Farm to Preschool with Pumpkins

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Brittany Wager, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project serves as the Southeast Regional Lead Agency for the National Farm to School Network. Each of our regional lead agencies will be contributing blog posts during Farm to School Month.


One by one, preschool students at Fairview Head Start in Jackson County, North Carolina removed handfuls of pumpkin seeds and examined them carefully before washing them in bowls of water and preparing them to roast.

Christina Shupe, the leader for the activity, answered their inquiries about the different varieties of local pumpkins she had brought to their school that day. “It looks like a spider web in there,” one student commented when she looked down into the pumpkin. “Where’s the spider?”

Christina is a junior at Western Carolina University’s Nutrition and Dietetics Program, and is in her second year of involvement with ASAP’s Growing Minds @ University project. The experiences at the "learning lab" sites and the training offered by ASAP builds the capacity of future nutrition professionals like Christina, as well as future teachers and health professionals, to incorporate local food and farm based experiences in their work.

The lesson began with students passing around a "mystery bag" containing miniature winter squash. They reached inside the bag, felt the items inside, and offered up guesses as to what it contained. “I think it’s a bird,” one student guessed. Christina opened the bag and explained to the students what was inside, and they had an additional opportunity to smell and touch the squash.

“After that we looked at the different varieties of local pumpkins I had brought with me,” said Christina. “The students voted as to which one they wanted to open up and look inside.”

After inspecting the inside of the pumpkin, they each reached in and got a handful of seeds, rinsed off the goo in water, and put them on wax paper to bake. “The kids seemed to really enjoy washing off the goo, they were very careful and deliberate about it and were really engaged in the activity,” Christina said. “And of course they wanted to know when they could eat the seeds!”

Experiences like these are having a positive impact on Head Start and elementary students, their families and the university students. In recent family surveys, 74 percent of respondents indicated that their child’s experiences with the project have had a positive impact on how their family eats and thinks about food. The teachers of the project’s elementary and Head Start schools report a substantial change in children’s willingness to try new foods and to eat healthy snacks and lunches. The teachers also report that the multi-faceted approach of farm to school benefits the children academically, nutritionally and socially.

Christina sees the value in the way the project is preparing her to be a leader in her career. “As a future dietitian I hope to continually work to educate all people on healthy and sustainable foods, as well as to provide people of all ages positive experiences with local and healthy produce.”

If you’d like to lead a pumpkin exploration activity with young children, check out the lesson plan Christina used on ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School Program website.


Captain Planet Foundation helps Learning Gardens grow

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Leesa Carter, Executive Director, Captain Planet Foundation




Based on the critically-acclaimed animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) was co-founded in 1991 by media mogul Ted Turner and producer Barbara Pyle. Since then, CPF has played a critical role in helping to ensure that the next generation of business leaders and policy makers are environmentally literate citizens who leverage technology and information to manage and protect the air, land and water upon which all life depends.


CPF is a grant-making foundation that has distributed more than $2.5 million to over 1,800 hands-on environmental education projects with schools and youth-serving non-profits in all 50 U.S. states and 23 countries. More than 1 million children have directly participated in and benefited from these educational projects. In addition to its Small Grants Program, the Captain Planet Foundation also operates: Project Learning Garden (PLG), the Leadership Center, SAGES, Planeteer Clubs and a number of other science education initiatives that exploit the intersections between technology, innovation, the environment and personal action.


In its first 20 years, CPF’s Small Grants Program funded over 750 school or community gardens, outdoor learning labs and pollinator gardens. Captain Planet Foundation’s innovative Project Learning Garden was developed using the best practices and models from those grantees in order to provide schools with strategies for building effective and sustainable garden-based learning programs. The goal of PLG is to: integrate school gardens with core subject lessons; connect gardens to school cafeterias; help students develop an affinity for nature and an early palate for fruits and vegetables; and increase teacher capacity for providing project-based learning for students.

"One key element often overlooked in getting kids to eat better is the importance of how they eat at school," says Kyla Van Deusen, CPF's Project Learning Gardens program manager. "Kids learn how to enjoy fruits, vegetables and salads as a part of lunch, and this program has a direct impact on developing their palates from an early age. That palate development can also have an impact on how their parents eat, home meal preparation and childhood obesity prevention. Parents often report that their children ask them to buy new vegetables at the grocery store after growing and cooking the veggies themselves as part of a school garden program. One five-year-old said she preferred eating raw Brussels sprouts in the garden to her sour gummy worm treat!"

Teachers at CPF Learning Garden schools receive hands-on training, garden-based lessons aligned to national standards, lesson kits filled with supplies, a schoolyard garden, a fully-equipped mobile cooking cart and summer garden management. By the end of 2014, the program will have 135+ PLG schools in public schools around metro-Atlanta and in a pilot program in Ventura County, Calif.

This Fall, FoodCorps came to Georgia and CPF was thrilled to be selected as a service site for four amazing service members: Andrea Blanton, Sarah Dasher, Lauren Ladov and Bang Tran. FoodCorps is providing support to Project Learning Garden schools by doing garden tastings with the mobile cooking cart, supporting teachers as they perform PLG lessons for the first time, working with cafeteria teams to encourage local procurement decisions, and connecting chefs and farmers to schools for future support of the PLG program.

Project Learning Garden lessons are available free and can be downloaded from the CPF website. CPF recently launched a partnership with Pratt Industries that will allow any U.S. elementary school (with an existing garden) to order the classroom lesson supply kits at cost – which is about $400 for 18 lesson kits (3 lessons per grade, K-5). Schools can also order the Project Learning Garden mobile cooking cart at cost (about $725 – shipping included).  

As part of our Farm to School Month sponsorship this year, CPF is donating the full-school lesson supply kits (K-5) and mobile cooking carts to five lucky, winning schools! Find all the contest details here. For more information about PLG or to order kits and carts, visit projectlearninggarden.com.

Educational Support Professionals: Creative Partners in Farm to School

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Jonathan Falk, National Education Association, and Simca Horwitz, Massachusetts Farm to School Project

Nancy Burke (right) and student Taylor Warren (left) in the Haverhill High School garden. (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Farm to School Project)

In the US, more than 2 million Education Support Professionals (ESPs) play vital roles in helping create great public schools for our students. Nearly 500,000 of these educators are members of the National Education Association (NEA).  Working as bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, classroom paraeducators, food service staff, and in many other jobs, these essential educators help ensure that children are safe, healthy, well-nourished and well-educated.

ESPs are committed to their careers, their students and their communities. Seventy-five percent of NEA ESP members live in their school districts, and on average they have worked more than 11 years in their jobs. ESPs interact with student in different places than teachers do – on the school bus, in the cafeteria and at recess  – and they often have multi-year relationships with students and their families and care deeply about their students’ welfare.

All of this makes ESPs tremendous resources for helping to connect students, parents and community allies with farm to school activities.  Yet while thousands of schools across the country are engaged in farm to school work, there are very few places where ESPs are helping to lead these efforts.

The National Education Association and its state affiliate, the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), recognized this missed opportunity began a farm to school pilot project in 2012 to develop and support ESP-led farm to school activities. NEA/MTA quickly realized that Massachusetts Farm to School (MFTS), the state lead organization for the National Farm to School Network, could be a key ally, and the organizations began collaborating to engage MTA ESP members in farm to school.

With technical assistance from MFTS and from NEA’s own Health Information Network, MTA’s project has had three principal components:

  1. Providing training and resources to MTA ESP members about student nutrition, farm to school and how they can be involved.
  2. Identifying ESP groups that want to work in their school districts to develop or expand farm to school.
  3. Sponsoring a mini-grant program to support these local programs.

In the 2013-2014 school year, NEA and MFTS identified the Haverhill Education Association as a group to help implement a pilot farm to school grant program. Haverhill is a diverse gateway city in northeastern Massachusetts, and the school district had already engaged in some basic farm to school activities.  

Nancy Burke, an ESP who works as a paraeducator with students with disabilities at Haverhill High School, was inspired to start a school garden after participating in a workshop led by MFTS at Massachusetts Teacher’s Association’s annual ESP Conference.

"I sat back and said to myself, this would be wonderful for our children, who could be exposed to the garden, grow vegetables and know where their food comes from," Burke explains. "They may never have that experience at home because of their disabilities.”  

With great tenacity, Burke enlisted a local Boy Scout to build a wheelchair-accessible raised bed garden in an under-utilized interior courtyard at Haverhill High School. He also built ramps to make the quad accessible to her students.

According to Burke, development of the school garden program was a transformative experience. “It empowered me to take on a leadership role, which I've never had before.”

A Haverhill High School students displays a harvest from the school's garden. (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Farm to School Project.)

With funds from an NEA/ MTA farm to school mini-grant, Burke and the other ESPs in Haverhill have made additional investments in their school gardens, such as automated watering equipment and small tools. Encouraged by MTA to work collaboratively, teachers and paraeducators at three Haverhill schools are now working together on farm to school, with students at the alternative high school growing seedlings in their large greenhouse for other school gardens in the district.  

"Most of our students come from disadvantaged urban neighborhoods," explains Alternative School teacher Neil Wilkins. "Ninety-five percent of our students receive free or reduced lunch assistance. We hope that providing them access to their own garden from start to finish can be a life-changing experience."

NEA/MTA and MFTS continue to work together, providing training and technical assistance to ESPs throughout the state to help them undertake farm to school projects. We hope to expand the mini-grant program to an additional three districts and watch the role of ESPs in the farm to school movement flourish in Massachusetts.

For more information about the NEA/MTA farm to school project, or if you are interested in working with ESPs in your community to develop farm to school programs, contact Jonathan Falk at the NEA’s Education Support Personnel Quality Department.

Today is Farmer Resource Day!

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Alicia Harvie, Farm Aid

October is National Farm to School Month, a time to honor the fast-growing connections taking root nationwide between schools, family farmers and the good food they produce. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) first ever Farm to School Census revealed exciting growth in these programs sprouting up across the country; there are now farm to school programs in more than 40,000 schools reaching 23.5 million students nationwide.

Today, in partnership with the National Farm to School Network, we celebrate the family farmers across the country who participate in farm to school programs and bring healthy foods to our nation’s students. Farm Aid believes farm to school programs benefit everyone – farmers, schools, students and communities all have something to gain from these unique partnerships. Read on for new ideas and resources to develop farm to school programs in your community.

Ideas for Farmers: Seeding a new partnership

Making an estimated $3 billion in food purchases each year, school districts across the country represent huge potential markets for farmers interested in selling their produce locally. Here are some ways for farmers to get involved in the farm to school movement:

  • Start a dialogue. Identify your school district's food service director and speak with them about their sourcing policies and capacity to buy your products. Be clear about your production capacity, harvest schedule and pricing options.
  • Don’t limit yourself. Let the school know if you have a CSA or sell at local farmers' markets. If there's enough interest, consider adding a CSA pick up location at the school. Advertise your farm at a PTA meeting or introduce yourself on the school's website. These are all great ways to make sure students, parents and school faculty know about you and the wholesome products you raise.
  • Host a farm field trip. Make your farm their classroom! Use field trips as a way to give students hands-on experience in food and farming and a chance to meet their farmer. They'll love it. and the experience will likely spark a deeper interest in food.
  • Explore similar partnerships with colleges, universities, hospitals, and local businesses. Leverage your partnership with one institution to bring your products to another!


For Schools: Bring the farmer forward!

Farm to school programs offer kids much more than access to high quality, nutritious food – many programs integrate farm and food education into the curriculum as well. When you tap into the vast wisdom of family farmers, you can’t help but provide your students with a powerful experience! Consider these ideas:

  • Let students meet your Farmer Heroes! Invite farmers who participate in your school's food programs to speak about what they do or enlist their expertise in getting an edible school garden planted. Give farmers an opportunity to share their knowledge, show where good food comes from and answer students' questions.
  • Visualize the journey from farm to fork, from seed to fruit, or cow to cheese! Post photos from your partner farms in the cafeteria or the classroom and think of creative ways to visually bring what happens on the farm to the student experience.
  • Have farmers craft a farm fresh menu. Working the land, day-in and day-out, farmers are very in tune with the seasons. Invite them to join your team in designing seasonally appropriate menus or offer their favorite recipes for the produce they provide your cafeteria throughout their harvest.
  • Compensate fairly. Farming is an incredibly labor-intensive and time consuming job. Consider thoughtful ways to compensate participating farmers – financially and otherwise – for any extra time they lend in the classroom or on their farms.


Farm Aid Can Help

For more family farmers to thrive, the reach of good food must expand further, including each and every school in the country. Our Farm Aid Resource Network fosters important connections using our online catalog of more than 725 resources and valuable organizations — like the National Farm to School Network — to help you build a strong farm to school program. Explore these selected resources:

  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers has created several resources for farm to school programming, including this great guide for farmer field trips.
  • The fine print and bottom line: Farmer's Legal Action Group (FLAG) offers comprehensive farmer guides to contracting and marketing, including this tip sheet for selling directly to schools.
  • This guide by Vermont Feed includes strategies for marketing local food to schools and offers easy to use, hands-on, farm-based educational activities.
  • The Hayride, an resource for educational farm field trips, was created by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), located in North Carolina, the host of this year’s Farm Aid benefit concert!  

For more inspiration, we love USDA’s latest promotional video of farm to school programs and how they support family farmers, kids, local economies and communities.


Collaboration with a Crunch

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021


Guest post by Vanessa Herald, University of Wisconsin, Madison - Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems

The University of Wisconsin, Madison - Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems serves as the Great Lakes Regional Lead for the National Farm to School Network. Each of our regional lead agencies will be contributing blog post during Farm to School Month.

By this time in October, most farms and schools in our Great Lakes Region have experiences the first hard frost of the season, if not the first snowfall. We face the challenges of a short growing season every year, but that doesn’t stop local schools, community organizations, non-profits, state and local agencies from establishing incredible farm to school programs. As a region, what could we do to celebrate National Farm to School Month, encourage new schools to connect with local farms to feature a local food item and have fun? Our answer was the first Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch!

As a region, the six states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Indian boast farm to school programs in 6,664 schools, reaching over 3,347,008 students. Our regional apple producers grow at least 320 million pounds of apples for fresh eating. What better to connect our regional growers and students than to encourage everyone to bite into a regional apple at noon on Food Day, October 24! In Michigan alone, last year over 74,000 students and residents participated in the Michigan Apple Crunch sponsored by Cherry Capital Foods, a Michigan-based distributor that works directly and exclusively with farmers, growers and producers from their home state.

The Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch was a bushel of success. Not only did schools and school districts across the region chomp into apples, so did other farm to school partners like the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and Ohio State University Extension The School Nutrition Association of Michigan even hosted an Apple Crunch Party at their annual conference.

“The Crunch is a simple and flexible way to get schools excited about celebrating Wisconsin food. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed by how complex farm to school can look, and this is a simple way to celebrate it,” says Sarah Elliott, Wisconsin State Lead based at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.


And celebrate they did, with over 100 schools participating in the Crunch. This was very apparent in the Janesville School District, which hosted a big Apple Crunch Celebration. Janesville School District is home to 10,000 students in Southern Wisconsin, and has committed to purchasing local foods for this school year. Janesville made the most of their Crunch during lunch period last Friday. A huge, hand-painted farm to school poster accompanied special guests Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Ben Brancel, Janesville School District Superintendent Dr. Karen Schulte, and Representative Amy Loudenbeck, along with hundreds of enthusiastic sixth grade students at Marshall Elementary School.

At 11:45 they ceremoniously counted down and loudly crunched into local apples from Brightenwoods Orchard. Special guests Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Ben Brancel and Janesville School District Superintendent Dr. Karen Schulte joined the sixth grade class at Marshall Elementary School to ceremoniously count down and crunch into local apples from Brightenwoods Orchard. The event was a celebration of local foods, local farmers and the benefits of fruits and vegetables. Simultaneously, all students in the district were served the same local apples for lunch, along with an October menu full of local food items.

Jim Degan, School Nutrition Manager for Janesville, began planning for the event in September. “Farm to school takes a lot of partnerships and commitment. The goal of the Apple Crunch is to generate some awareness of our farm to school efforts, and the partnerships that make it work.” Degan sees farm to school as a value to local farmers, the local community and students. “The quality and taste of local products is fantastic. You don’t get that taste anywhere else. Sometimes it can be hard to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables, so the good quality and colors of the local products really helps.” This was evident at the Apple Crunch, as student enthusiastically, and loudly, showed their approval for these local apples.

“Folks all across the state are very excited about the Crunch, in part because it’s a collective activity that brings us all together. People felt like they were part of something bigger than just what’s happening in their own school,” commented Elliott. And as students, teachers and community members from across the region bit into their delicious apples last week, we all felt the enthusiasm generated by the simple act of crunching into a local apple.

Food Justice in the South

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Pam Kingfisher, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group


Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group serves as the South Regional Lead Agency for the National Farm to School Network. Each of our regional lead agencies will be contributing blog posts during Farm to School Month.



From the ancient tribal agricultural ways of Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, Natchez and others, the landscape of the South has always been rich in food systems, right along with the racial and economic disparities forced upon the region. The original farm workers were slaves laboring on rich plantations across the south. The tribes accepted runaway slaves into our communities, to grow food and families along with our people. This mutual and violent history has pushed both Native and African Americans from the land. Many of these same systems of racial and economic disparity have played a part in the destruction of small and family farmers and the continued abuse of farm labor and the ecosystem.

But, many people and organizations are promoting agricultural and food systems that protect our lands, people, animals and water in order to rebuild healthy communities.

Visiting New Orleans over the last few years has provided me with a unique view of “food justice” after Katrina wiped out most of their infrastructure. Community charter schools were some of the first buildings to re-open. The hurricane disaster created a clean slate for community members to establish systems a little differently. At Green Academy the lunchroom has a blue line around it where the high water mark was. This year they are painting over that line as they have healed from that time. The administration built in a kitchen classroom for the students along with “Edible Schoolyards” for outdoor classrooms and growing food. Three of the schools in this system have Edible Schoolyards, each with a unique point of view. At Arthur Ashe I visited with bunnies, chickens and goats, as well as students, throughout the schoolyard. At Langston Hughes they had recently celebrated a sweet potato festival after growing 300 pounds of them. They have a Garden Lab classroom with a full time horticulture teacher to guide these young producers.



Each of these schools were hard to approach – the streets are still a mess of potholes and patches of pavement – but the welcome received from the faculty and students can’t be beat. The students preparing for an Iron Chef contest were so enthusiastic, it was hard to leave before the contest happened! The schools don’t fence the gardens so that everyone feels free to gather food if they need it. There hasn’t been any vandalism at these schools either - the communities treasure these assets and take pride in what they have built.

That is food justice to me. When a community can rebuild their schools to include gardens and animals with outdoor classrooms to teach whole children in a whole system.

10,000 Foot View of a Region: What’s Next for the West?

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Stacey Sobell, Ecotrust
Ecotrust serves as the West Regional Lead Agency for the National Farm to School Network. Each of our regional lead agencies will be contributing blog posts during Farm to School Month.


Farmers check out processing equipment while visiting Cloud Mountain Farm Center last fall on a mobile tour hosted by the Washington Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School program.  

The Western Region is full of pioneers, including in the world of farm to school. The region has been responsible for magnificent innovation: California birthed the National Farm to School Network; the Oregon legislature created a $1.2 million farm to school and school garden grant program; and from Alaska to Montana, Hawaii to Nevada, our region’s schools spend over $87 million on local food each year.

As the Western Regional Lead Agency for the National Farm to School Network, we at Ecotrust are lucky to work closely with many of the explorers who have charted this new course for farmers and schools in our region. This year, Ecotrust’s farm to school team is wrapping up a three year project working directly with school districts and farmers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley to increase purchases of local foods. The project, funded by Kaiser Permanente, was an opportunity to support creative new ideas to move the dial on farm to school, such as Boat to School and Legislators to the Lunchroom. It was also a unique opportunity for our team to build deeper relationships with school food service directors, farmers and distributors. At the end of our three years, we asked them: Having come this far, what do you need next?

What's next: How do we make farm to school "business as usual?"

This question also reflects a time of introspection for our team. Almost a decade into our work in farm to school, Ecotrust is looking forward to what’s on the horizon for our region. What will it take to make farm to school the new "business as usual" at every school, from Anchorage to Boise to Honolulu? We have a lot of resources in place—state leads who act as networking and resource hubs for each of the eight Western states (we even have a few state farm to preschool leads), state farm to school grant programs in Alaska and Oregon, vibrant statewide networks in Hawaii and California, and a rich partnership with our regional counterpart at the USDA, who makes much of this work possible through technical assistance and financial resources.

And yet, when we asked school districts and farmers in the Willamette Valley what they needed next, the answers were familiar. Small budgets, season limitations, a lack of scratch cooking in school kitchens, and the time-consuming nature of building the relationships vital to the work topped the list of challenges for schools and farmers alike. There are workarounds for each of these obstacles, and they certainly haven’t stopped many school districts and farmers from creating vibrant programs and partnerships. But these ongoing challenges are symptomatic of a more fundamental bottleneck that remains even as we continue to innovate: our region’s hard infrastructure—the kind that supports the aggregation, processing, and distribution of food—isn’t set up for local suppliers to feed local buyers.

Lacking adequate facilities to process large amounts of fruit in state, Hawaiian pineapple is shipped off island to be sliced and chunked. Pineapple from South America and the Philippines is often found to be more affordable than fruit grown in the US. (Photo courtesy of Jakub Kapusnak, Foodie's Feed)  

No pineapples in Hawaii schools and other infrastructure roadblocks

Pineapple in school lunches in Hawaii might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not that simple. Dexter Kishida, School Food Service Supervisor at the Hawaii State Department of Education explains that most Hawaiian school kitchens don’t have capacity to deal with the whole fruit and that the state lacks local processing capacity at a scale to meet school district needs. The fruit must be shipped off island to be processed into slices and chunks and then sent back (with a resulting impact on cost and affordability for schools). And Dexter notes that this often means that pineapple from South America and the Philippines is more affordable than fruit grown in their own state. Mardi Solomon of Whatcom County Farm to School relates how students in Washington State are served "baby" shaved carrots from California rather than those grown locally, since school food service programs cannot afford to pay staff for the time it takes to cut whole carrots into sticks. These are just two examples of how the system through which schools, hospitals and college campuses buy their food in the West isn’t yet conducive to our vision of a resilient, regionally-based food system.

We’ve still made significant progress over the past ten years and there are exciting and innovative solutions on the horizon: In Hawaii, Dexter tells the story of a small grower who is setting up a flash freezing facility with the potential to serve the school district’s needs. The facility will process the second and third harvests of pineapples to help provide a product that is more affordable for schools. In Whatcom County, a new local vegetable processing facility at Cloud Mountain Farm Center is one effort to try to fill the infrastructure gap in Washington by processing local carrots and other veggies into the forms that schools need.

It’s clear that school districts and farmers value each other and want to work together, and many of them know how to overcome common challenges to make these relationships work. Now it’s time to rebuild the infrastructure that underlies this work – to shift the entire system so that farm to school and local food procurement isn’t just feasible for those who are deeply committed.

Focusing our collective attention on improving the methods through which buyers access local food—the aggregation, processing and distribution that make this procurement possible—is the challenge of the next decade, and has the potential to transform farm to school into the new business as usual. It’s a monumental task, but we’re pioneers, and we’re heading for that horizon.


Charting the Transformation of New Orleans Greenest Schools

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Emily Olsen-Harbich, Center for Green Schools


The USGBC Louisiana Chapter supports sustainable school initiatives in the city.

Sustainability professionals from around the world gather in New Orleans this week as the annual Greenbuild Conference and Expo kicks off on October 22nd. Industry leaders, scientific experts and passionate volunteers are here for three exhilarating days of uplifting speakers, showcases, LEED workshops and tours of green buildings in New Orleans. Perhaps most of all, this event offers a place for thousands to gather and renew their commitment to the green movement.

In the spirit of the week, the Center for Green Schools and the local USGBC Chapter in Louisiana will host several events celebrating the transformation of New Orleans schools into more sustainable and healthier places for students to learn and grow. The Center for Green Schools was established to drive exactly these types of initiatives, as we believe that everyone, from the kindergartner entering the classroom to the Ph.D. student performing research in a lab, should have the ability to learn in green buildings. The Center works directly with teachers, students, administrators, elected officials and communities to create programs, resources and partnerships that transform all schools into healthy learning environments.

Thanks to programming through the Edible Schoolyard initiative, volunteers from the Green Building Certification Institute and members of the Center team will get their hands dirty in one of the thriving Edible Schoolyard gardens in New Orleans. The volunteers will be working at John Dibert Community School at Wheatley, where children and families are learning how to best grow their own food. Students in schools around the city will also learn more about green building and the benefits of their own sustainable schools during visits from the Center team.

One school the Center team will visit already knows all about sustainability. A recent winner of USGBC Louisiana’s “Green Schools Challenge”, Ben Franklin High School will host the New Orleans Green Schools Celebration during the Greenbuild Conference. By establishing a team of student leaders, known as the “Green Society Club,” the school has inspired a school-wide greening effort. Members of the Green Society and students from the A.P. Biology classes worked with an electrical engineer to conduct an energy audit then used the data to create a Lighting and Facilities Phasing Plan. Because of the students’ work, the administration has signed an agreement to buy Renewable Energy Certificates, committed to buying UV lights to reduce energy consumption, and made a plan to invest in solar panels in the fall. The Green Society was also instrumental in the planning of a Diversity Garden on the property. This space will provide an opportunity for outdoor learning and increase local biodiversity by providing habitat for pollinators and birds.

Celebrating Greenbuild in New Orleans this year will not only generate momentum around the green building movement as a whole, but will shine light on collaborative programs like the Louisiana Green Schools Challenge that are springing up all across the city. In an area not always associated with transformation and possibility, the Center for Green Schools is thrilled to acknowledge these thriving community movements towards a more sustainable future in New Orleans.


Growing the Next Generation of Food Lovers

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Andrew Nowak, Director of Slow Food USA’s National School Garden Program  

A celebration of Farm to School Month would not be complete without children enjoying the fruits (and vegetables!) of their labor in school gardens.

Through the efforts of 150+ local Slow Food USA chapters and thousands of volunteers around the country, school children are getting hands-on experiences in more than just growing and harvesting food. They are learning about preparing, cooking and sharing the “good, clean and fair” bounty from their gardens.

Our gardening and cooking classes are helping to equip a new generation of eaters with the skills and knowledge to make healthy food choices for greater success in the classroom and in life. Students learn about the role they play in the larger food system of their community and the impact that fresh food can have on the lives of their family and friends.

Information about Slow Food USA's National School Garden Program has been collected on a new website that features resources (everything from garden design through evaluation) as well as information about the many successful garden projects organized by Slow Food USA chapters across the country. Here are just a few of their success stories:

In Temecula Valley, CA, Slow Food USA volunteers do cooking classes with students to prepare a cultural dish from the fresh produce. Through experiences like this, the students are learning how to handle fresh food so that they can feed themselves, while enjoying deliciously diverse foods with their friends. With these skills, a child does not need to be dependent on anyone else for a snack or even a simple meal, and starts to ask important questions about the “good” aspects of the food they are consuming.

In Long Island, NY, Slow Food East End supports school garden programs that supply school cafeterias with fresh produce for the lunchtime salad bar. These “Garden to Cafeteria” programs teach children how to grow and harvest “clean,” fresh food that is safe to use in school lunches. In some cases, the students participate in the procurement process by handling invoices and selling the fresh produce to the food service operation, which raises money to support their garden program. Students learn how to participate in the food supply chain and begin to understand the complexities of the large-scale food system.

Students in Colorado, as part of Slow Food Denver’s “Seed-To-Table” program, use the garden produce to set up Youth Farmers Markets on school grounds.  Often situated in declared food deserts, these markets allow children to sell fresh fruits and vegetables to the surrounding community. The students handle all aspects of the markets, including promotion, harvesting, sales and cleanup.  Each week, they see some of the same people returning to the market for the fresh produce, and begin to appreciate the value that the community places on healthy food.

Collaboration between Slow Food Charlotte (NC) and Friendship Gardens gives school gardens the opportunity to supply fresh produce to the local “Meals-on-Wheels” program.  Their fruits and vegetables are used in the daily preparation of healthy meals for homebound ill and low-income households. This teaches children about the issues of hunger and food justice in their local community, reinforcing the value of “fair” access to fresh food for all.

Every October, as we gather to celebrate Farm to School Month, it is encouraging to see the tremendous progress in the transformation of school food culture.  We are seeing great progress from the activities in school gardens and classrooms to include fresh, local food in the cafeterias – and, especially, to establish relationships between the local producers and the school community.

At the heart of all of these programs is the involvement of the children as active participants in the food systems that bring nourishing food to their lunch trays and to their dinner plates at home.  Slow Food USA, our chapters, and thousands of dedicated volunteers believe that kids who know and value where food comes from will become the next generation of advocates for good, clean and fair food for all. And that it all starts in the school garden.

National Farm to School Month: a path to our future!

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Melody Meyer, UNFI Foundation

Growing up in Iowa in a much simpler era, we did not have one “food day." Farm fresh food was as much a part of our lives as the billowy clouds that rolled across the sky. My German grandparents cultivated a garden instead of grass for a backyard. Arbors of succulent concord grapes defined rows of string beans, tomatoes and sweet corn. My grandfather was in charge of the growing while my grandmother commanded the preserving, basting, baking and pickling! Pretty much everything we ate every day was farm to table! How else would one eat?

How else indeed: Let’s fast forward 50 years. After decades of corn and soy subsidies, many children think a meal sprouts magically from a box and that chickens have nuggets! We have edged so far away from our food supply that we have cultivated generations of eaters who simply don’t know where their food comes from.

In 2010, Congress designated October National Farm to School Month as a way to change that harrowing trend. This was promising recognition that Farm to School programs can improve the health and nutrition of our youth. These initiatives educate the next generation of mindful consumers. They connect our youth to days when fresh organic food was plucked from trees and pulled from the ground. It was washed, chopped, basted and baked. Farm to table becomes a delicious adventure into eating differently. It changes the relationship children have with the soil, the sun and the seasons. The natural environment becomes the playground, the classroom and the food pantry all in one!

The UNFI Foundation supports The National Farm to School Network (NFSN), which provides resources to implement and celebrate Farm to School Month and similar projects all year long. For example, the Toddle-Inn, Saco Maine preschool used a grant from UNFI and NFSN to give preschoolers a better understanding of where their food comes from. They planted a vegetable garden for the center and made field trips to local dairy farms and apple orchards.  The toddlers even got to experience making applesauce and then gobbled it with lunch!  

The New Foundations Charter High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is in an urban area greatly in need of nutrition programs. They used grant funds to take high school students to a local farm that holds a farmer’s market at another K-8 school. After learning about eating farm fresh, they collaborated with school staff on the Food Day celebrations in order to activate their peers.

One innovative twist took place at Daniel High School in South Carolina, where ninth-grade students embarked on a project that integrated English Common Core Standards with a garden, growing vegetables and culinary herbs. Gardening and farming were woven throughout the course through reading, listening to guest speakers, and investigating outside sources of information. This course culminated in the students conducting an oral history investigation of food and farming, and then organizing a guided garden tour that took place on Food Day!

National Farm to School Month lasts through all of October, and many activities will climax on Food Day, October 24th! The National Farm to School Network has resources and activities to promote Farm to School Month in schools, communities and media outlets including a new Communications Toolkit. The toolkit contains an explanation of this year’s Farm to School Month activities, a sample press release, and suggested social media posts.

Let’s ensure that our children have the tools they need to make healthy food choices every day. Let’s provide resources so they create a future with healthy bodies and a connection to the natural world. Farm to school provides a legacy so that our youth can establish a future of environmental stewardship through nutritious, delicious and wholesome food. Won’t you please be part of that future? Support Farm to school projects!


Beets Galore: The Full Circle of Farm to School

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Nicki Jimenez, FoodCorps Fellow


FoodCorps Fellow Nicki Jimenez.

Last February, as a FoodCorps service member in Montana, I guided a healthy, local product all the way from the farm into classrooms on a large scale. It all started with a perfect storm of beets: local Montana growers had an abundance of them and I knew that they were a great vegetable to use for Valentine’s Day lessons with students.

As the FoodCorps service member at Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center (MMFEC) in Ronan, Montana, I was in a unique position. MMEC is a fully inspected and certified community-based food processing center, so I was extremely well situated to carry out FoodCorps’ mission of connecting kids to real food.  They’re positioned between the Western Montana Growers Cooperative (WMGC) and some of the biggest and most committed K-12 buyers of local food in Montana. Not only do they have the equipment to process fresh fruits and vegetables, they have staff members who are knowledgeable and experienced in food safety and product development.

Over the winter, I leveraged our processing staff’s expertise to develop new beet products—different cuts, frozen raw cubes, and roasted cubes. In early February, I rallied orders for beets from eight school districts in WMGC’s distribution area. FoodCorps members in other districts bought boxes to use in the classroom or cafeteria. Nearby districts bought roasted beet cubes to serve as a cooked Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) snack. WMGC dropped off 775 pounds of local beets, MMFEC processed them, and WMGC distributed to the schools.

Five of the eight districts that received deliveries are small, rural communities with populations under 5,000; three have under 2,000. But thanks to enthusiastic large buyers like Jenny Montague, the Food Service Director in Kalispell, and bold small-district buyers like JB Capdeville, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Coordinator in Polson, we fulfilled small orders. Without pooling orders to achieve volume, it is economically infeasible for WMGC  to distribute or MMFEC to process the local produce. Coordination is essential to creating access to healthy, local foods for small, rural schools in Montana.

Many times, my involvement with helping schools procure local product ended here: in the school kitchen. This time, though, I took a couple more steps to bring students a deeper experience with the local food in their classrooms. Working with champion teachers in each grade at the elementary school, I scheduled beet lessons with eleven classes. A local farmer—Nicole Jarvis of Ploughshare Farm—visited each class with me. Her four year-old daughter passed around beet seeds for students to examine as we discussed how beets grow. Nicole even led the fourth graders in some beet math, asking them to calculate how much space on her farm it took to grow the beets for their class—and their school!

Beets were a (potentially scary) new vegetable for most of the students, so we first made sure everyone understood the “don’t yuck my yum” principle and then promised a fun sticker to whoever tried at least two bites of beets. Every student raised his or her hand, holding a beet cube high into the air, and cha-cha-cha-ed, “we love remolacha!” (that’s “beet” in Spanish) then bit into the roasted purple vegetable. Pretty much everyone joined the Two Bite Club that day, and there were many rave reviews.

The farmer grew the beets. The farmer came to the classroom to eat the beets she grew with students. And I got to orchestrate all the steps in between. This is what it means to be a FoodCorps member at MMFEC: facilitating the full circle of farm to school.

Nicki was a FoodCorps service member in Ronan, MT for two year, and is now the FoodCorps fellow in Arizona.


How can CNR 2015 support farm to school?

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021


Carrots for Ventura Unified School District, grown at Join the Farm.

Amy Grossman, executive director of Join the Farm, is in the market for a new delivery van.

"Just in time for Farm to School Month, [our farm] had our largest delivery ever to the school district in the first week of October, maxing out the capacity of our delivery van," she explains.

Large orders weren't always the norm for the small farm, which is a project of The Abundant Table, a California nonprofit. Everything changed after their county's school district was awarded a USDA Farm to School Grant.

"Farm to school sales now represent a significant portion of our business model and enabled us to take on more acreage and deliveries," Amy says. "Our farmers take enormous pride in knowing their produce is regularly on the cafeteria plates of more than 5,000 children in our county."

The success of Join the Farm is just one story from among the 139 USDA Farm to School Grants awarded in the first two years of the program. In the coming months, the National Farm to School Network and our partners will be telling more stories like these. That’s because in less than a year, a federal piece of legislation that supports farm to school and other child nutrition programs is set to expire. About every five years, in a process known as the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, Congress reviews and updates these programs. The most recent version—the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010—expires September 30, 2015.

The Child Nutrition Act reauthorization (or CNR for short) authorizes federal school meal and child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, among others. The last CNR in 2010 was groundbreaking: For the first time, the legislation supported farm to school directly by providing $5 million in annual mandatory funding for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program. A major victory for NFSN and farm to school champions across the country, this program funds competitive grants and technical assistance for farm to school activities that increase the use of and improve access to local foods in schools.

The process to reauthorize the USDA Farm to School Grants and other child nutrition programs has already begun. The CNR conversations have already started in the two congressional committees overseeing the process: the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and the House Education and Workforce Committee. The Senate Agriculture Committee held two CNR hearings this summer, including a hearing featuring Betti Wiggins, executive director in the Office of Food Services at Detroit Public Schools and advisory board member for NFSN.

To prepare for the upcoming reauthorization, NFSN hosted nearly two-dozen CNR listening sessions over the last year-and-a-half to gather input from stakeholders. These listening sessions provided key input for the policies within CNR that would be most beneficial to the farm to school community. Here’s what we learned:

• In order to build on the USDA Farm to School Grant Program’s success, the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization must include increased funding for the program. Demand for the USDA Farm to School Grants outweighs the current available funding by more than 5 times. USDA received 718 applications in the first two years but was only able to fund 139.

• The scope of the program should be expanded beyond its current focus on K-12 schools to also include early care education settings. The first few years of life are formative years of life for developing healthy habits, and farm to preschool shows promising results for starting kids on the right path to lifelong wellbeing.

• The program’s scope should also be expanded for summer food service program sites and after school programs.

• The listening sessions provided ideas on how to improve farm to school in tribal communities, specifically including by connecting tribal communities with traditional, native foods grown and raised by tribal producers.

NFSN is partnering up with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to call upon Congress to provide additional mandatory funding for the grant program, both to address the tremendous demand but also to support the proposed expanded scope. For more information, check out the NFSN webinar on CNR and join our network. Let’s make sure the 2015 CNR further supports and strengthens farm to school initiatives!

Feeding and Teaching the Next Generation

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021


Susan Hardy helps a PS41 student grind corn the old fashioned way. (Photo courtesy Organic Valley)

We at Organic Valley have always believed that farm to school programs are vital to the health of our children as well as to our communities. Farm to school lets students learn creatively, physically, personally. It’s hands-on and fun, and these two qualities almost always guarantee a great learning experience for kids and adults. And it’s even better when the experiences also support local family farms and economies. Here are the stories of two schools (and two farmers) who are making a difference:

The Harvest Challenge

Organic Valley is a cooperative of member-farms located all across the country, and many of the communities in which our farmers live also have farm to school programs. One program located near our headquarters in southwestern Wisconsin is Vernon County Farm to School. Even though this is a rural area, many of the students here had never seen, let alone grown, vegetables like garlic and eggplant. Vernon County Farm to School also organizes an after-school gardening opportunity, teaches nutrition education, runs a Harvest of the Month program, and—
the highlight of the year—hosts a Harvest Challenge.

Created as a fundraiser for Vernon County Farm to School, the Harvest Challenge matches teams of high school students with school staff mentors and local chef mentors. The teams and their mentors must create recipes that use local, seasonal foods; cost less than $1 per serving; and meet all school nutrition requirements. Oh, and of course the recipes have to taste good, too! If the recipes meet all the requirements, then they can be used in the Vernon County Schools’ lunch menus.

After the judging—which rates the recipes on presentation, use of local food, knowledge of school nutrition requirements, taste and aesthetics—the teams are then truly put to the test: They prepare their recipe for about 300 community members, who then vote on their favorites.

“We are really able to reach out to the high school students in our county with the Harvest Challenge,” says Ashlee Gabrielson, outreach coordinator for Vernon County Farm to School. “They are not only able to connect with a staff member but also a local chef who has volunteered to help their team out. This really connects our communities to our schools and gives them support. Also, students really learn an appreciation for their food service staff and how challenging and how much work it is to make these meals on a budget and at the quantity they make them.”

Susan Hardy and her husband, David, walk the pastures of their organic family farm in New York State. (Photo by David Nevala for Organic Valley)

Farmers visit the big city

Many Organic Valley farmers enjoy visiting local schools to talk about organic farming with the students. David and Susan Hardy and Maureen Knapp, organic farmers in New York State, travel into New York City to visit Public School 41 (PS41) a couple times a year. Coming with them to the classroom are jars of organic cream that will be shaken into butter by little hands and sometimes the peeping of fluffy chicks, which the kids hold in their hands with wide-eyed wonder. These visits connect students to farm life and give them food and farm experiences they would never get otherwise. Our farmers may be too humble to brag, but these personal visits make such an impact on young minds. We are proud to brag on their behalf.


We believe family farming is the key to healthy food systems, healthy communities and healthy children. Not only are organic family farmers growing food for us, but they are being good stewards of the land by reducing their impact on it and passing on important knowledge to our children, who most certainly will be the next generation of responsible, conscious eaters, and who just might be the next generation of farmers to care for the land that feeds us all.

Happy Farm to Preschool Day!

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Farm to school isn't just for school-age children: Good nutrition and food education are perhaps even more important for our littlest learners. That's where farm to preschool comes in.

Farm to preschool is a natural extension of the farm to school model, and works to connect early care and education settings (preschools, Head Start, center-based programs, programs in K-12 school districts, and family child care programs) to local food producers.

Farm to preschool implementation includes the same core elements as farm to school. Farm to preschool differs by location but always includes one or more of the following:

  • Procurement: Local foods are purchased, promoted and served at mealtime or as a snack or taste test;
  • Education: Children participate in education activities related to agriculture, food, health or nutrition; and
  • School gardens: Children engage in hands-on learning through gardening.

The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) began working to expand its robust farm to school networks and expertise to include early child care settings in 2011. Since then, NFSN has acted as a lead convener and facilitator for the farm to preschool movement, providing vision, leadership, and support at state, regional, and national levels. Visit our new farm to preschool landing page for more information.

Many organizations across the country are developing fantastic farm to preschool resources. One of the latest and greatest is this toolkit created by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. In addition to a farm to preschool overview, the new toolkit includes the following pages full of information, links, resources, and ideas to support farm to preschool programs in any location:

Farm to Preschool Curriculum

Engaging Children in Farm to Preschool Activities

Health and Safety for Childcare Meals and School Gardens

Nutritious Meals and Snacks for Preschoolers

Do you have a great resource or a story about farm to preschool success? Share it with us for a chance to win a drawing for $1,000.


Healthy Habits Take Root

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Deborah Kane, National Director, USDA Farm to School Program


Everyone’s a star during National Farm to School Month. In fact, the spotlight shines brightly on the National Farm to School Network itself. Without the Network and its role in building a coalition in support of healthy kids and local food, there wouldn’t be a USDA Farm to School Program. But because there is, today USDA is charged with providing training and technical assistance to school districts all across the country to help them transform school food and create a healthier next generation.

Since the official start of the USDA Farm to School Program, we’ve focused on making sure schools have the tools they need to bring local products into the lunchroom and teach children where their food comes from. One of our newest resources, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, covers procurement basics --  how to define local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. The guide is complemented by a twelve-part webinar series called Finding, Buying and Serving Local Foods. Our Fact Sheets cover topics that range from USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities to working with Cooperative Extension to grow your program, while a brand new Farm to School Planning Toolkit offers eleven distinct chapters on everything from school gardens to menu planning, marketing and more.


USDA also supports farm to school programs by distributing up to $5 million annually in grants, and there we get to shine the spotlight on some fantastic projects. New this year USDA is offering grants that support farm to school events and trainings. In Alaska, the Southeast Conference will use funds to host a statewide gathering connecting school food buyers with local producers with an emphasis on culturally appropriate local foods, including seafood and traditional Native foods; while in New York, Cornell Cooperative Extension will host five regional trainings on agriculture-based curriculum for educators across the state. In the Mid-Atlantic, the Virginia Department of Agriculture will host a statewide farm to school conference and use it as a forum to establish a peer-to-peer mentoring program for school food service directors.


Beyond grants for events, other USDA Farm to School grantees have been implementing all sorts of exciting projects to bring the farm to school. See for yourself; in celebration of National Farm to School Month, we’re excited to announce a five-part video series featuring testimonials from more than 30 USDA Farm to School grantees.  

“We’re actually seeing our farmers have hope. The farm to school program allows them to see an opportunity for a sustainable living for themselves and their families,” says Daaiyah Salaam from the Southwest Georgia Project in a video on the impacts of farm to school programs.

According to USDA’s first-ever Farm to School Census, 44 percent of school districts across the country were operating farm to school programs as of the 2012-2013 school year and another 13 percent had plans to start in the future. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country.  In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased over $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years.

So hats off to the National Farm to School Network and its myriad members who sought to institutionalize farm to school at the Federal level. I’d say it was a job well done.

Editor’s Note: A new video will be released each week throughout the month of October. Access the complete series here. To receive information and updates about USDA’s Farm to School Program, please sign up for our Farm to School E-letter.

Farm to School taking root in Indian Country

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Alena Paisano, Farm to Table New Mexico

Farm to Table New Mexico serves as the Southwest Regional Lead Agency for the National Farm to School Network. Each of our regional lead agencies will be contributing blog posts during Farm to School Month.


Randy Chatto

Randy Chatto from the community of Ramah, New Mexico has been working with a team of community members on the “Empowering Ramah Navajos to Eat Healthy” project (ERNEH) for more than two years. This project, funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is the first step in developing a community-wide effort to grow fresh food for community families and the school.

The goal of the ERNEH project is to provide fresh and locally grown food for community families and for students and staff with the K-12 Pine Hill School. The food that is being brought to the school and used in meals and celebrations are traditional Navajo foods such as Navajo gray Hubbard squash, Navajo yellow corn, and blue corn. There are now over 50 family gardens spread across the community that provide local, fresh and traditional healthy foods.  

Randy has undoubtedly been a leader in the project: He designed the small grow boxes that use gravity-fed irrigation systems, went door-to-door to get people on board,  and even supports each individual garden with education and training. Randy is also working with external partners such as the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) to share best practices with other Native groups and help build project sustainability. He attended the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference this past April as a participant in NFSN's Native Nations convening and will continue to work with regional partners throughout this year.

The Ramah Navajo community is a very isolated, rural, desert-like community that lacks sufficient good growing soil and adequate precipitation to easily grow fresh vegetables and fruits. Another challenge Randy sees is that folks have had to learn how to garden again, as they used to, instead of relying solely on retail markets that are 50-60 miles away.

At its core, ERNEH is about community transformation - working with young children, families and elders to revitalize a local and traditional food system for the Ramah Navajo people.

AN INTERVIEW WITH MR. RANDY CHATTO (2012)

What’s your favorite thing about being involved in your traditional foods project?    
Being a part of history: “Traditional foods” is probably one of the most important elements in any Native American/Alaskan Native’s culture. In that culture there is someone keeping that practice moving forward, keeping it alive through sowing, hunting, gathering, reaping and harvesting. You are a key component to keeping your land and your people healthy, informed, encouraged and appreciated. I feel very fortunate and blessed to know that I, in some way, am helping my people.

How has this project impacted your community?  
Many of our community members are excited to take part in a program that encourages them to plant, harvest and prepare their own traditional plant foods. Many of our families and even departments within our organization are beginning to eat healthy as they are seeing and realizing the significance of the re-introduction of family gardens, community gardens and dry land farming.  

What are your plans to sustain this project?  
This project is not a temporary spark for this community but a lifestyle deeply rooted in our Diné culture. We must continue this effort to eat healthy and keep moving. We must all lend a hand and be part of a voice in keeping our people healthy. We are our own resource, and we need to continue to tap into it. The spirit of self sufficiency has always been with us but we have to carry on that community action. It’s about raising champions in every facet of our peoples’ lives: in body, in mind and in spirit!    

October 10 is Farm to School Salad Bar Day!

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post on behalf of Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools by Diane Harris, PhD MPH Health Scientist, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools is celebrating National Farm to School Month in October. Since its launch in 2010, Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools has delivered more than 3,500 salad bars to schools.  School districts all over the country use salad bars to showcase locally grown, farm-fresh produce as part of farm to school programs. Schools often find that students choose more fruits and vegetables when products are fresh, locally grown, and picked at the peak of their flavor. Kids’ choices are reinforced with educational activities in the cafeteria, classroom, and community. A beautifully stocked salad bar with a rainbow of local fruits and vegetables highlighting farmers and the farms where the products are grown adds to students’ enthusiasm to make healthier choices.

Here are some examples of how salad bars donated by Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools are contributing to farm to school programs:  

  • North Powder Charter School in North Powder, Oregon, works with Oregon Farm to School and Food Corps to promote Harvest of the Month on their salad bars. Parents are encouraged to have lunch with their children and are kept informed of the monthly highlighted product via flyers with recipes and games.  
  • Marlington Local School District in Alliance, Ohio, is working with local farmers through a farm to school grant with the Ohio Department of Education, and is showcasing these locally grown produce items to students, staff, and parents. The salad bar assists them in nutrition education and in promoting our Farm- to-School initiative. Their goal of promoting healthy eating options for all staff and students is enhanced through the use of salad bars at each school.
  • The Oxford School District in Oxford, Mississippi, received a USDA Farm-to-School Planning grant and is using it to add local fresh foods onto their menu and in their salad bars. The High School Food Club promotes their salad bar.
  • Olivet Community Schools in Olivet, Michigan, are in a rural community and have been actively involved for 5 years in the Farm-to-School program. Their Future Farmers of America chapter raises fresh greens, herbs, and strawberries in hydroponic towers in the school green house. The salad bar showcases local fresh melons, apples, peaches, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and greens in the fall of the year. Their salad bar displays these products attractively, making them more appealing and is the selling point for increased fruit and vegetable consumption.

Salad bars are a fantastic way for schools to showcase fresh, great-tasting, locally grown foods, and the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative makes it easy to get one. Any school participating in the National School Lunch Program can apply for a salad bar from Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools. Check out the information on how to apply for a salad bar unit and see additional informational resources on the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools website.


Central hubs bring farms and schools together

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Will Gray, Wallace Center at Winrock International


No farm to institution relationship offers more positive benefit for local communities than farm to school. Changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and fosters a critical understanding and appreciation of agriculture among the next generation. I imagine this comes as a surprise to none of us – the National Farm to School Network has been pioneering initiatives since 2007 – but with the emergence of the childhood obesity epidemic over the last decade, it seems that fundamentally reshaping the American diet has never been more critical.

And the will to change the way our children eat is strong. Farm to school systems are evolving throughout the country, with some 44 percent of US schools serving regionally-produced vegetables to almost 24 million students. Both government and private funding opportunities continue to emerge as more states, foundations and interest groups step up and pledge support. However, in such a quickly-changing landscape, new challenges emerge alongside successes. One such challenge is the growing need for regional food system infrastructure that can support expansion in farm to school supply chains.

Farm to school relationships are complex, to say the least. Farmers work to plan production in order to meet the consistency and quantity requirements of a larger buyer, while school foodservice employees manage multiple deliveries and vendor relationships while prepping and serving meals. State and national regulatory requirements must be met; food safety certifications secured and audited; processing needs identified; education and outreach initiatives established. All the while, the bottom line looms, as market forces and budget constraints apply pressure at both ends of a seemingly impossible task: supporting the development of both farmer and student simultaneously.

For many farmers, and for many schools, the pressures are too much to handle without support. What’s missing is a central hub – a values-driven, mission-oriented organization providing many of the services historically offered by conventional broad-line distribution companies or foodservice suppliers. These regional food hubs – over 300 nationwide, with more organizing each year – actively manage the aggregation, distribution and sale of source-identified food products from local and regional producers, increasing each partner farm’s capacity to access and satisfy wholesale, retail and institutional demand.

Food hubs are as diverse as the producers and the markets they serve. Some are for-profit, some non-profit, some are lean start-ups, while others are well-established and have operated for years. Some provide processing and value-adding services, food safety training and certification, and marketing and branding services, while others simply aggregate and distribute. While size, services, and legal status vary according to regional need and organizational vision, a few defining characteristics emerge across the industry, most notably a triple bottom line commitment to positive economic, social and environmental impacts within their respective communities and a focus on increased food access, equity and community development.  

Food hubs play a valuable role in the farm to school supply chain – perhaps a critical role, as further development of farm to school initiatives creates more and more need for local food consistency, quality control, food safety assurance, and school-friendly processing. With a diverse population of farmers, academics, politicians, and business entrepreneurs dedicating themselves to the common goal of food system improvement, the Wallace Center is working to link together local activities into regional initiatives and finally into national impact. By building partnerships with support organizations like the National Farm to School Network and School Food Focus, government agencies like the USDA, universities and extension agencies, and for- and non-profit producers, food hubs and other Good Food businesses around the country, Wallace Center is able to provide research, technical assistance, and other support initiatives to hundreds of organizations and thousands of producers across the United States.

As farm to school continues to expand, building on years of tireless advocacy, organization and on-the-ground implementation, Wallace Center will continue to capture and communicate the challenges, successes, and lessons learned along the way. Our own hub, The National Good Food Network, is a hub of information where we aggregate, distribute and market best practices, business development tools, case studies and industry benchmarks from our own research and that of partner organizations all over the country. As a hub, we too strive to provide the strong infrastructure necessary to support Good Food expansion. Through collaboration and communication, we build the capacity of our partners in pursuit of our common goal: feeding better food to more people.


The Wallace Center at Winrock International facilitates regional, collaborative efforts to move Good Food – healthy, green, fair, affordable food – beyond direct-marketing and into wholesale markets to expand the impact of regional food systems. We believe this work increases the viability of small and medium-scale growers, adds economic vitality to both rural and urban areas, and reaches families in their schools, communities, and homes.

The people factor: Funding farm to school

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Gary Matteson, The Farm Credit System


Linking local farms and schools is about building a network of supply and demand. That sounds like a terribly sterile economics class lecture until you insert the “people” factor into it. Where farm to school is concerned, the people are kids, who are empowered to make better food choices and learn where their food comes from, and farmers, who are able to expand their market.

The long-term effect of farm to school is yet to be seen, but I speculate that getting local food into schools is a powerful way to maintain local communities. This applies both to supporting farm businesses that keep economic activity circulating in the region as well as the mindset of kids who grow up knowing that some of their food is local—and maybe even that a career in farming is something to pursue.

Farm Credit lends money to farmers so that they can operate successful businesses. Part of being a successful farm business is finding a place to sell what you grow. Farm to school increases access to markets for farmers and educates the community in the richness of having local food from local farms.  So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Farm Credit supports farm to school, since farm to school also helps farmers. But it may be a surprise that Farm Credit does this in different ways, in all sorts of communities.

Here in Washington, DC, the Farm Credit organization known as CoBank gave two refrigerated trucks to the DC Central Kitchen. The trucks travel to auctions where local farmers sell their fruits and vegetables.  Those fruits and vegetables become part of the 2,500 meals provided daily to eight DC public and two private schools.  Another portion of what those trucks carry is taken to small “bodega” corner stores in communities where access to fresh produce is limited.  And, finally, those trucks carry some of the 5,000 meals a day that DC Central Kitchen prepares for the city’s homeless population.

In New Hampshire, Farm Credit East sponsored the second annual New Hampshire Farm to School conference, which brought together farmers, fishermen, teachers, school food service directors, non-profits and others to look at school gardens, composting, fundraising, institutional procurement, opportunities for new and beginner farmers, communications, and farm-based education and curricula.

The Arkansas Agriculture Department and Farm Credit sponsored the Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year Contest.  The winners were chosen from Arkansas schools, grades pre-K through 12, that had a school garden open during the 2013-14 school year.

These examples from around the country are all local efforts, aimed at improving local communities.  Farm Credit seeks to build public understanding of agriculture in many ways, and it often involves making connections between farms and schools.  Supporting farm to school programs is our way of keeping the “people” factor in mind, so that school kids, teachers, farmers and others can share knowledge, eat better and benefit the local economy at a scale that communities can absorb and learn from.

Gary Matteson works for the trade organization of the Farm Credit System in Washington, DC as Vice President, Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach. A former farmer and agricultural entrepreneur, he now works in local foods and emerging markets.

Kids Find a Chef in their Garden, Learn to Pickle Beets – And Love It!

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Dean Zatkowsky, Orfalea Foundation

Outdoor learning, fresh produce, and happy kids.

This past school year, Orfalea Foundation Chef Instructor Janet Stevenson and Explore Ecology Environmental Educator Maggie Iba offered a Chef in the Garden session at Aliso Elementary School in Carpinteria, California. The Orfalea Foundation’s School Food Initiative installed or enhanced 35 school gardens throughout Santa Barbara County in an effort to connect children with how food is grown and encourage them to accept healthy food choices. The same Chef Instructors who empower food service personnel at Culinary Boot Camp visit each garden twice per school year to share their knowledge of seasonality, cooking tips and their conviction that healthy food can taste great.

In this Chef in the Garden session, children learned about food systems and the way food is grown, processed, transported, retailed and consumed. They also harvested beets from their school garden and watched with fascination as Janet and Maggie showed them how to pickle the beets they had just pulled out of the ground.

Students harvest beets under the supervision of Environmental Educator Maggie Iba.

Here’s what most impressed this visitor at the event: When the children were allowed to sample pickled beets, they jumped at the chance and even asked for seconds. Now, I don’t know about you, but I was a picky eater as a kid, and even the words “pickled beets” would have grossed me out. But, Janet and Maggie did such a great job showing the kids how to make a delicious snack from a plant growing in their own garden that the kids were enthralled and enthusiastic.

Participation – and the example set by adults around them – makes a big difference in a child’s receptivity to new foods. The Chef in the Garden program involves the kids and demystifies where real food comes from, opening their minds – and palates – to new food experiences. There are many good reasons to build gardens in schools and yards, but helping children make healthier food choices throughout their lives is at the top of my list. And if any of you are picky-eater adults, remember to set a good example by trying new foods with your kids.

The Orfalea Foundation School Food Initiative Chef in the Garden curriculum is available here.

Students investigate the pickling ingredients.


Policy Advocacy Encourages Farm to School Growth

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Deb Bentzel, The Food Trust
The Food Trust serves as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Lead Agency for the National Farm to School Network. Each of our regional lead agencies will be contributing blog posts during Farm to School Month.

Students enjoy local strawberries. (Office of the State Superintendent of Education photo)

In the farm to school movement, policy tends to be a relatively silent partner to the work many stakeholders are doing on the ground. How does policy get put into place, and how can we rally our local and state decision-makers to support farm to school practices in meaningful ways? We can start by telling stories of where policy in action is making a difference for children, school communities, farmers, and locally owned businesses.

The Mid-Atlantic Region—comprised of New Jersey, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia – has many stories of how farm to school policy has changed the face of school meals, the expansion of school gardening and the funding of these and other initiatives to create lasting, meaningful change for schools and their communities. Here, are two stories of farm to school success—from policy, to practice, to results.

D.C.'s Healthy Schools Act and Healthy Tots Act

The Healthy Schools Act and the Healthy Tots Act of Washington DC are shining examples of how farm to school and child nutrition advocates can work together to support the passage of landmark bills that support healthy food and physical activity environments for children. They are also great examples of how a special emphasis on farm to school and farm to preschool practices can be integrated into broader child wellness policies. Passed in 2010, the Healthy Schools Act expands access to breakfast and lunch, encourages farm to school purchasing practices by providing financial incentives for local procurement (5 cents additional reimbursement for meals containing locally grown foods!), provides grants to fund school garden programs and farm field trips, and has a number of health and wellness components. With ample support from the Office of the State Superintendent of Schools (OSSE) and other local partners, kids across DC are eating healthy, locally-grown foods. In the 2012-2013 schools year, up to 89 percent of DC schools served healthy, local foods to students at least once per month! That’s policy in action.

It has taken the collective and collaborative work of many partners on the ground—including DC Greens, the National Farm to School Netwok’s (NFSN) state lead for the District of Columbia—to support the passage of both acts and to translate their policy into lasting systems change. DC Greens’ Farm to School director Karissa McCarthy reflects, “The legislation has helped elevate the ongoing work of farm to school practitioners in classrooms, cafeterias and school gardens. We are lucky in DC to have a long-standing stakeholder group that not only championed this legislation, but has continued to carry our collective farm to school efforts forward.”  The recently legislated Healthy Tots Act will support farm to preschool practices utilizing strategies similar to the Healthy Schools Act, including financial incentives for local procurement. We look forward to the development of these preschool programs and to celebrating the great work our nation’s capital is doing to support the health of their youngest eaters!

Student at Ethel Jacobsen Elementary School (Surf City, NJ) work in their school garden. (New Jersey Farm to School photo)

Five new bills support farm to school in New Jersey

Elsewhere in the region, the great Garden State of New Jersey recently signed five farm to school bills into law that will encourage farm to school practices across the state by supporting both schools and the Jersey Fresh growers. Designed to promote, celebrate and help fund farm to school practices, these innovative bills were the result of years of advocacy and support for farm to school. Championed by the New Jersey Farm to School Network, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Farm Bureau, these new bills are exciting in their fresh approach to connecting schools with NJ-grown foods and their focus on celebrating the great work of those making farm to school happen on the ground. New Jersey Farm to School Network executive director and NFSN State Lead, Beth Feehan, thanked all stakeholders “for their willingness to collaborate these past six years and to find the place where grass roots and institutions can meet to affect change.” And New Jersey isn't the only Mid-Atlantic state with farm to school policy success: Virginia, Maryland and Delaware each celebrate their own “Farm to School Week” thanks to legislative support.

Policy success in YOUR state

How can you get involved in affecting policy change to support farm to school practices in your city or state?  Start by reaching out to your farm to school stakeholders (including your NFSN state lead) to hear the latest about what may already be in discussion, on the docket or in committee. From there, you can testify to your state legislature, write letters of support and educate your elected officials about the benefits of farm to school. You can also participate in NFSN informational webinars to learn more about federal policies like the Farm Bill and Child Nutrition Reauthorization and how federal policy can also support our farmers, schools and communities for years to come.  

More information on farm to school policies across the country can be found in this comprehensive State Legislative Survey assembled by NFSN and Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems.

In celebration of farmers

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Kathie Starkweather, Center for Rural Affairs
Center for Rural Affairs and the National Center for Appropriate Technology serve as the Midwest Regional Lead Agency for the National Farm to School Network. Each of our regional lead agencies will be contributing blog posts during Farm to School Month.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate National Farm to School Month than to honor the reason farm to school exists: Farmers.

Anybody out there who has tried to grow food in a pot, a small garden, vertically, horizontally … you name it, you know what a challenge it can be. Pests gravitate to your lovely plants. Weather conditions are rarely perfect: too much heat, too much rain, not enough rain, not enough heat…. Growing food isn’t easy.

So what gets you through all of trials and frustrations? Love and enjoyment for what you are doing. The sense of accomplishment you feel as you see your plants grow, flower and produce. The amazing taste and color of the foods you’ve toiled over. Providing for your family.

Most of us raise food as a hobby. If we have a hailstorm or a drought, we are disappointed and frustrated, but it doesn’t impact our income or our family very much. You might miss out on the pleasure of eating fresh peas right off the vine, but if you have a farmers’ market in your area, you can find a farmer who is selling them.

Take that love of growing things and eating good food and all those challenges and risks, multiply them many times, and you have a farmer. I want to tell you about three farmers I know and why they do what they do:

Darlin' Reds Farm

I know two young women who started a small vegetable farm called Darlin' Reds. They both have off-farm jobs, as many farmers and farm families do in order to get by. And while they are fortunate to do work they enjoy in their off-farm jobs, their true passion is growing food and providing it to people like you and me.

They want children, some of whom have never tasted a fresh vegetable, to eat their tasty squash, peppers and carrots. They want kids to know where their food comes from and that the veggies on their lunch tray come with a whole lot of blood, sweat, tears and love.

So they toil in 110-degree weather, making sure their plants are okay. Since they farm organically, they pull weeds instead of spraying them. They invest in their farm by adding season-extending hoop houses so they can provide schools with a few more months of fresh vegetables.

It’s hard work, but they think it is worth it if just one more child can experience the taste of a fresh green bean or learn that asparagus tastes pretty darned good.

Prairie Pride Poultry

A young farmer-veteran I know named Dan raises chickens and sells eggs. He first connected to the land through his grandparent’s farm. Prairie Pride Poultry was started about a year and a half ago, and today has over 500 chickens. Visit his farm and you’ll find those 500 chickens clucking through greening grass and clambering for bugs. With over 450 eggs collected every day, he is pleased and expanding his markets. In the fall of 2013, Dan sought out the food service director at York Public Schools, which is close to his farm. As both of them tell the story, a mutually beneficial relationship began.

The food service director recognized that pasture-raised birds produce healthier eggs. Providing the best food to students was important to her. It has become a great partnership, not only for the students and Dan but also for the teachers and office staff who are now buying eggs from Prairie Pride Poultry.

I write this blog post to celebrate farmers and thank them for what they do. Without them we would have no farm to school program, and we would have no access to fresh, healthy food.

See if you can find a farmer and thank him or her today in honor of National Farm to School Month. And next time there is a 110-degree day or a month-long drought, remember how lucky you are that somebody is out there, growing food for you and making sure our kids have the best possible food on their cafeteria trays.

Strange Bedfellows: Growing farm to school through unlikely partnerships

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by Betsy Rosenbluth, Shelburne Farms
Shelburne Farms and Vermont FEED serve as the Northeast Regional Lead Agency for the National Farm to School Network. Each of our regional lead agencies will be contributing blog posts during Farm to School Month.

Kelp growers. Hospitals. Chefs. Mental health agencies. Food shelves. What do all of these have in common?

You might not have guessed it, but these strange bedfellows are all important players in the Northeast’s ever-expanding farm to school programs.

Ten years ago, farm to school was just starting to catch on across the country. The idea of schools partnering with farmers and agriculture organizations was cutting edge. We’ve come a long way since then. Today many schools and communities acknowledge the benefits of serving healthy, local foods in cafeterias and in educating students about farms and nutrition.

But our work is far from done. Here in the Northeast, farm to school programs are using increasingly innovative partnerships to continue expanding the impacts and reach of farm to school. Here are the stories of three programs that are setting the pace.

A first grader at Milton Elementary School (VT) learns about kale.

Making Mental Leaps in Vermont

We know how healthy, local foods help to prevent obesity and build strong bones. But how much can they influence the mind? The Milton Town School District in Vermont aims to find out.

Milton’s farm to school program is cutting-edge in many ways (read why in Mary Stein’s blog post about her recent visit here). But with a multi-year federal grant for enhancing mental health, Milton is now pushing the boundaries even further.

Superintendent John Barone added several new positions, including grant coordinator Kristen Dillon, who is focusing on systemic connections between wellness and mental health. She works closely with farm to school coordinator Brooke Gannon and Food Service Director Steve Marinelli, breaking down walls and drawing connections between classroom, cafeteria and community services.

In the cafeteria, Steve is starting to offer yoga before school, after which students can get breakfast and go on their way—hopefully more relaxed and mentally centered. In the classroom, Brooke finds that cooking demos and activities are engaging far more students than typical classroom activities, helping to reduce behavior and attention problems among some of the most challenging students. Throughout the school, teachers are tracking behavior and attendance problems and looking for connections to nutrition and health. (Could students be acting out because they didn’t eat a healthy breakfast?) And in the community, the Milton school district is partnering with organizations including the Milton Family Community Center, Milton Youth Coalition, Howard Center for Mental Health and the Fletcher Allen hospital and health care center. Milton serves community meals once a month, inviting local mental health & physical wellness organizations to set up booths and reach families with critical information, while those families connect with each other and enjoy the bounty of local foods on their plates.

Linking Hunger Relief and Local Foods in Massachusetts

In the Bay State, an innovative partnership between Massachusetts Farm to School and Project Bread – The Walk for Hunger, is bringing fresh veggies and local foods to the table with a healthy dose of education. As a hunger relief organization, Project Bread seeks to increase access to healthy, nutritious and sustainable food for all people. The farm to school partnership helps ensure that many of those healthy foods are coming from local farms, and that people are also gaining an appreciation for farmers and fresh local produce.

Chef Nick Speros leads a kale salad cooking demonstration at a Salem, MA summer food service site as part of Healthy Summer Harvest, a Mass. Farm to School/Project Bread partnership.

Massachusetts Farm to School partners with Project Bread’s Chefs in Schools program, bringing chefs into cafeteria kitchens to cook with staff, helping to implement local foods cooking demonstrations and taste tests at Summer Food Service Sites, and implementing Harvest of the Month activities in target school districts. They also partner with Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach Program to ensure that school breakfast and summer food service programs offer local foods.

Bringing the Sea to Schools in Maine

Portland, Maine’s Mayor Michael Brennan wants to increase locally sourced foods in city schools from 30 percent to 50 percent by 2016. Maine has a lot of great products to choose from: blueberries, potatoes, fresh veggies, local meats and cheeses. But kelp? Through a new farm to school partnership with the Portland-based company Ocean Approved, that’s on the menu too.

Ocean Approved grows kelp in the chilly waters off the Maine coast. They say kelp is one of the healthiest “super foods” around, with lots of calcium, iodine, magnesium and iron. And while most of us have probably only tried kelp in sushi rolls, it’s great in a wide variety of dishes.

Healthy? Yes. Kid-friendly? You might not think so, but thanks to creative farm to school activities like taste tests (read up on a kelp pizza taste test in the Bangor Daily News, kids are developing a taste for kelp, and it’s appearing on the menus of school cafeterias.

National Farm to School Month starts now!

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Today marks the beginning of National Farm to School Month. For the next 31 days, schools and preschools across the country will celebrate the local food served in their cafeterias, the gardens in their schoolyards and the food and agriculture education happening in their classrooms. Some will engage with farm to school for the first time; others will enjoy the harvest from years of farm to school success.

At the National Farm to School Network, we consider Farm to School Month itself to be the product of a successful harvest. Our organization was founded in 2007 to connect and strengthen the many facets of the farm to school movement, and advocating for the creation of Farm to School Month was one of our first national campaign successes. The passage of House Resolution 1655 in 2010 demonstrated the growing importance of farm to school as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies and educate children about the origins of food.

But we didn’t stop there. We also successfully advocated for mandatory funding for farm to school grants through the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and for the creation of the first-ever USDA Farm to School Census. State policy is equally import to the success of farm to school, which is why we release an annual survey of farm to school policy across the country. According to our survey, in 2012 and 2013 alone, 20 states passed farm to school legislation and 17 others introduced legislation. But there’s more to be done, and we need the support of local food advocates, child health advocates and anyone else who believes in farm to school’s potential to transform lives and communities.

This Farm to School Month, will you help us spread the word about the importance of farm to school and the impact it is having in your community? Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Visit our Farm to School Month page to find resources and information.
  • #F2SMonth - Use this hashtag to share photos and stories about farm to school in your community.
  • @FarmtoSchool - follow us on Twitter and Facebook and share our messages with your audience.  
  • Download our Farm to School Month Fact Sheet and share it with your community: parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, producers at your local farmers’ market … anyone!
  • Use our Communications Toolkit to spread the word about your farm to school events and successes.
  • Order promotional materials to wear and share: posters, stickers, aprons and shirts.
  • Become a member of the National Farm to School Network to stay informed about farm to school policy and events.
  • Tell us your story: Use the Share Form on our website to ell us about farm to school in your community! Stories help us advocate for and raise awareness about farm to school.
  • Donate to support our work. The National Farm to School Network is the leading nonprofit working to connect and strengthen the farm to school movement.

Here’s one more reason to get involved: Everyone who fills out a membership form and/or a “Share Form” on our website during October will be entered to win a drawing for $1,000 to spend on a farm to school or farm to preschool project in their community! Five additional drawing winners will also be eligible to apply for a free Project Learning Garden™ lesson kit from Captain Planet Foundation that is valued at $1,000; however, winners must have an existing elementary school garden to qualify. Check out the full contest details.

As a special offer during Farm to School Month, Organic Valley is offering a downloadable coupon for NFSN members only, which can be accessed on our members-only page. Become a member today, then sign in to our website to download your coupon!

The farm to school movement has already seen great success: Farm to school practices are in place at more than 40,000 schools in all 50 states and D.C. and in preschools across the country. This Farm to School Month, help sow the seeds for our next big harvest!