Giving Thanks for Partnerships and Innovation
By Mary Stein, Deputy Director
As we arrive at the eve of my favorite day of the year, I am feeling a deep sense of gratitude for the amazing network of people that has taken the farm to school movement from a few classrooms to all 50 states, reaching more than 23 million children across the nation. What may appear at first to be a simple act of serving local apples during National Farm to School Month in October, is part of a much more complex national effort impacting the health of our kids, the viability of family farms and community well-being.
We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the selfless work and enthusiasm for sharing new ideas that our many partners bring to the National Farm to School Network. Farm to school connects disciplines that previously operated independently. The obvious example is local farms that are now connecting to schools. But when we dig more deeply, we see that there are many more partners at the table, including food banks, educators, state and federal agencies, philanthropists, foodservice professionals, mental health and public health practitioners, economic development organizations, tribal nation leaders, elected officials… the list goes on. It is at these intersections that innovation happens and through these partnerships that we are building a broad, deep and resilient foundation for the future.
I’ll be honest – pumpkin pie smothered in fresh whipped cream is probably the factor that tips Thanksgiving into the “my favorite holiday” category. But slowing down to tune our senses to what is right, beautiful and generous in our lives is even sweeter.
Thank you to all of our incredible core partners, practitioners in the field, school lunch specialists, parents, farmers and policymakers. And to everyone who believes that together we can shape the next generation of healthy eaters.
First Graders Don’t Care about Michelin Stars
By Jaime Lockwood, Development Director
Chefs have played a significant role in the farm to school movement since Alice Waters started the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley. And as the movement has grown, so has their impact. From Tom Colicchio testifying in Congress for improved child nutrition standards to the Chef Action Network Boot Camp for Policy and Change, celebrity chefs across the country are activating their notoriety and influence to propel the conversation about kids and healthy food into the mainstream.
But on a recent visit to New York, I was reminded that chefs bring more than a high-profile name to this fight. At the James Beard Foundation Food Conference, I met Michael Anthony, a Chefs Boot Camp graduate and the Executive Chef and Partner at Gramercy Tavern in New York City. Upon hearing that I work for the National Farm to School Network, he excitedly shared how he and his team at Gramercy Tavern and its sister restaurants volunteer at P.S. 41 in Manhattan, teaching cooking and nutrition to first grade students.
From left to right: Chef Michael Anthony, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli and Chef Bill Telepan
(Photo courtesy of Wellness in the Schools)
Michael connected with P.S. 41 through Wellness in the Schools (WITS), an organization co-founded by Nancy Easton and Chef Bill Telepan of Telepan Restaurant to “inspire healthy eating, environmental awareness and fitness as a way of life for kids in public schools.” Since 2005, WITS has been harnessing the creativity, energy and dedication of chefs to create a huge presence in NYC public schools. Their Cooking for Kids program enlists 26 chefs to participate in cooking and nutrition education programs in schools across all five boroughs of New York City.
A few days later, I found myself at P.S. 84 Brooklyn in Williamsburg, warmly greeted by Ting Chang, a registered dietician and WITS Program Coordinator, and Chef George Weld of Egg, a tiny Williamsburg restaurant with a huge reputation. Ting explained how WITS tries to introduce chefs to schools in their own communities, helping connect local residents, schools and businesses. Chef George is not only a local business owner; he is a resident who sends his own children to P.S. 84 and is invested in ensuring children have every opportunity to access healthy food and develop knowledge around good eating habits. His business partner Evan Hanczor is a graduate of Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, and together they are striving to make a difference in their community – both with adults and the increasing number of children who live in their thriving neighborhood.
As Chef George helped students at P.S. 84 prepare a kale, apple and couscous salad, I couldn’t help but think how these 7 and 8-year-olds had no idea that he has been written up in The New York Times. But they could sense his interest in them and his enthusiasm for the fresh, healthy food they were eating, and that positive experience is what builds kids’ interest and willingness to try new foods. As busy, successful chefs step up to the proverbial plate to use their skills, creativity and passion to change the health trajectory for children across the country, I ask, if we all approached farm to school creatively, utilizing our own skills (doused with the same patience and dedication), how many more children could we impact?
Collaboration and Innovation with Newman’s Own Foundation
By Anupama Joshi, Executive Director and Co-founder
Newman’s Own Foundation announced today the formation of an innovative Nutrition Cohort, a coalition of organizations including the National Farm to School Network that will work to improve health among children and families in underserved communities through fresh food access and nutrition education. Together with five other nonprofits and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, the National Farm to School Network will share its knowledge, experience and deep network of expert practitioners to help accelerate systems change on a national level.
Farm to school practices that connect children to healthy food through local sourcing and experiential education have been shown to improve the eating habits and health of children of all ages and their families while also strengthening local agriculture and economies. Several studies, like this one taking place in Vermont, also show that kids who participate in farm to school/preschool education opportunities, like cooking lessons and school gardens, are more likely to try new foods and perform better in school, both academically and socially. More than 23 million students across the country now participate in farm to school activities, a huge increase over the handful of programs that were in place when the National Farm to School Network was founded in 2007.
As part of the Nutrition Cohort, National Farm to School Network has been awarded a three-year $600,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation to support innovative programmatic expansions and further build capacity for providing relevant information, networking opportunities and policy advocacy for the farm to school community. We are honored to be part of the Nutrition Cohort, which also includes the Fair Food Network, FoodCorps, Inc., The Food Trust, Wellness in the Schools and Wholesome Wave. Newman's Own Foundation is providing a total of $4.5 million in grants for the Cohort program as part of its overall $10 million support of nonprofits that increase fresh food access and nutrition education in underserved communities.
Download our Benefits Fact Sheet to learn more about the impact of farm to school.
New Resource and Funding Ideas for Grassroots Organizations
By Barbara Patterson, NFSN Policy Intern
This week, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) released a Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs. The 2014 Farm Bill contained reauthorization of several programs that promote local and sustainable food systems. This new resource helps farmers, conservationists, entrepreneurs, researchers, and rural and urban community groups navigate new and existing federal farm and food programs to create a more sustainable agriculture system.
In particular, this guide offers accessible and easy-to-understand overviews and examples of federal programs that support farm to school efforts. Some examples of programs featured in the guide that support farm to school are Farm to School Grants, Value-Added Producer Grants, Specialty Crop Block Grants and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program Grants.
For each program, NSAC outlines eligibility, program history, authorizing legislation, application information and examples of success stories.
Checkout the Grassroots Guide here.
Farm to School Month 2014: Success and Celebration
Thank you for celebrating National Farm to School Month with us! Throughout October, kids in all 50 states plus D.C. ate local food in their school cafeterias and participated in garden events, farm field trips and more.
We know that many of you were involved in local events and helped spread the word about Farm to School Month, and we want you to know that your hard work and outreach made a huge impact. Local media across the country covered farm to school events, more than 38,000 people visited FarmtoSchool.org last month, and our messaging reached an audience of 800,000+, thanks to the support of our partners. Together we are creating new markets for local farms while helping build the next generation of healthy, informed eaters - thank you!
We also want to congratulate the winners of our Farm to School Month contest! Dan Sharp in Grand Junction, Colo., won $1,000 from NFSN for a farm to school project in his community, and five additional winners will receive a free Project Learning Garden lesson kit from the Captain Planet Foundation.
Through a special grant from UNFI Foundation, NFSN also awarded Farm to School Month funding to schools in 10 states to host harvest events, local food tastings and more to spread the word about the benefits of farm to school.