Farm to ECE in Family Child Care

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Elizabeth Esparza, Communications Intern

Farm to early care and education (farm to ECE) is a group of strategies and activities that offer increased access to healthy, local foods, gardening opportunities, and food-based activities to enhance the quality of educational experience, while also expanding healthy food access and family engagement. Nearly one quarter of children spend time in family child care homes before they reach kindergarten. Because farm to ECE adapts readily to diverse settings and ages and abilities of children, farm to ECE is a great fit for family child care homes.

In North Carolina, the Wake County Smart Start Farm to Child Care program is a collaboration of multiple organizations that work together to support child care facilities in Wake County that serve low-income families and children. The Farm to Child Care program supports ECE providers, children, and families in accessing  healthy, nutritious food. Comprised of Wake County Smart Start, Advocates for Health in Action, NC Cooperative Extension, and Shape NC, the Farm to Child Care program works together to support the almost 170 family child care home facilities in the county.

The program holds training to help child care providers better understand how to use what’s in season and to give them the skills to be able to move from canned to fresh and local food. Because family child care facilities don’t buy their food in large quantities, the Farm to Child Care program’s training focuses on diverse ways that family child care providers can obtain local foods, including directly from a local farmer and from an onsite garden. Overall, the program focuses on trainings that encourage family child care home facilities that want to focus on healthy living to make their programs holistic, incorporating the core elements of farm to ECE - local procurement, gardens, and food and nutrition education -  into multiple aspects of their program.

In 2017, grants from the WK Kellogg Foundation brought together five organizations to form the Georgia Farm to ECE Learning Collaborative. Comprised of Georgia Organics, Quality Care for Children, Little Ones Learning Center, Voices for Georgia’s Children, and The Common Market, the collaborative partnership works to provide mini grants, free resources, materials, training, and professional development opportunities to early care providers interested in incorporating farm to ECE activities into their ECE environments, including educational activities and  meal services.

Of the 18 Learning Collaborative sites throughout Georgia, eight are family child care homes. With support from the learning collaborative, these family child care homes create farm to ECE action plans, and receive on-site technical assistance in classrooms, training and professional development, menu consultation, and other resources to utilize in their programs. The Learning Collaborative sites are able to use the mini grants they receive to pay for books, materials, and professional development, offering them the opportunity to implement successful farm to ECE strategies into their programs.

Jackson Child Care uses their Farm to Table program to ensure that their children are ready for kindergarten, recognizing that 3-5 year olds are at the perfect age to use farm to ECE activities to align with standards. With the Creative Curriculum© as a foundation , the Farm to Table program uses farm to ECE activities to meet Virginia’s early learning standards for math, language/reading, art, and physical and cognitive development. A large part of Jackson Child Care’s program involves bringing the children out in the community and using community connections to help children learn about their food system and gain support and resources to make Farm to Table successful. Through field trips to local grocery stores and farmers markets, children are able to see and hear where their food comes from and interact with the people who grow and sell their food.

To learn more about the opportunities and benefits of farm to ECE in family child care homes, watch a recording of our February 2019 Trending Topics Webinar: Farm to Early Care and Education in Family Child Care.  Also check out USDA Team Nutrition's new version of it's popular Grow It, Try It, Like It! nutrition education materials, specifically for family child care homes. The resource has been updated and customized with posters, fruit and vegetable cards and recipes for for use by family child care homes. Download the resource here. Learn more about farm to ECE and Creative Curriculum© in Policy Equity Group’s A Guide to Using the Creative Curriculum to Support Farm to ECE Models.

Building Farm to School Advocacy Skills in New Mexico

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Chloe Marshall, Policy Specialist

A few weeks ago, the National Farm to School Network Programs and Policy Team visited Santa Fe, NM to connect with each other and to see the amazing work of our partners in the New Mexico Farm to School Alliance.* As a humble Midwesterner, having been no further than the Mississippi river, I entered what felt like a different world when I landed in Santa Fe. It was my first time in the “Land of Enchantment.” Both Farm to Table New Mexico and the National Education Association (who served as NFSN’s 2018 National Partner of the Year) welcomed us to their annual advocacy trainings where they trained local partners on how to advocate during the state’s intense and short legislative session. Advocacy hardly sounds like an enchanting activity, but something about the passion and dedication of the folks that I met was certainly magical and the results tangible. New Mexico partners have successfully passed bills that appropriate funding for the use of NM-grown produce in school meals and establish a Food and Farms Day; advocates are currently working on passing legislation that builds on these success.

Both advocacy trainings provided a wealth of information and facilitated some exciting connections. Before we stormed the halls of the state’s capitol building (the “roundhouse” as they call it), we learned everything from the basics of engaging elected officials to the nuances of New Mexico politics. We learned the history and context of the current policy priorities, including details of past successes and failures. Facilitators from different organizations shared personal experiences and even had us role play different scenarios to prepare. We listened to the inspiring words of Mr. Regis Peco, co-director of the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School - “There is no greater privilege than guiding the hearts and minds of children.” We collaborated and communed with local activists who taught us the vision and values of New Mexicans (and helped us test run our Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool!) We joined a celebration of the grassroots leaders and elected officials who work tirelessly to make farm to school the norm. We even feasted at San Ildefonso Pueblo with the family of our own Alena Paisano, NFSN Program Manager, who allowed us a glimpse into indigenous culture and how it endures despite centuries of efforts to silence Native people.

In each of these experiences, I got to see the very real impact farm to school advocacy has in people’s lives. Students lined up in the roundhouse ready to advocate for themselves, empowered by the educators who made farm to school their mission. That same day, in that same building, state legislators honored farm to school champions from around the state for their dedication to the work. Farm to school is not just an idea in New Mexico, it’s a whole movement built on the belief that our children, farmers, and communities deserve better.

To learn more about farm to school in New Mexico, click here.

* New Mexico Farm to School Alliance partners:
Farm to Table New Mexico
New Mexico Public Education Department
New Mexico Health Department
University of New Mexico Community Engagement Center
New Mexico Student Nutrition Association

FY 2019 Funding Bill Includes $5 Million for Farm to School

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The funding bill passed by the Senate and House this week, and signed by the President on Friday, included a bright spot for the farm to school movement. Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill includes an additional $5 million in discretionary funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, which doubles the annual available funding for this highly impactful and important program for one year. This is a significant win for the farm to school movement. Demand for the program is more than four times higher than available yearly funding, and this additional discretionary funding will help make the program accessible to more schools, farmers and communities across the country.

Please join us in thanking Sen. Leahy for this win and for helping make healthy, local food in schools a reality for millions of children across the country. You can send him a thank you on social media (@SenatorLeahy) or give his office a call at (202) 224-4242 to let him know that you appreciate his ongoing efforts to strengthen and support farm to school. Sen. Leahy championed a similar funding win in the 2018 appropriations bill. As a result, approximately $7.5 million will be awarded in FY 2019 and FY 2020 USDA Farm to School grants.

National Farm to School Network has been advocating for an increase in funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program for several years. This important program increases the use of and improves access to local foods in schools – thus boosting farm income and economic opportunities – while also fostering experiential food education for our nation’s children. Since the first cycle of grants in 2013, USDA has received over 1,900 applications requesting more than $141 million, though has only been able to make 437 awards from the $30 million available.

While the additional $5 million in discretionary funding included in the FY 2019 funding bill is a big boost for the program, this funding is temporary. It’s important that we continue to advocate for a more permanent solution for sustaining the USDA Farm to School Grant Program and its impact for communities with high-need across the country. National Farm to School Network continues our advocacy work to ensure that farm to school opportunities are accessible to every student, farmer and community across the country. Stay tuned to our blog for more policy news, updates and opportunities to join us in this advocacy and make your voice heard.

Welcome, Chloe Marshall!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

National Farm to School Network is excited to welcome Chloe Marshall to our team as our Policy Specialist!

Chloe brings a wealth of advocacy, coalition building, and food equity experience to our team. Before joining the National Farm to School Network, she served as the Maryland Advocacy & Outreach Coordinator with Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C, where she represented the food bank on policy and budget issues locally and on Capitol Hill. In addition, she has served on the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (FEC),  where she leveraged her work with the Food Bank and the FEC into a partnership to launch a food justice coalition in Capitol Heights, MD, and founded the Food Justice Coalition of 20743, a collaboration of residents, community organizations, and grassroots leaders who seek community-led solutions to local food equity issues. Chloe is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University with a degree in Culinary Nutrition. Her strong passion for community engagement and unique background in food policy make Chloe an exciting addition to our team.

Chloe currently resides in Prince George’s County, Maryland, where she enjoys singing with her church’s choir, the Suitland Road Chorus, and tending to her aging cat, Mabel Anne.

Chloe is based in our Washington, D.C. office. Reach out to her 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 her a message or say hello at