Meet Our Interns!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

National Farm to School Network is excited to be working with three interns on our team this summer! These interns have come to work  with us through the support of several different partner organizations, and over the coming months, they’ll be making contributions to strengthen our work on statewide policy tracking, various projects related to equity and food systems, and increasing communications, especially in tribal communities. Meet our interns below, and please join us in welcoming Jacquelyn, Jenileigh and Mackenize!

Jacquelyn Sullivan - Zero Hunger Intern, Congressional Hunger Center

Jacquelyn is a current student at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC studying Political Science and Community Studies. At Guilford, Jacquelyn serves as Coordinator for the Church Under the Bridge initiative, leading food recovery efforts and community building on her campus and in the Greensboro region at large. In addition, she aids in the management of Mobile Oasis, a mobile farmers market bringing local produce to neighboring food deserts. She has a passion for politics and leads her local chapter of Democracy Matters, a group focused on getting money out of politics and anti-voter suppression. Additionally, she spent a semester abroad in Chile, Nepal, and Jordan conducting interpretive research on food security. Working with NFSN's Policy Team, Jacquelyn is updating NFSN's state policy tracker so that we have a better understanding of  how states are growing farm to school through legislation, and how NFSN can support these efforts. She is also creating a calendar of state legislative sessions to help NFNS prepare future policy advocacy actions and forming a rubric for evaluating equity-advancing opportunities in our policy work. Jacquelyn currently resides in Winston-Salem, NC where she enjoys going to concerts, thrift shopping, and spending time with her friends.

Jenileigh Harris - Programs Intern

Jenileigh has experience in education, scientific and legal research, and food and agriculture law and policy. She is passionate about food justice, systems change work, effective policymaking and utilizing education as a tool for advocacy. Jenileigh is a recent graduate of Vermont Law School (VLS) where she earned her master’s degree in Food and Agriculture Law and Policy. While at VLS, she co-launched the Racial Equity Working Group to host events and facilitate conversations highlighting racial and cultural diversity as well as the racial and social inequities present within the food system. At NFSN, Jenileigh has been assisting the Programs team on various projects by providing logistical support for NFSN’s Annual Meeting, supporting farm to school grant program evaluations, writing content for NFSN’s farm to early care and education procurement blog series, and developing a comprehensive farm to school producer resource database. Jenileigh currently resides in Colorado Springs, CO and enjoys mountain biking, yoga, cooking, reading, and drinking coffee.

Mackenize Martinez - Partnership Communications Intern, Intertribal Agriculture Council

Mackenize Martinez is a native of Zwolle, LA. She is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Sciences with a concentration in Animal Science from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA. At McNeese State University, Mackenize has had much departmental involvement, including competing as a member of the collegiate livestock judging team, volunteering with the non-profit organization Ducks Unlimited, and serving as a biological volunteer for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Alongside school activities, Mackenize spends much of her time traveling and working with youth programming in Native American communities. Mackenize serves as the Communications Intern for National Farm to School Network through the Intertribal Agriculture Council (NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year), where she engages with stakeholders from around the country with various public relations projects relating to farm to school practices. Mackenize also enjoys working as a Research Assistant for the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas and serves as the Western Region Representative for the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance (NYFSA) Board. After graduation, she plans to continue her post-secondary education in the agricultural science field and work with livestock producers in Native American communities to help improve local food systems.

USDA Announces 2019 Farm to School Grant Recipients

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Congratulations to the newest USDA Farm to School Grant Program recipients! USDA announced last week that a record-breaking 126 projects in 42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have been awarded farm to school grants to explore, expand or scale up their farm to school activities. The 2019 awards total $9 million, and will impact 3.2 million students in 5,400 schools.

Eighteen National Farm to School Network Core and Supporting Partner organizations were selected for 2019 grants, including:

Alabama - Feeding the Gulf Coast
California - Center for Ecoliteracy
Colorado - Livewell Colorado
Illinois - Seven Generations Ahead
Iowa - Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children
Kansas - KC Healthy Kids
Maine - Healthy Communities of the Capital Area
Minnesota - Minnesota Department of Education; Reviewing the Countryside
Montana - Montana Office of Public Instruction
Nebraska - Center Rural Affairs
Nevada - Urban Roots Garden Classrooms
Ohio - Cuyahoga County District Board of Health
Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania Department of Education
Rhode Island - Farm Fresh Rhode Island
Vermont - Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets
Virginia - Fairfax County Public Schools
Wisconsin - WI Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

National Farm to School Network is also excited to be the recipient of a grant, which will allow us to offer 10 unique experiential learning opportunities in conjunction with our 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, April 20-24, 2020. Save the date! We hope you'll join us and take advantage of this unique opportunity to see innovative farm to school efforts in action and network with farm to school stakeholders from across the country!

This year’s grants are recording breaking - both in total number of projects supported and total amount of funding awarded - thanks to increased discretionary funding from Congress through appropriations bills for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. But, this increased funding is temporary. Annual mandatory funding for the program is only $5 million. The extra boost of appropriations funds allowed USDA to awards 52 more grants this year than the previous highest year of 2016, when 74 were awarded. It’s important that we continue to advocate for a permanent increase in funding for this highly valuable program so more communities can access these important resources, grow new programs, and experience the benefits of farm to school.

That's why the National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are working with a bipartisan and bicameral group of Congressional champions to strengthen this important grant program and support other farm to school priorities with the Farm to School Act of 2019. The bill, sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), David Perdue (R-GA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), will expand funding for and programmatic scope of the highly successful USDA Farm to School Grant Program, including:

  • Increasing annual funding to $15 million and increasing the grant award maximum to $250,000,
  • Advancing equity by prioritizing grants that engage diverse farmers and serve high-need schools,
  • Fully including early care and education sites, summer food service sites & after school programs, and
  • Increasing access among tribal schools to traditional foods, especially from tribal producers.

Your voice is crucial in this advocacy work! Take 2 minutes to add your name to our petition and/or our organizational sign-on letter in support of the Farm toSchool Act. Have an extra five minutes? Make an even greater impact by calling your members of Congress and asking them to co-sponsor this bill. Find step-by-step instructions and a call script for calling your members of Congress here.  

The USDA Farm to School Grant Program is an essential tool to improve the health of our children, our food system and our local economies. Join us in calling on Congress to continue and expand its support for this highly impactful program!

National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.

Growing Healthy Eaters in Georgia

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

This post is part of our Farm to ECE Procurement Blog Series, which is devoted to the many ways that early care and education sites connect children and their families to local food and local food producers. Read previous posts in this series here. Have a farm to ECE procurement story to share? Contact Lacy Stephens at

Children enjoying a radish taste test at Tee Tee’s Daycare in Valdosta, Georgia. Photo courtesy of Kim Jackson, owner of Tee Tee’s Daycare .

Guest Blog By Gina Cook, Quality Care for Children

Beans, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes are just a sampling of the many fruits and vegetables that grow in Georgia. Because Georgia’s climate allows tremendous opportunities for farmers, just about any crop can be grown successfully somewhere within the state.

However, many children grow up in Georgia not knowing where their food comes from and how it is grown. Many childcare providers may have limited access to fresh, healthy, locally grown foods and serve only canned or frozen fruits and vegetables.  

In 2017, the formation of the Georgia Farm to ECE Learning Collaborative was made possible by a generous grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Eighteen early care providers across the state were selected to receive mini grants, resources, materials, training, and professional development opportunities to incorporate farm to ECE activities, including gardening, local procurement, and nutrition education. Here are some of the take-aways and lessons learned from the Learning Collaborative's activities.

Overcoming Barriers to Eating Local Foods
Limited Access to Local Foods
One would think since farming is the foundation of the state’s economic well-being, there would be more locally grown produce in the stores. However, this was not always the case and providers needed support to find out where to purchase local foods. The Georgia Grown website has been helpful in identifying what is in season and finding farms and locations to purchase local foods.

Local farm stands are usually only open certain hours during the day or on the weekends. Family childcare providers cannot get away during the day since they are usually the only ones caring for the children and weekends are filled with family commitments. So running to the grocery store, which stays open late, may be the only option. Some providers have been able to find local products at the grocery stores they frequent and others have focused their attention on the foods they can grow in the garden and serve on-site as first steps for serving local foods.

The childcare providers were concerned that children would waste the food, especially if it was more expensive to purchase. Offering exposures to new foods through taste tests and gardening increase children’s acceptance of new foods and can help decrease food waste. A few of the sites have been creative in their purchasing practices to help address costs. One site was able to purchase marked-down produce by developing a relationship with a local farmer.

Many of the providers have commented on the time involved in the preparation of fresh, local foods.  They must spend more time washing, cutting, and cooking. It was much easier for them to open up a can or put frozen vegetables in the microwave. Several of the sites have struggled with knowing what foods to purchase, especially when it comes to picky eaters, and how to prepare. Choosing foods that are easy to prepare and broadly appealing to little ones, like cherry tomatoes, snap-peas, and strawberries, can be one initial way to overcome this challenge.  Spoilage has been a main concern since fresh food tends to go bad much quicker.  However, one provider has purchased a food storage vacuum system that allows her to freeze what she grows or purchases.  

Local Food Successes
All of the providers in the Learning Collaborative have planted a garden with a variety of vegetables.  Some are able serve these at meals and snacks and invite families to come and experience first-hand the garden.  Parents have shared that their children’s excitement and pride in their gardens is contagious.  Not only are the children more likely to try fruits and vegetables if they participate in the growing process, but the parents are too!  One parent remarked, “I am learning to eat red pepper because my son is eating it at school.”  

Family Engagement
The participants of the Learning Collaborative agree that behaviors around food are difficult to change.  Some of the providers have commented that getting their families to try new foods has come with some resistance.  To address this issue, providers welcome parents to cook and participate in a taste test with the children. Providers also offer dishes with familiar flavor profiles that go well will family staples like beans and rice eaten by Hispanic families served by the childcare site.  Some of the gardens produce an abundance of vegetables and the sites have given some to the families in their care along with a simple recipe to make at home.

Despite the challenges, all of the providers agree that the successes outweigh the barriers. Children are enjoying gardening and eating what they grow.  They try more foods and actually like them! They can even tell you how seeds grow!  This enthusiasm has spread to the families at the sites and now families are becoming more aware of what they are serving at home.  One provider tells the story of the little girl who ASKS for salad now!  

You can hear more about local procurement in family child care in Georgia from Gina and family child care owner, Maria Claudia Ortega, in this NFSN webinar, Farm to Early Care and Education in Family Child Care.  

Bottom photo: Families love working in the garden together! Photo courtesy of Maria Claudia Ortega, owner of My Little Geniuses in Marietta, GA