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

National Farm to School Network

News

The State of State Policy

NFSN Staff Tuesday, November 21, 2017

By Maximilian Merrill, Policy Director
 
Farm to school policies have been a key strategy for making local food procurement, food education and school gardens a reality for millions of children. To support the continued growth of state policy advocacy, we’ve updated one of our signature resources that tracks how farm to school-supportive bills are strengthening the farm to school movement.

The State Farm to School Legislative Survey: 2002-2017 provides state-by-state summaries of every enacted, defeated or pending farm to school-related bill from January 1, 2002 through March 31, 2017. It also includes analysis and infographics on state farm to school legislative trends; case studies on successful farm to school advocacy efforts in Alaska, Oregon, Texas and Washington, D.C.; and, additional resources to help advocates learn about and replicate the wide variety of existing state farm to school laws, policies and programs. 

The State Farm to School Legislative Survey: 2002-2017 builds on a survey that was originally released in 2011, and updated in 2013 and 2014. This most recent version reflects legislation through March 31, 2017. With this update, we’ve found that 46 states, including Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have proposed 491 bills and resolutions supportive of farm to school activities. Forty of these states, including D.C., have enacted farm to school-related legislation. Since the last legislative survey published in 2014, Louisiana, Arkansas, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona have enacted their first farm to school legislation, with only a handful of states remaining that have yet to pass farm to school policy.

In the last two years alone, over 200 farms to school-related policies have been proposed in state and territory legislatures. The most popular policy initiatives were food education, funding and promotional events. Other popular policies included price percentage preference legislation to enable schools to purchase local foods and farm to school pilot programs. 

In addition to providing summaries on each of these proposed policies, the State Farm to School Legislative Survey also offers tools to help advocates advance new legislation in their states. Check out four case studies that analyze successful farm to school advocacy efforts and compare how different states have tackled farm to school policy opportunities with different approaches. While each state and territory has a different political climate, these case studies offer examples that can be replicated across the board. For example, farmer databases or local preference laws may be more attractive for a legislature concerned by budgets or boosting local jobs. 

The State Farm to School Legislative Survey is designed to offer farm to school advocates like you a roadmap to learn about and compare existing, potentially replicable state farm to school laws, policies and programs in order to advance new legislation in your state. So dig in, and start exploring the opportunities! 

Have questions about this new resource or need a thought partner on how to connect with your state lawmakers? Don’t hesitate to contact our Policy team for support! We look forward to hearing how your advocacy efforts continue to support the growth of farm to school, state by state. 

Farm to School Act of 2017 Introduced in Congress

NFSN Staff Thursday, September 07, 2017

By Maximilian Merrill, Policy Director 

Yesterday, members of Congress took the first step toward a major win for local economies, farm families and the health of our nation’s children. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) introduced the bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2017

The two identical bills, originally introduced in the last Congress, build on the progress of the farm to school movement by expanding the highly successful USDA Farm to School Grant Program, which provides funds on a competitive basis to schools, nonprofits, farmers, and local, state and tribal government entities to help schools procure local foods and to support farm to school activities in cafeterias, classrooms and communities. In its first five years, the program has received more than 1,600 applications totaling more than $120 million in requests. With only $5 million available annually, the program has only been able to fund 365 awards. In other words, demand for the program is nearly 5 times higher than available funding. The Farm to School Act proposes an increase in funding to $15 million annually to level this disproportionate ratio of demand to supply. In addition, the bill will also ensure that the grant program fully includes early care and education sites, summer food service sites, after school programs, and tribal schools and producers, while improving program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.   

We know that farm to school activities have proven to be an economic driver for local farms across the country. In the most recent USDA Farm to School Census, schools reported purchasing nearly $800 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food processors in just one school year. Every dollar spent on local food generates up to an additional $1.60 in economic activity, indicating school districts’ local food purchases are driving over $1 billion in local economic activity. The Farm to School Act will expand these efforts by supporting the growth of farm to school activities in schools, while also ensuring that more farmers and local food producers can reap the benefits of these new market opportunities. 

In 2010, the National Farm to School Network and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition - along with our network of supporters from across the country - successfully advocated for the creation of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. In 2015, we teamed up again to advance farm to school priorities in the reauthorization process of the Child Nutrition Act, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms. While CNR was not completed in the last Congress, we scored major victories with key Republicans and Democrats supporting farm to school priorities through the process (see more here). This puts us in a strong position for federal policy wins with the reintroduction of this marker bill. 

“Farmers have been struggling for years with a weak agricultural economy,” says Wes King, NSAC Policy Specialist. “One of the many benefits of farm to school programs is that they open up new, lucrative marketing channels to American producers. The Farm to School Act would create opportunities across the board – children win by gaining access to delicious local food and agricultural programming that is both fun and educational, schools and families win by helping children to maintain and/or improve their health, and farmers win by gaining new customers for their products.”

This grant program is an essential tool to improve the health of our children, our food system and our local economies. Help us champion the Farm to School Act of 2017 and grow farm to school across the country. Here are five ways to get involved: 

TAKE ACTION 
  • Tell Congress you support the Farm to School Act of 2017 by signing a letter of support as an individual or on behalf of your organization. (Note: individuals who signed on to support the previous Farm to School Act are still signed on – no need to submit your info again! Organizations, please re-sign on to show your support!)
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest Farm to School Act of 2017 news and opportunities to take action by signing up for our action alerts
  • Help spread the word about this important bill and the importance of farm to school activities in your community by posting to social media with the hashtag #F2SAct. Download our campaign graphics and sample messages here
  • Learn more about the Farm to School Act of 2017 in this fact sheet
  • As Congress considers the Farm to School Act of 2017 over the coming months, expect to hear more from us about steps you can take to encourage your legislators to support the bill. 

Welcome, Maximilian Merrill!

NFSN Staff Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The National Farm to School Network is excited to welcome Maximilian A. Merrill, Esq. MS, to our team as Policy Director! As an environmental lawyer, policy analyst, hydrologist and farmer, Maximilian has over a decade of experience in agriculture policy and family farm advocacy at the local, state and federal levels. 

Maximilian gained his passion for agriculture and the environment while growing up in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. He has diverse educational and experiential background in agriculture, including undergraduate and graduate degrees in natural resources and hydrology from North Carolina State University, a J.D. from Vermont Law School, and professional experience as a cartographer and wetland scientist. Prior to joining NFSN, Merrill held positions with The Land Trust for Central North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Western Growers. While working with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Merrill designed, implemented and administered the Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, which protects family farms by purchasing agricultural easements and funding agricultural development projects. He also represented agriculture stakeholders on numerous state environmental committees and commissions.

As NFSN’s Policy Director, Maximilian will lead the development and implementation of our organization’s policy priorities, cultivate policymaker and coalition partnerships, and educate and mobilize our partners, members and stakeholders around key policy issues. NFSN serves as the leading voice of the national the farm to school movement, and a principle resource on national, state and local policies that impact farm to school efforts. Maximilian will lead our continued advocacy towards the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization through the Farm to School Act, and will prepare for advocacy for the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization.

When not on Capitol Hill, Maximilian continues to pursue his love of agriculture with regular visits to his once fallow family farm in Pennsylvania, where he spends time pounding in fence posts, reclaiming fields and raising bison. 

Maximilian is based in our Washington, D.C. office. Reach out to him with your policy questions, to brainstorm solutions to policy challenges, to share you successes or to find out how you can get involved in advocating for policy change. Send him a message or say hello at maximilian@farmtoschool.org

Farm to School in the Every Student Succeeds Act

NFSN Staff Wednesday, March 08, 2017
By Ariel Bernstein, Farm to School and Education Fellow

Farm to school is a multifaceted movement with many intersecting components. As stakeholders continue to engage in policy levers for farm to school, a large piece of education legislation, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), comes into the conversation. To help you stay aware of and take advantage of the opportunities this legislation provides, the National Farm to School Network has created a toolkit outlining how farm to school engages with ESSA. As the farm to school movement continues to grow, it is imperative to seek new opportunities where farm to school can impact students and families. ESSA is one of them.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been one of the most important education policies to shape the way states and districts interact with their most vulnerable students and lowest performing schools. It has provided opportunities for low-income, migrants and native students, as well as outlined Title I funding, data reporting and many forms of enrichment education. In December of 2015, Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into legislation, reauthorizing ESEA and replacing its predecessor, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). ESSA has taken a different approach than NCLB did, shifting more decision making authority to states, opposed to having power concentrated at the federal level. Under the new legislation, State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) design their own education plans, giving them leverage to choose how federal funding is used. ESSA also has a heavy focus on non-academic factors that contribute to improving education. Aspects such as school climate, health and wellness, and family engagement are being pulled into conversations about student success, creating a more holistic and well-rounded educational environment for students.

These themes provide great potential for farm to school and early care and education (ECE) to interact with this legislation. There are opportunities for the inclusion of farm to school and ECE in the design and implementation of state and local plans for ESSA. Farm to school can improve educational outcomes through methods such as social and emotional learning, health and food education, family and community engagement, and healthier school climate, just to name a few. ESSA’s focus on well rounded education is a great connection point for farm to school, and one that should be taken advantage of by educators, school health professionals, parents advocates and all other farm to school stakeholders.

With education as one of the three core elements of farm to school, it is key that we stay engaged with this legislation and the opportunities it provides. This new toolkit is designed for educators, advocates, parents and farm to school and ECE stakeholders to understand and act upon the opportunities ESSA offers, and to continue to expand the reach of farm to school and ECE in our communities. 


Ready to learn more? Join us on March 21, 3-4pm ET, for a Q&A style webinar about farm to school in ESSA. Register here. Or, contact Ariel Bernstein, National Farm to School Network Farm to School and Education Fellow, at ariel@farmtoschool.org

Paper Plates, Partnerships & Proclamations: 2016 Farm to School Policy Successes

NFSN Staff Tuesday, December 20, 2016

By Natalie Talis, Policy Associate

As the national policy leaders for the farm to school movement, policy is at the core of what we do as a network. With only a few days left in 2016, we’re celebrating this year’s policy successes, and planning for a busy 2017.

2016 Victories 
  • Farm to School Act of 2015: Farm to school advocates scored a major federal victory with the draft Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR). Key Democrats and Republicans supported farm to school throughout this process. Both the Senate Agriculture and House Education and Workforce Committee versions included important policy changes from the Farm to School Act of 2015, and a doubling of USDA Farm to School Grant funds from $5 to $10 million annually. Although CNR was not completed in this Congress, we are in a strong position moving forward for future farm to school federal policy wins. We will continue working with our coalition partners and fellow advocates to ensure we don’t lose this forward momentum.  
  • Paper Plate Campaign: This fall, we delivered more than 550 paper plate messages of support for farm to school and healthy school meals to members of Congress. We launched this paper plate campaign at the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in June, and continued to collect plates from our members and other farm to school advocates at the Farm Aid 2016 concert and by mail. Thank you to all who participated and made your voices heard! 
  • Partnership with USDA: We continued to work with USDA on the implementation of the Unprocessed Fruit and Vegetable Pilot by collecting and disseminating feedback from partners in the eight pilot states. 
  • Proclamations and Pilots: Governors in Arkansas, Hawai’i, Minnesota, Nebraska and Rhode Island all made proclamations for Farm to School Month in October. Michigan and New York passed pilots providing schools with additional reimbursements for purchasing local foods. Louisiana passed a comprehensive farm to school policy building off their 2015 policy successes, and Arizona is making strides in reforming their food safety codes. 

2017 Opportunities
  • Farm to School Act: We will reintroduce our bipartisan marker bill in the new Congress and continue to build champions for these important policy changes and additional funding. 
  • Farm Bill Preparations: We will continue to host stakeholder listening sessions on Farm Bill programs and funding to ensure this comprehensive piece of food and farm legislation is best serving farm to school efforts across the U.S. 
  • State and Local Policy: Stay tuned for major updates to our State Policy Report, including a new user-friendly format and tools. We also look forward to the many state and local policy initiatives in the works.

It’s been a busy year for policy at all levels of government. With each of these victories, we continue to institutionalize farm to school so that all communities, in every part of the country, can benefit. Thank you to all those who participate in the policy process, whether interacting with elected officials, sharing your stories, or raising awareness in your community. None of these accomplishments would been possible without your efforts. We are constantly uplifted knowing that you - farmers, partners, educators, food service professionals, students, and more - are passionate and committed to growing healthier local food systems that support and benefit all. We are grateful to you, and are proud to be your partners in this important work. 

Here’s to 2016, a year of partnership for stronger farm to school policy, and to 2017 - a year destined for more farm to school success! 

Help us continue our advocacy efforts
by making an end of year, tax deductible donation today.

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Take Action: Paper Plate Advocacy

NFSN Staff Friday, July 15, 2016

Congress only has a few weeks left to pass the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) this year, so we’re organizing a paper plate campaign to share with legislators the many reasons that healthy school meals and farm to school are vital for a healthier next generation.
 
At the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference last month, more than 350 people joined us in writing and drawing on paper plates what school meals and farm to school mean to their communities. Here’s a snapshot of what people said: 

Kids are what they eat and will eat what they grow. Let them grow healthy!

School meals may be the best meal of the day! Make it good, make it great. Tasty, healthy food for ALL.

Helping schools source local produce improves freshness and quality and builds and supports the local economy.

School meals fuel healthy bodies & strong minds!

In the next few weeks, we’ll be delivering these plates to lawmakers as they continue to debate this important piece of legislation. 
 
There’s still time to participate in our paper plate campaign! Share your farm to school message on a paper plate (add your name, city and zipcode to the back) and send it to our office in Washington, D.C. We’ll hand deliver your plate to Congress and send a strong message to legislators that school meals and farm to school are an important part of growing healthy kids. As a reminder, this activity is not lobbying so anyone can participate!
 
Mail paper plates to:
National Farm to School Network
110 Maryland Avenue NE, Suite 209 
Washington, D.C. 20002
 
Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest CNR news. 

UPDATE: We'll be delivering the plates to Congress the week of September 19. Stay tuned to our social media channels for live updates!

House committee passes CNR amidst advocate and lawmaker concerns

NFSN Staff Thursday, May 19, 2016
By Natalie Talis, Policy Associate 

Yesterday, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016, marking another step forward in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) process, but potentially a step backward for our nation’s children. The final vote, after 31 proposed amendments and several hours of debate, came down primarily on party lines with 20 for and 14 against. 

The markup was a contentious meeting, with members on both sides of the aisle expressing concern over the bill. On one side, Democrats proposed amendments to preserve the nutrition gains of the latest version of CNR, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. On the other, Republicans proposed amendments to further limit the federal government’s involvement in school meals.  While there are considerable issues with the bill’s potential impact on the quality and access to school meals, one of the very few bright spots of bipartisanship was farm to school. 

Several members of Congress mentioned their support of the bill’s farm to school provisions in their opening remarks, including Reps. Stefanik (R-NY), Fudge (D-OH) and Curbelo (R-FL). The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 uses much of the language from the Farm to School Act of 2015 marker bill and includes an increase from $5 to $10 million annually in funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program

Despite this farm to school victory, the National Farm to School Network urges the House to work toward a different CNR bill with a bipartisan consensus, much like the Senate Agriculture version. One of our many concerns with the House bill involves changes to the Community Eligibility Program (CEP). By increasing the qualifying threshold for this program, Congress would reduce access to school meals while increasing paperwork and the administrative burden on school nutrition professionals. An analysis of the bill from The PEW Charitable Trusts provides more details on potential outcomes from the bill here.

During the amendment portion of the markup, 6 proposed amendments earned enough votes to pass. They include:

  • An independent study to examine external/private funding opportunities for school meals. Introduced by Rep. Allen (R-GA)
  • Eliminating the cultural foods exemption for the nutrition standards. Introduced by Rep. Scott (D-VA)
  • Instructing the USDA to provide guidance on streamlining compliance paperwork for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Introduced by Rep. Stefanik (R-NY)
  • Including parents, pediatricians and dietitians to the list of stakeholders involved in a three year nutrition standard review. Introduced by Rep. Polis (D-CO)
  • Instructing the USDA to consider milk purchasing options for schools to increase dairy consumption. Introduced by Rep. Courtney (D-CT)
  • Authorization to use other forms of electronic benefit transfer in the Summer EBT Pilot. Introduced by Rep. Davis (D-CA)

Many of the failed amendments were Democratic attempts to undo the bill’s block grant pilot, increased threshold for the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) and relaxed nutrition standards. 

Although the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 has passed through committee, it is still uncertain if the controversial bill will make it to the full floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate is still waiting on a revised Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score to ensure budget neutrality before coming to a vote. 

With the legislative calendar winding down for this year, we remain cautiously optimistic that CNR will move forward with the necessary changes to continue building on previous successes and ensure healthy meals for every child. To stay up to date on CNR, sign up for the National Farm to School Network newsletter and follow us on social media

CACFP lifts up local

NFSN Staff Tuesday, May 17, 2016
By Lacy Stephens, Farm to Early Care and Education Associate and Natalie Talis, Policy Associate 



In April, the United Stated Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) released the much anticipated Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal pattern final rule and CACFP best practice recommendations. The National Farm to School Network, along with kids, farmers and communities, has reason to applaud these updates. The final rule and best practice recommendations create great opportunity to promote farm to school activities in CACFP programs and open the door for even more of the 3.3 million children served by CACFP to experience the benefits of farm to early care and education.  

The new meal pattern, which is the first revision since the start of the program in 1968, aims to improve the overall nutritional quality of CACFP meals and snacks and ensure that the standards more closely align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In the final rule, FNS highlights the benefits and growing interest in utilizing local foods in CACFP programs:

Local foods: Local foods can play an important role in creating and promoting a healthy environment. A growing body of research demonstrates several positive impacts of serving local foods and providing food education through CNPs, including increased participation and engagement in meal programs; consumption of healthier options, such as whole foods; and support of local economies.

Implementation of new CACFP meal pattern changes, such as additional fruit and vegetable variety requirements, increased whole grains and reduced sugar in snacks and beverages, can all be supported with farm to early care and education activities. By using local foods, gardening experiences, and food and nutrition education, young children learn to accept and enjoy the variety of healthy foods included in the meal pattern. To read more about the role of farm to early care and education in supporting success in CACFP, see our recent blog, Celebrating Good Nutrition for Our Littlest Eaters

In addition to the final rule, the USDA will release a policy guidance document detailing CACFP best practice strategies that further support a healthy start for our youngest eaters and help create lifelong healthy habits. The policy guidance, to be released this summer, will include using seasonal and local foods in meals along with nutrition education.

In the meantime, get started on the CACFP best practice of serving local food and other farm to early care and education activities with these National Farm to School Network resources:


The new FNS rules emphasize what we continue to see in the field: CACFP and farm to early care and education are key to building the next generation of healthy eaters.    
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