Farm to school takes many forms throughout Arizona! Initiatives include school garden and garden curricula development, and policy work to address issues with procurement, grower requirements, cooking techniques and regulations regarding compost and rainwater harvesting. A new pilot project using DOD funding is bringing a heritage salad mix from Duncan Family Farms into to urban areas like the Tempe Elementary School District. Litchfield Elementary School District has introduced local food into their Summer Food Service Program and even brings local flowers from Maya's Farm into the cafeterias!
The Arizona Dept. of Education (ADE) has a paid position for a farm to school/school garden specialist. In turn, the specialist has developed a 15-member advisory board that convenes representatives from state agencies, school districts, farm bureau, extension services, brokers, processors and farmers together once per quarter. The specialist has also created a variety of resources and organizes regular buyer/grower meetings to connect more local farmers to local schools. ADE was awarded a 2015 USDA Farm to School Conference / Event grant.
The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Service is actively involved in promoting farm to school and school gardens as a part of their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Ed initiatives, as well as offering regular Food Safety in School Garden Trainings. The Arizona Department of Health Services has a Sanitarian on board who has developed an awesome school garden tool kit and can certify school gardens to safely produce fresh fruits and veggies for use in the cafeterias. About 200 school gardens exist around the state.
The Extension Service and groups like Local First Arizona offer training programs to develop supply for farm to school, i.e. growing more growers, and increasing the capacity of existing growers to participate in the program. Prescott Unified School District in Yavapai County was awarded a FY 2014 USDA Farm to School grant to develop a farm to school program in their area. Farm to School partner agencies in that county have created a Harvest of the Month / Harvest Yavapai program and are exploring a group GHP / GAP training to develop a cooperative way for local small farmers to be certified. Tucson Village Farm, a program of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, is based on the seed-to-table concept. It teaches kids about where their food comes from and gives them knowledge and skills that will serve them for a lifetime.
The STAR (Service To All Relations) School, in Flagstaff, working with the Leupp Family Farm was awarded a FY 2014 USDA Farm to School grant to develop a farm to preschool program serving Native American (Navajo) children. This hands-on program teaches cultural awareness and preserves cultural traditions. The greenhouse on the school’s campus is about to be GHP / GAP certified in order to provide students with healthy, fresh, locally grown vegetables. They have just completed a “Healthy Foods for Navajo Schools” manual. And STAR’s preschool Montessori program just piloted a farm to preschool curriculum manual that will be available for free download for all interested preschools this summer!
Tucson’s Community Food Bank’s Farm-to-Child Program, also a USDA Farm to School grant recipient, improves children’s access to healthy food in schools and the preschool/childcare environment. They help parents and teachers learn to garden, providing technical assistance and workshops to approximately 15 garden sites on issues such as composting, hen raising, aquaponics, container- and in-ground gardening, and food safety.
Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Food Services Department has organized a district School Garden Network to assist and provide support to TUSD schools with new or existing gardens. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) have made it possible to offer schools the option to certify their school gardens to be able to serve school grown produce in the school meal program. Schools can contact The TUSD School Garden Network to assist them with the certification process.
Manzo Elementary is the first school in Pima County to undergo the ADHS garden certification process and the garden was certified as a safe source of food to be used in the school meal program. Since certification, Manzo has held a school-wide garden to cafeteria event where produce grown in the garden were used to create two fun Salad Shakers for lunch titled “Manzo Fiesta Salad Shaker and Manzo Sweet Citrus Salad Shaker.”
FoodCorps initiatives around the state include partnerships with more than 17 schools and support for the Prescott Farmers Market; the STAR School; the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health Feast for the Future Program, Tuba City and Whiteriver; the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona; and the Ndee Bikíyaa (The People’s Farm), Fort Apache.