Announcing the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
Save the date! The 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is coming to Madison, Wis., June 2-4 2016.
Cafeterias in schools, universities, prisons, hospitals and childcare centers serve more than 40 million Americans every day during the school year, placing the farm to cafeteria movement at the forefront of the fight to end obesity and strengthen local food systems. Think of it this way: a single school district often feeds more people in a day than all of a city’s restaurants combined. The National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, hosted by the National Farm to School Network, is the only national gathering of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement, making it the premiere opportunity to learn, network and collaborate with likeminded leaders from across the country.
This biennial event will convene more than 1,500 diverse stakeholders working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America. Attendees will include food service professionals, farmers and food producers, educators, policy makers, entrepreneurs, students and youth leaders, representatives from nonprofits and government agencies, public health professionals, and others engaged in the farm to cafeteria movement.
The program will include 40+ workshops in a variety of topical tracks and formats, exciting plenary addresses delivered by leaders in the farm to cafeteria and local food movements, networking opportunities, a series of 5-minute “lightning talks,” a poster session and resource share fair, entertainment options and an evening reception showcasing Madison’s vibrant local food culture. The 2016 conference theme Moving Forward Together lifts up new and innovative partnerships to continue building momentum and ensure long-term sustainability in the movement.
Do you have farm to cafeteria expertise to share? We’re seeking workshop, poster and lightning talk proposals from individuals and organizations working to improve our food system, strengthen community health, empower youth, build equity and increase opportunities for farmers to share their expertise, successes and learnings with the farm to cafeteria movement. The Request for Proposals (RFP) is open now through Dec. 4, 2015.
Registration for the conference will open Feb. 15, 2016 – mark your calendars now! Learn more at farmtocafeteriaconference.org.
Building farm to school policy in Hawai’i
Photo credit: Hawai'i Governor's Office
From reimbursements for locally sourced school meals to clarity on food safety regulations, state policies are an effective tool for growing robust farm to school program that connect children with fresh, healthy food and support local food producers. The National Farm to School Network is proud to provide the resources, information and support needed for farm to school advocates to achieve state policy success.
Here’s a recent example: in 2014, a group of farm to school advocates from Hawai’i attended our National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Austin, Texas, where they learned about state legislation and its power to affect change. Energized and filled with new ideas, they left the conference and began identifying their policies needs – like the need for an official state farm to school coordinator to orchestrate the multiple programmatic efforts happening around Hawai’i.
With a policy goal identified, the National Farm to School Network worked with Hawai’i leaders and offered resources and information to drive their legislative process forward. Our “Benefits of Farm to School” and “Farm to School Advocacy” factsheets proved to be helpful tools for raising awareness of farm to school activities and encouraging Hawaiians to become politically active in the farm to school movement. Our network of state and regional leads offered the Hawai’i leaders insight on how other states fund farm to school positions. And, our Policy Team provided written testimony to be considered by lawmakers as the bill made its way through the legislative process.
In July 2015, all of the hard work paid off. The bill unanimously passed both Hawai’i legislative chambers, creating a statewide farm to school program and providing funds for a farm to school program coordinator position in the Department of Agriculture. In addition to signing the bill into law, Hawai’i Governor David Ige made a proclamation in support of farm to school. Proclamations like this can often lead to greater awareness of farm to school activities in states and ideally, grow stronger statewide support in the form of resources and legislation.
Legislative wins don’t always come this easily. That’s why the National Farm to School Network is committed to building upon its tools and resources that help set up farm to school champions for policy success. There are now more than 40 states with enacted farm to school legislation, including Oregon and Louisiana – two additional states that passed strong farm to school legislation this year. Learn about every enacted, defeated and pending farm to school-related bill from 2002-2014 in our State Farm to School Legislative Survey.
Help us continue to support state policies that strengthen farm to school by giving to the National Farm to School Network on #GivingTuesday. Donate on Tuesday, Dec. 1 and Newman's Own Foundation will match all gifts up to $10,000. Together, we can help kids, farmers and communities in every state thrive.
Growing stronger from the start
Farm to school isn’t just for K-12 students; connecting young children to healthy food and nutrition education in preschool and early care settings is an essential component of growing a healthier next generation. The National Farm to School Network is dedicated to engaging more children age 0-5 in activities and experiences that increase acceptance of healthy foods and support life long healthy habits. Through leadership, advocacy, and networking, we’re bringing more farm to preschool to more of our nation’s littlest eaters.
Earlier this year, Lacy Stephens joined our team as a dedicated farm to preschool specialist, and her work is elevating and prioritizing preschool and early care settings within the wider farm to school and child wellness movements. Lacy represents the National Farm to School Network on the Child and Adult Care Food Program National Advisory Committee and the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight Policy Roundtable, giving the farm to school movement an important voice in conversations about the health and wellness of our nation’s youngest eaters. Our strong partnerships with these organizations and leaders continue to multiply our efforts and outreach at the national, state and local levels.
We’re also driving the movement forward by gathering data and research that provide insight on the specific needs and opportunities to expand farm to preschool to more children. Our National Survey of Early Care and Education Settings will give us the valuable information to develop new resources and outreach approaches, and the Early Childhood Good Food Access Research (in partnership with Partners for Change and the BUILD Initiative) will identify innovative strategies and policies for increasing access to healthy foods for young children.
In addition, we’re spreading awareness of farm to preschool by bringing you great stories on our blog, like:
- the benefits of farm to preschool for children and their families;
- innovative approaches to growing the movement;
- and how simple classroom lessons teach young children lifelong lessons about healthy eating.
In 2016, we’ll be reconvening the National Farm to School Network Farm to Preschool Group to bring together key stakeholders from early care and education, academia and state and federal agencies to grow and strengthen farm to preschool. We’re also looking forward to offering a robust farm to preschool track at the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, June 2-4, 2016, in Madison, Wis. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the farm to preschool movement!
Join us in strengthening these efforts to give our littlest eaters a healthy start, and help us ensure that every growing child has access to fresh, healthy food. Donate to the National Farm to School Network on #GivingTuesday, and Newman's Own Foundation will match all gifts up to $10,000. A donation in any amount is an investment in our children. Together, we can make sure they all have access to a bright and healthy future.