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Farm to school in the news

SimpleFlame.com Admin Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Preschool teacher honored in Virginia 

Today is Farming in the City Day in Harrisonburg, Virginia, an annual celebration started by preschool teacher Lauren Arbogast (pictured above), who also has the honor of being this year's Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year in Virginia.

Arbogast teaches preschool at W. H. Keister Elementary School in Harrisonburg and integrates agriculture into not only her own classroom but also the entire school. [….] She and her husband, Brian, and their two sons, Brandon and Jackson, live on a multi-generational farm where they produce beef, poultry and crops. She blogs about her life on the farm at paintthetownag.com.


USDA pilots new farm to school programs 

On Civil Eats, National Farm to School Network policy director Helen Dombalis weighed in on how the new Farm Bill supports farm to school through a new pilot program: 

Starting next school year, these programs would provide local fruit and vegetables for at least five, and up to eight, pilot schools across the country, with at least one state in each of the five main regions of the country (the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest, the South, the West, and the Midwest). (The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to release a Request for Proposals (RFP) in the coming months.) 

Along with school gardens and food systems education, the National Farm to School Network’s (NFSN) Policy and Strategic Partnerships Director Helen Dombalis says “local procurement is the third key piece of farm-to-school.” NFSN advocated for the pilots along with National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and Dombalis sees them as an important start. 

Conference recap: Advocating for change

NFSN Staff Thursday, April 17, 2014

The National Farm to School Networks' Farm to Cafeteria Conference continued on Thursday with the local plenary session. The Sustainable Food Center, the local host for the conference, organized a great series of speakers including Texas State Representative and founder of the Texas House Farm to Table Caucus, Eddie Rodriguez; South West Workers Union representative Diana Lopez; former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, Jim Hightower; and noted food and nutrition journalist, Toni Tippton-Martin.

If there was a theme that ran through the morning's presentations it was a call for advocacy. Whether to our elected representatives, to our neighbors or for often-overlooked parts of our communities, each of the speakers focused on the importance of speaking up.  Jim Hightower observed that "you don't make progress by standing guard" and he issued the following challenge:

  • Get your legislature to establish a farm to school caucus.
  • Speak from the values that inform our work: economic justice and opportunity for all. 
  • Go with your boldest agenda and negotiate from there.
  • Be respectful, but make sure all of your representatives know your name.
  • Establish a speakers bureau and go speak everywhere that will give you the floor.

As the day progressed, people began speaking up. First they spoke up about what they wanted to discuss in the open space session. A wide range of important topics were raised and attendees jumped into self-organized meetings to make plans for future efforts.

 

Next, the crowd voted with their dollars at an array of Austin food trucks -- small businesses with a reputation for disrupting entrenched food systems.

 

At the lighting talks and the poster and share fair, the group mixed and mingled with a wide range of partners and collaborators, all with something to contribute to our goal of food justice for all.

 

And finally, a version of the speaker's bureau that was called for in the morning came into being that night as a few of FoodCorp's service members took the stage for FoodTalks -- stories about food, food systems and the difference our movement is making.

Jim Hightower's closing thought from the morning session was about perseverance. He pointed out that the founders of the suffrage movement did not live to see their goal achieved. Like growing good food, change takes time, but we live in a very different world than did the suffragists. #PoweringUp has already reached an audience far beyond Austin. If we keep using our chorus of savvy, inspiring voices, the change we seek will come, and soon.

USDA accepting comments for local school wellness policies

NFSN Staff Friday, April 11, 2014

Once a bill is passed and signed into law, the next step in the policy process is implementation of the new law. There is an opportunity right now for you to shape the implementation of a policy that will impact the farm to school community! USDA is accepting comments through April 28, 2014 on its proposed rule for local school wellness policies

A few years ago, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (or HHFKA for short). Section 204 of HHFKA updates guidelines for local school wellness policies, which are required of schools receiving federal funds for school meal programs. The proposed rule simply means that USDA is proposing how it will implement the new law and is seeking public comments before the rule is finalized. Are you going to tell USDA what you think? If you’ve never submitted comments before, we are here to help! 

The first of many policy updates from the new NFSN blog

NFSN Staff Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Helen Dombalis, NFSN's policy and strategic partnerships director, offers a policy update at NFSN's 2013 annual meeting. Helen will be writing policy blog posts on a regular basis. 

With the launch of the National Farm to School’s Network new website comes an exciting new feature: our blog! Along with serving as a resource and networking hub for all aspects of farm to school, NFSN also serves as a policy advocate for the farm to school movement. Thus, our new blog will feature updates and information on what’s happening in Washington, DC and around the country. Check back regularly to learn about key opportunities to influence policies that impact you. If you’re involved in farm to school advocacy in your state or community, please share your farm to school story with us

In 2010, the National Farm to School Network and partner organizations advocated for federal funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program that now provides $5 million annually to support farm to school activities. This program is one of many examples of successful advocacy now benefitting the farm to school community. USDA is currently accepting applications for the program. The deadline to apply for a USDA Farm to School Grant is April 30, 2014. 

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