Paper Plates, Partnerships & Proclamations: 2016 Farm to School Policy Successes
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.
- 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.
- 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!
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CACFP Take Action Challenge Celebrates Farm to Early Care and Education Champions
By Lacy Stephens, MS, RDN, Farm to Early Care and Education Associate
For the past year, early care and education providers across the country have been stepping up to build a healthier future for children by participating in the CACFP Take Action Challenge. The CACFP Take Action Challenge was designed to boost awareness about the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and its vital role in improving children’s health, enhancing the quality of child care, and addressing serious national issues like food insecurity and childhood obesity. The challenge also celebrates the incredible work of CACFP sponsors and providers as they completed health oriented activities from a list of challenges and submitted stories and pictures showing their success. Many of these “Actioneers” found success in farm to early care and education initiatives, and emerged as leaders in CACFP and in farm to ECE!
Michelle France-Slimak of Apple Valley Family Child Care in Plantsville, Conn., achieved Gold level recognition in the Challenge through a wide variety of food-based learning activities. This year, the raised beds and pots at Apple Valley were full of peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, and blueberry plants. The children find many ways to explore the foods they grow and the foods Michelle purchases from farmers markets. The vast array of sizes, shapes, and colors of produce make for fun, interactive lessons, and Michelle offers fruits and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways so children can compare tastes and flavors. With all of these learning opportunities, including field trips to local farms and orchards, Michelle has seen big changes in the food choices her children are making – choices that will set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating.
At TenderCare, a family child care home in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, children not only follow local foods from seed to plate, but also learn how food can bring the community together. Gladys Movall, owner and provider at TenderCare, also happens to be a Master Gardener, and sees first hand the many lessons children learn in the garden, from appreciating the environment, to listening skills, teamwork, and time management. Gladys notes how enthusiastic the children are to try the foods that come out of the garden and to bring the foods home to their families. The children also learn about the importance of healthy food in the community by visiting farmers markets to talk to producers and by sharing the bounty of their garden with the local food bank. At TenderCare, children see the potential for a small seed to grow into big impacts in the community.
At the 9 locations of the North Bay Children’s Center (NBCC) in central Calif., farm to ECE initiatives are integrated in a wide variety of activities through The Garden of Eatin’ program. Led by Garden and Nutrition Educators Lisa Bianchi and Lacey Packard, children plant and harvest in the gardens, cook with fresh garden produce, and participate in Harvest of the Month activities. NBCC carries the message of healthy, local eating into the community by developing new community gardens and providing parent educations about the importance of the farm to school movement. NBCC fosters a "wellness policy" company wide that includes staff development education on the importance of embracing healthy living through farm fresh foods. As staff learn about and become enthusiastic for gardening and healthy eating, children see this modeling and farm to ECE initiatives becomes an even more natural way of life for children and families, too.
This was the first year to delve into farm to ECE activities for Coastal Community Head Start in N.C. Based on the positive feedback from teachers, families, and children, the organization is looking towards increasing their local purchases and integrating even more food-based activities into the program. Nutrition Manager Catherine Schlaefer, was thrilled to be able to purchase farm fresh treats from a producer just down the road for meals and snacks. Children and teachers alike noticed the difference in the flavor of these freshly picked strawberries, green peas, melons, cucumbers and fresh corn. Everyone is now looking forward to sweet potato season and Catherine is planning her menus to incorporate even more local foods next year. Catherine’s favorite thing about the Challenge was the way that it made meeting CACFP regulations fun and exciting and brought a “lighter side” to CACFP.
While the CACFP Take Action Challenge has come to an end, these providers and the children, families, and community they serve will continue to reap the many benefits of farm to ECE. Read more stories of success on the CACFP Take Action Challenge website and find ways you can take action with farm to early care and education on the National Farm to School Network Farm to Early Care and Education webpage.
Photo captions: Children at one of the Costal Community Head Starts enjoy exploring corn before cooking and tasting it (top); A child inspects microgreens at a North Bay Children’s Center site (bottom).
The 2016 you helped make possible
At the National Farm to School Network, we enter these last few weeks of 2016 with gratitude and in celebration. It’s been a busy and exciting year for our network and the wider farm to school movement, and we have you – our members, donors, partners and friends – to thank. Your commitment to our mission and support of our work is what keeps the farm to school movement growing strong.
Here are several highlights of our 2016 success that you helped make possible:
- Leadership Development: Hosted the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison, Wis., which brought together 1,040 farm to cafeteria leaders from across the country for three days of learning, networking, resource sharing and movement building.
- State-Level Support: Supported state-level farm to school growth with Seed Change initiatives in Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Mississippi. Seed Change KY, LA, PA completed its 18-month project with schools across all three states having doubled their farm to school activities.
- National Advocacy: Continued advocacy for Child Nutrition Act reauthorization, including successful integration of Farm to School Act of 2015 priorities in both Senate and House committee bills. Organized a paper plate advocacy campaign, and delivered more than 550 messages of support for farm to school and healthy school meals to legislators on Capitol Hill.
- Farm to Early Care and Education: Launched the results of our 2015 survey of early care and education providers, and continued to promote networking and collaboration among ECE stakeholder with a national listserv and quarterly webinars.
- Awareness Building: Celebrated National Farm to School Month in October with 224 outreach partner organizations and thousands of farm to school champions across the country. This year’s campaign spread farm to school messages to a national audience of more than 10 million.
- Innovation Awards: Presented Innovation Awards to state partners in Georgia, the Great Lakes and the Northeast to develop new resources and creative outreach approaches for bringing new farmers and producers into the farm to school movement.
- New Resources: Expanded our resource library with new resources for helping farm to school efforts grow in all communities, including fact sheets about farm to school in Native Communities and updated early care and education local food procurement resources.
In 2017, we celebrate our 10 year anniversary! The next phase of our growth will have a laser-focus on institutionalizing and sustaining farm to school through network development, expanding partnerships, policy advocacy and leadership development for farm to school in K-12 and ECE settings. Our work will be guided by a new strategic plan to be rolled out in mid-2017.
Farm to school doesn’t happen on its own – it takes people like you championing the movement. We need your help to continue this important work.
With your gift, we can continue to build strong farm to school support networks, train farm to school practitioners across the country, drive policy change and develop vibrant communities that support healthy kids and thriving farms. Your generosity is what makes our work possible - we couldn’t do it without you!
Make your end of year, tax-deductible donation today. Together, we can keep this movement growing.