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Farm to School Month Roundup: 31 Days of Action for Farm to School

NFSN Staff Wednesday, November 01, 2017
 Photo Credit: DC Greens
For the past 31 days, millions of schools, farmers and communities across the country have been celebrating the movement that’s connecting kids to fresh, healthy food and supporting local economies. From Florida to Alaska and everywhere in between, people are recognizing the power of farm to school to benefits kids, farmers and communities. That’s what National Farm to School Month is all about! 

This year’s campaign celebrated the small actions that people take every day to get involved and support farm to school and farm to early care and education in their communities. Through our Farm to School Month “Take Action Pledge,” we heard from hundreds of people across the country about the action steps they took in October:

  • Invited parents to join students for a lunch of fresh collard greens and South Carolina grown sweet potatoes – South Carolina
  • Worked to build an active Farm to School Committee that helps connect community entities and passionate people – Michigan
  • Continued to teach my daycare center children about the importance of growing vegetables by turning a recycled crib into a raised garden bed – New York
  • Incorporated produce from our own school greenhouse into school lunch menu and salad bar – Maine
  • Hosted a Fall Harvest Party in the school garden, featuring tasty treats using produce from the garden, reading from a garden-themed book together, and farmers who shared their stories with students – Iowa
At the National Farm to School Network, we’ve been leading Farm to School Month celebrations by sharing farm to school inspiration and stories from partners organizations including Alliance for a Healthier Generation, National CACFP Sponsors Association, The NEA Foundation, School Nutrition Association, USDA Office of Community Food Systems and Youth Empowered Solutions. Thanks to special support from CoBank, we also shared several stories about how small farmers across the country are experiencing the benefits of farm to school, such as new market opportunities, expanded profit margins, and consistent buyers for their products

On social media, we celebrated with a #FarmtoSchool101 tweet chat to spread awareness and generated new support for the movement. More than 289 people joined the conversation on social media, sharing stories about the positive impact farm to school has in their communities. On Instagram, we hosted #TakeoverTuesdays with Strike Farms, Loudoun County School Nutrition, and FoodCorps to share what farm to school looks like for the folks who do it every day! 


Millions of students celebrated Farm to School Month by crunch into fresh, local food with events like the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch, Hawai’i CHOMP, Florida Cucumber Crunch and Montana Crunch Time. Policymakers from Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Vermont made proclamations declaring October Farm to School Month in their states. In Georgia, kids learned about planting, harvesting and cooking legumes with Georgia Organic’s “Make Room for Legumes” celebration. In Massachusetts, farm to school advocates gathered at the State House for a Farm to School Awareness Day and announcement of their 2017 Kale Blazer Award. In Alaska, schools celebrated farm to school every week in October by focusing on a different Alaska agricultural products, such as tubers and roots (Eskimo potatoes), meat (Caribou) and leaves (fiddlehead ferns). We could keep going! 


Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you, taking small actions every day to bring more local food sourcing and food and agriculture education to students across the nation. There are 334 days to continue growing and strengthening the movement before Farm to School Month 2018! Help us keep the momentum going by joining our network and stay up-to-date on the latest stories, new resources, policy actions, learning opportunities – like the upcoming 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, April 25-27, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Healthy kids, thriving farms and vibrant communities are worth taking action for every day!

Thank you to this year’s National Farm to School Month sponsors - CoBank, Territory Foods, Captain Planet Foundation, Organic Valley, Perdue, Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Stand2Learn and High Mowing Organic Seeds - as well as the Featured Partner and Outreach Partner organizations that are helping us spread the word about farm to school throughout October. And, thanks to you for being a farm to school champion in your community.

5 Tips for Celebrating Farm to School Month

NFSN Staff Friday, October 27, 2017


By Wendy Allen, Organic Valley

One of our favorite things about National Farm to School Month is October’s abundance of farm-fresh foods, many in a rainbow of colors that children don’t often associate with food. Apples in colors other than red; carrots in colors other than orange; white, yellow—even blue!—potatoes fresh from the soil. And nothing beats the flavor of vine-ripened, heirloom tomatoes in hues of red, orange, yellow and purple.
Schools that source local foods are providing an educational experience for our children that goes way beyond the classroom. Not only are the varied colors of unique, local foods beautiful, each color represents vital nutrients for growing bodies. Best of all, a rainbow-colored plate supports local farmers whose kids may be in your own child’s class. Schools that go one step further to source local and organic are also supporting a way of farming that reduces the use of chemicals on our food, our land and, therefore, in our children’s vulnerable bodies.

Here are a few more of our favorite ways you can participate in National Farm to School Month in your homes and communities!

Harvest the season’s bounty. Visit a local apple orchard or pumpkin patch and pick your own. Many children these days don’t connect that their food comes from the soil or animals rather than the store shelf. Teach them this valuable lesson with a fun and colorful fall experience! 

Know your farmer. Meet a farmer at the farmers market and learn the story behind your food. Ask them questions: Where is your farm? What’s your favorite part of your job? What can my family do to support you and other local farmers? Is your farmers market closed for the season? Look into fall and winter “community supported agriculture” (CSA) shares to get local foods nearly year-round. Find a CSA farm new you at www.localharvest.org.

Be a leader! If your local school doesn’t have a farm to school program, talk to the school administrators about starting one! You can use the National Farm to School Network’s excellent “Benefits of Farm to School” resource to help explain why farm to school is a win-win-win for kids, farmers and communities! In addition, many states have organizations that help install gardens, and schools can get free curriculum to connect science, nutrition, health and physical education classes with their gardens. Here’s a resource from Organic Valley’s home state of Wisconsin, which any state could use to get started:

  • The Got Dirt? Gardening Initiative provides a toolkit with step-by-step plans for starting a community, school or childcare garden. To bring the classroom to the garden, the program also created the Got Veggies? Garden Based Nutrition Curriculum, which is a free download. Download both toolkits here
  • For additional curricular resources, visit the National Farm to School Network resource library.
  • Know of other great resources? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!
Grow your own! Start small with a window herb garden, a manageable space in the backyard, or even vegetables that are suited for pots on the porch. A great kids’ activity! Volunteer to visit your local school to help students plant their own classroom herb garden. 

Cook together. Cooking can be a great learning experience. Encourage lots of colors for balanced nutrition, and talk about where the foods came from – does your child know that butter comes from cream, which is part of milk, which came from a cow? Talk about it while making your own butter!

National Farm to School Month is a great time to engage with your child’s classrooms and encourage teachers to work in food and farming education. It’s so important to help our children learn to appreciate where our food comes from and the hard work it takes to bring that food to our tables.

Organic Valley is a 2017 National Farm to School Month sponsor, and happy to support the National Farm to School Network in its efforts to support family farming and teach children about where our food comes from.

Farm to School Brings a Consistent Market to this Kansas Farm

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 26, 2017


By Molly Schintler, Communications Intern

Growing up in suburban Dallas, Jill Elmers felt far from farm country. Even as a young adult, she did not envision her life as a farmer. Jill began her career as an engineer, got burned out, and took time off to farm in 2000. Ever since her first season, she has had a little bit of land every year. Then in 2006, Jill saved up enough money to buy her own farmland. Today, she owns and operates Moon on the Meadow Farm in Lawrence, Kansas. 

Moon on the Meadow is a six-acre, certified organic farm growing a variety of produce including: fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers. In addition to Jill, up to six employees work at the farm, some seasonally and a few year round. Through the use of season extension techniques such a tunnels, Jill is able to produce all year for the farm’s retail and wholesale markets including: farmers markets, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and farm to school. 

This is the farm’s second year selling to local schools, and Jill says that this business relationship has given her farm a consistently reliable market. “The core items that they (schools) buy, they know how much they need every week, and so those sales are consistent.”  Last year, the farm sold cucumbers and cherry tomatoes to the Lawrence schools, and this year they have added romaine, cilantro, and winter salad mix. 

Jill is one of a number of U.S. farmers discovering the economic benefits of farm to school. Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools, a recent report from the National Farm to School Network and Colorado University, examines the economic impact of local purchasing and provides new insight into the potential for farm to school procurement to positively impact local economies. This report finds that not only were surveyed farmers satisfied or very satisfied with most aspects of farm to school sales, but farm to school farms purchase more inputs from the local economy, which results in positive local economic impact. Beyond the economics, farm to school has far-reaching and positive impacts for students, farmers, and communities

Jill is happy that farm to school has secured her a more reliable farm income; however, she was quick to explain that farm to school is about so much more than that. The team at Moon on the Meadow Farm is proud to supply healthy, organic food to the schools surrounding them. Since the farm is located eleven blocks from the center of Lawrence, the schools that this urban farm supplies actually surround it. Jill’s favorite farm to school moments are when students make the trip to the farm. Specifically, the Lawrence 7th grade health students who take a field trip in the fall and spring.  Jill explained that the students not only inspire her but all of her farm’s workers. It seems some type of poetic that the students inspire Jill and her team, because I am most certain that the farm inspires the students - maybe even a future farmer or two.

The National Farm to School Network thanks CoBank for their generous support of this blog and our 2017 National Farm to School Month celebrations!

Tower Garden Grows More Than Plants

NFSN Staff Monday, October 23, 2017
By Jesse Graytock, Program Manager, The NEA Foundation
Students walking by the window to Sabrina Sullivan Conner’s classroom were perplexed. The large white column that they saw didn’t seem to make any sense. Was it a birdhouse? A piece of a maintenance equipment? Some sort of elaborate game board?

It turns out that it was simply a way to bring farming not just to schools, but to have it in schools. At Strongsville Middle School in Strongsville, Ohio Mrs. Conner, an intervention specialist who works with students with moderate to intensive disabilities, used a $2,000 grant from the NEA Foundation to work with her students to build a tower garden in their classroom. The tower, which pumps water through a central base and then filters it up to twenty different vegetables and herbs, allowed students to grow crops year-round and served as an invaluable hands-on learning tool.

Students were responsible for building the tower, choosing and planting the vegetables and herbs, and maintaining the system, which included pruning, checking water levels, filling the tank, and harvesting. “We wanted to teach healthy living and vocational skills to individuals with autism, Down syndrome, and multiple disabilities,” said Mrs. Conner. “I want my students to have access to opportunities to build skills to help them eventually live independently.”

In addition to acting as a catalyst for experiential learning, the garden also led to a significant change in students’ eating habits. Once the province of chocolate and pretzels, snack periods morphed into sessions with tomatoes, spinach, and thyme. But this transition was not without some hiccups.

“At first they were very confused,” remembers Mrs. Conner. “Most of my students have autism and are very rigid with their diets. Some of them have never really tried fresh vegetables. Many have never given a thought to the growing process – they only knew that vegetables came from the store.”

As time passed, and as students began to realize the fruits (and veggies) of their labor, attitudes changed. One student developed a deep love for basil. Others enjoyed sliced cucumbers with a light dressing. Every week, a group of students would choose a recipe, make a list of ingredients, and cook a meal for each other. Their pride in the garden was palpable. 

After a few months of having the tower in the window, students in the general education population began to ask how they could get involved. Eventually more than 100 students signed up to volunteer to assist their special needs peers with planting and harvesting.

The success of the project can’t be measured simply by students’ new appreciation for vocational skills, healthy living, and life science (although that was clear). For Mrs. Conner, the deep impact comes in the form of watching her students embrace this type of hands-on learning and turn it into a self-directed odyssey. “I’ll catch them smelling the plants and trimming off dead leaves or overgrowth independently and unprompted,” she recalls.

“They inspire me every day.”

Sabrina Sullivan is an intervention specialist at Strongsville Middle School in Strongsville, Ohio. She and thousands of other educators throughout the country have received a grant from the NEA Foundation. To apply for a $2,000 or $5,000 grant for classroom projects or professional development endeavors, visit www.neafoundation.org

Seeds Farm Reaps Rewards with Farm to School

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 19, 2017


By Hannah McCandless, Network and Partnership Fellow 

With a mission to produce wholesome, quality food, Seeds Farm in Northfield, MN finds that farm to school initiatives are boosting their sales while bringing the community together. Becca Carlson, the founder of Seeds Farm, is extremely passionate about feeding her community farm fresh products and sees farm to school as a way to pursue this passion while preserving land for future farmers and bringing communities and families together.
Becca started Seeds Farm in 2010 with the motivation to connect more closely with her environment and to help her community eat in a more constructive, rather than destructive, way. Since then the small farm has blossomed. 

Since Seeds Farm began participating in farm to school initiatives, a number of things have changed and taken hold on the farm. On top of growing more food for schools and adding to the farms profit margin, Becca has found that schools are very understanding of potential mishaps on the farm, such as an early frost or a smaller yield than anticipated. Although the volume of food is not always large, the contracts have remained consistent. Often, contracts are set in the winter and delivered on in the fall, making schools a reliable market for small farms like Seeds Farm. Overall, Becca reports that the small increase in sales to schools has increased sales overall.

By becoming certified to sell to schools in Minnesota, Seeds Farm has been able to sell their products to schools and expand their wholesale contracts with other potential buyers. A number of contacts and potential contracts have been explored because of this new level of documentation, allowing for the farm to expand even further than before. 

As Becca looks back on her time participating in farm to school initiatives, she has some advice for farmers or food service directors on how they can get involved. For farmers, her greatest advice is to start early. There is some documentation to get squared away, a bidding process, and contracts to be decided on in the winter months for the following fall. Becca says, “It’s not hard or easy, it takes time, planning ahead, and forward thinking. Very achievable.” 

Concerning food service directors new to the movement, Becca says, “Farm to school is the whole package for kids,” and to remember that they are not only bringing healthy produce to students, but they are telling the story of where food comes from and the farmers who grew it. Helping kids view healthy, local food as fun and cool is the key to getting kids more involved. 

Like a number of farms across the country, Seeds Farm will continue to grow and thrive as they bring their communities together and provide healthy food, while growing their business and prospering as an organization. 

A new report from the National Farm to School Network and Colorado State University, Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools, offers additional insight into the potential for farm to school procurement to economically benefit farmers and the broader community. Using a survey and case study approach, this study aimed to fill this knowledge gap by documenting economic impacts of farm to school procurement and developing a standardized framework for farm to school impact analysis. 

Survey Findings
Most surveyed farmers started selling to schools after 2011 and all farmers planned to continue to sell to schools in the future. Farmers were most satisfied with delivery requirements, prices, reliable payments, delivery logistics, time commitment, and ease of communication. The biggest challenge identified by farmers was the volume of sales to schools. 

Case Studies
This economic analysis is unique in its rigor as it uses information from the farmer survey and information from previous studies (including the USDA Farm to School Census and the USDA ARMS data) to construct a model for farm to school economic impact. Unlike previous studies, this economic impact analysis takes into account reported farmer expenditures, direct to school and intermediary sales to schools (food hubs, processors, etc.) and opportunity costs of local sales. Researchers used this model to present farm to school case studies for Minneapolis Public Schools (MPLS) and the State of Georgia.


Case Study Findings
Farm to school farms purchase more inputs locally, keeping more money in the local economy: 
  • For every $100 spent, MPLS farm to school farms keep $82 in the region (vs. $70 for non-farm to school farms). 
  • For every $100 spent, Georgia farm to school farms keep $82 in the region (vs. $79 for non-farm to school farms). 
Without considering opportunity cost, for every additional dollar of final demand for farm to school farm products: 
  • An additional $0.93 is generated in related sectors in MPLS.
  • An additional $1.11 is generated in related sectors in Georgia.
Economic output multipliers and employment multipliers for farm to school farms from the case studies are larger than the more traditional fruit and vegetable production sector: 
  • Economic Output Multipliers – Minneapolis = 1.45, Georgia = 1.48
  • Employment Multipliers – Minneapolis = 1.96, Georgia = 3.35
This study offers a replicable survey tool and framework that stakeholders can use to implement their own farm to school economic impact assessments in their communities. While the two case studies in this study clearly demonstrate that farm to school farms purchase more inputs from the local economy per unit of output, which results in positive local economic impact, additional research and support is needed to better understand the benefits of farm to school and to reach more stakeholders with this information. This will fill an important gap in knowledge and open new opportunities for farm to school implementation and advocacy and build more opportunities for farmers like Becca to benefit from farm to school sales. 


The National Farm to School Network thanks CoBank for their generous support of this blog and our 2017 National Farm to School Month celebrations!

Healthy Eating Starts Early: Growing Healthy Kids with CACFP and Farm to ECE

NFSN Staff Monday, October 16, 2017
Photo credit: Kelly Rood
By Alexia Thex, National CACFP Sponsors Association

Every single day, child care providers across the nation are growing healthy kids. These unsung heroes work tirelessly day in and day out caring for our children’s minds and bodies. The National CACFP Sponsors Association (NCA) believes that healthy eating starts early and considers it paramount to support these providers in building healthy habits. 

This month we are proud to be a Featured Partner for National Farm to School Month and support providers with tools to support their local farm to school initiatives. “The USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is an indicator of quality childcare and goes hand in hand with farm to school initiatives. “As the founder of Taking Root Tennessee, I have seen first-hand the difference it makes when we get children involved in growing their own food,” shared Senta Hester, NCA President and Founder of Taking Root Tennessee. “This is why we are honored to have the National Farm to School Network as one of our National Allies.”  

We love sharing our CACFP provider farm to early care and education (ECE) success stories.  Kelly Rood, a CACFP participant in Arlington, TX, knows that teaching nutrition isn’t always easy. Through her gardening efforts, she has created a learning environment that encourages teamwork and nurtures responsibility.  As they tend their summer and winter gardens, not only are the children learning about healthy foods, they are also growing their sense of pride.  Parents are excited to see their children trying new fruits and vegetables and the children are all smiles when they see their hard work result in a something ‘yummy.’ 

Joy Parks, a CACFP Home Child Care Provider in Charlotte, NC, gets her kids involved in the food preparation, such as snapping green beans, to make them feel part of the process. She often uses the herbs from their garden to make the ‘final touches’ on their meal. She incorporates learning about new foods in their daily lessons using food cards to teach kids about what they are eating.  “We love promoting the great work of our CACFP providers who are already implementing the 2017 New CACFP Meal Patterns which are the building blocks for teaching healthy eating habits. The new meal patterns focus on the increased consumption of vegetables by separating the fruit and vegetable components, and what better way to increase consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetable than to get the kids involved in the planning, growing, preparing and serving process,” Senta noted.  

As we celebrate National Farm to School Month, we encourage providers to TAKE ACTION by incorporating one or more farm to school activities into your child care program.  Check out the NEW! Child Nutrition Today section of our website. Here you will find kid-friendly, nutritious #cacfpcreditable recipes that incorporate items from your community gardens along with fun activity sheets to incorporate into your lesson plans. Happy Growing!  

Engaging youth as leaders and stakeholders to grow farm to school

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 12, 2017

By Katie Warner, YES! Team Lead and Co-Founder

Young people under the age of 18 make up more than a quarter of the U.S. population, yet their potential as a generation to contribute to a better society is systematically ignored. Our nation is suffering economically, creatively, and civilly as a result. Empowering young people to participate in effective youth-adult partnerships is a proven, replicable approach to solving community problems. Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!) has developed a nationally-recognized model of social change through youth empowerment and works to leverage the unique skills and power of young people. 

YES! is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization centered on the idea that real community change cannot take place without the contributions of young people. Using the YES! Youth Empowerment Model®, YES! works with youth to develop a deep critical awareness about the root causes of the issues that impact them, then works with them to develop the skills necessary to understand these complex issues, and engage in collaboration to effectively identify and advocate for solutions to those issues.

YES! also centers our work on capacity-building and support of adults and organizations as they navigate news systems and structures to understand the importance of youth empowerment and build their own capacity to work with youth in ways that support their mission. By engaging youth in our work, organizations and communities become more creative, resourceful, tech savvy, powerful, and successful at creating meaningful and sustainable solutions for community challenges.

YES! has been applying the YES! Youth Empowerment Model® to food access and food justice work since 2008. Our efforts have primarily focused on southern rural communities as we have built and tailored our approach to empower and meet the needs of youth of color, of low-wealth or living in a rural community. Over the past four years, YES! has mobilized a network of more than 350 teams of Youth and Adults that work locally on policy, system and environmental changes that increase access to healthy affordable food. In our home state of North Carolina, we have been able to galvanize partners statewide to move state level policy to support a Healthy Corner Store initiative. 

As YES! continues to grow, we are adding more partners to the YES! Youth Network, engaging with new stakeholders, training new partners, supporting their farm to school efforts at the local level and lifting up the stories of youth and adults across the country doing phenomenal work to increase access and education around healthy food, food justice and youth empowerment. 

YES! is excited to be partnering with the National Farm to School Network to celebrate National Farm to School Month and want to take the opportunity to share a few partner highlights to showcase their efforts and successes.  

Neighborhood garden transforms community Pinehurst, North Carolina
Yolonda Moore of the Sandhills Cooperation Association saw her family, friends, and neighbors eating only processed foods. Yolonda moved from Durham where she was involved in the local community garden scene, to a 0.5 acre plot in Pinehurst, NC and decided that she was going to start growing her own produce to offset the high cost of fresh fruits and vegetables sold at stores in her community. After a few years of successfully growing food for her family, Yolonda saw a real need to bring education around growing food to her neighborhood, so she teamed up with youth in her community and YES!. Together, with a small mini grant and training and support from YES!, the youth-adult team started spreading the word about food deserts and how this small neighborhood garden could transform the community. More and more community members got involved and Yolonda’s family garden became a community garden where the team of youth and adults now teach educational classes about growing food and nutrition and host cooking demos using produce grown in the garden. This community garden is also used by local homeschool families for educational purposes. Yolonda and the youth that participate in gardening activities estimate that they donate excess produce to around 50 people each growing season. Because of training provided by YES!, the youth from Pinehurst also participated in several advocacy activities, including attending a Youth Advocacy Day at the NC General Assembly to advocate for state level policy to decrease food deserts across NC. 



Community gardens lead to advocacy
Springfield, Missouri
Through the Healthy Eating Active Living grant with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department has been piloting a new youth-led effort: the Youth Health and Wellness Council.  The council has worked with local organizations, such as the Springfield Community Gardens (SCG), to influence change in the community around nutrition and food access. Over the last two years, the Youth Health & Wellness Council worked with SCG to increase awareness, knowledge and engagement within the gardens through designing and providing name and welcome signs for each garden, purchasing bus advertisements to promote the gardens, and hosting a Family Fun Day event at one of the local gardens.  This year, the Health Department is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield to continue work around policy and environmental changes in the community around healthy eating, active living, and tobacco.  This year’s Youth Health & Wellness Council kicked off with a YES! Advocacy 101 Youth Training!

Second Chance Breakfast to Increase Food AccessAsheville, North Carolina
Asheville High School (AHS) is home to roughly 1,400 students and the school itself stands out in many ways because of outstanding academic and athletic programs, but additionally because it houses a high population of students on free and reduced lunch. The campus is large, with students reporting a 15-20 minute walk from one side to the other, and there are transportation issues that often force students to take city buses to get to and from school. These issues add up to quite a few students missing breakfast. After researching many options, youth from AHS’s Student Government Association (SGA), partnered with YES!, and the school nutrition director to bring Second Chance Breakfast to their campus. After several months of work, in which students surveyed their peers to gather support and determined what types of foods students would purchase most often, they spoke directly with decision makers at the school, the decision was made to purchase a food cart to sit in the middle of campus for students to pick up a quick and nutritious breakfast on their way to class. Students on free and reduced lunch were able to use this benefit at the breakfast cart or in the cafeteria, depending on which best fit their schedule. The SGA also successfully advocated for a longer break between classes to give students extra time to stop by the cart. YES! supported AHS’s SGA by providing guidance with action planning for this project, and helping strategize and prep for meetings with key decision makers at the school. Data collected by the school nutrition program showed that Second Chance Breakfast served nearly 200 students every day and increased the number of students eating breakfast at the high school by 26.5%. To read more, download your free copy of the Second Chance Breakfast Change Chronicle here

Take Action: Learn about the USDA Farm to School Grant Program

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Photo Courtesy: USDA Food and Nutrition Service
By Christina Conell, USDA Office of Community Food Systems

National Farm to School Month is not just a time for celebration. It’s also a time to take action. This October, USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems invites you to learn more about the USDA Farm to School Grant Program.  

In 2010, the Farm to School Program was established by law to assist eligible entities – through grants and technical assistance – in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in schools. To fulfill this commitment, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides $5 million on an annual basis to support these grants.

Just in time for Farm to School Month, the fiscal year 2018 Farm to School Grant Program Request for Applications was released last week! Designed to increase the availability of local foods in schools, grants can help new farm to school programs get started or expand existing efforts. Funds support a wide range of activities from training, planning and developing partnerships to creating new menu items, establishing supply chains, offering taste tests for children, purchasing equipment, planting school gardens and organizing field trips to agricultural operations.

To date, the USDA Farm to School Grant Program has provided more than $25 million for 365 farm to school projects to increase the amount of healthy, local food in schools across all 50 states, plus the Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. 

Reaching more than 29,000 schools and approximately 13 million students in the past five years, the Farm to School Grant Program is an effective mechanism for increasing local foods in schools and creating new markets for producers. In looking at baseline and final reports from fiscal year 2015 and 2016 grantees, it’s evident that these efforts are making a difference. From the start of their grant period, grantees report increased garden activities, taste tests, farm field trips and more farm to school concepts embedded in schools’ curriculum.

Take action and learn more about the USDA Farm to School Grant Program with these resources:


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