers, administrators and students across the state. Trainings and technical assistance will be provided to practitioners on the ground to help expand the number of farm to school sites in Mississippi. 

Website and Resources: A new Mississippi farm to school website will serve as an online portal for information and resources on farm to school in Mississippi. This will include new how-to guides, a statewide farm to school mapping project, promotional materials for students, event information and opportunities for schools to engage students and the community with local food. 

Be sure to sign up for our monthly Mississippi Farm to School Network e-newsletter to stay in the loop with all these new projects. 

Dorothy and I are incredibly grateful for this opportunity to help expand the practice of farm to school throughout the state. We are thrilled to work with partners who have been practicing farm to school since before it had a name. These existing and past projects are our inspiration for what can be, and we look forward to working together to grow. So cheers to farm to school! We look forward to growing together.

Seed Change on its way in three states

NFSN Staff Thursday, March 12, 2015


By Anupama Joshi, Executive Director

Today marks the launch of Seed Change, the National Farm to School Network’s major new initiative to change the dynamics of farm to school at the state level in support of growing healthier kids and better economic opportunities for small farmers. 

Every state has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities when it comes to improving community health, tackling childhood obesity and supporting farmers and local food systems, including funding and people power. With a $1.5 million grant from the Walmart Foundation, we are able to kick off Seed Change in three states that are poised for significant growth in farm to school programming. 

Seed Change by the numbers:

  • 1.8 million students in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania engaged
  • 100 mini grants to emerging farm to school sites for local food purchasing, school garden activities, nutrition education, retrofitted kitchens, food service staff training and more 
  • Six farm to school demonstration districts and training hubs established
  • Goal of 10 percent growth in farm to school sites, student participation and number of school gardens in each state in 18 months

Leveraging the power of existing partnerships and networks in each state, Seed Change will provide the direct investment and proactive outreach needed to significantly increase the number of schools, children and farmers participating in farm to school activities and the dollars spent on locally sourced food. 

The project will be coordinated locally by NFSN partners the Kentucky State Department of Agriculture, Market Umbrella in Louisiana and The Food Trust in Pennsylvania, who will lead statewide outreach efforts, trainings and technical assistance to create a vibrant and active farm to school network in each state for long term program sustainability.

Learn more about Seed Change here, and sign up for our e-newsletter to stay updated about applying for mini-grants this spring. 

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