National Farm to School Month 2018 Roundup
Highlighting Actions from Across the Nation
By Anna Defendiefer, Communications Intern
For the past 31 days of National Farm to School Month, millions of students, farmers, educators, and communities across the U.S. have been celebrating the movement that connects kids to healthy, local food and supports local economies. From Florida to Alaska and everywhere in between, people are understanding the power that farm to school can bring to kids, farmers, and communities - that’s what National Farm to School Month is all about!
This year’s campaign encouraged participants to take action and try new things to further embrace the farm to school movement in their local communities. Hundreds of people across the country told us the activities they planned to try this month in our Take Action Pledge:
- Harvested the school garden, cooked a meal, saved the seeds for next season, and amended the soil to get ready for spring - Alaska
- Scheduled a Growing Gardens Class for preschoolers - Colorado
- Taught students about healthy eating and exercise by using pumpkins as weights to do lunges and Russian twists - Connecticut
- Partnered with a local dairy to name a baby calf - Delaware
- Installed and planted a rain garden full of native pollinator plants - Oregon
- Worked with a local dairy farm to teach students how farmers produce milk, yogurt, and cheese - Arizona
- Students constructed a greenhouse for the school farm and grew food for the Mighty Mustang Backpack Meals Program - Mississippi
- Celebrated “Garden Day” at a local elementary school, where each grade planted a different kind of seed - Texas
At the National Farm to School Network, we’ve been leading Farm to School Month celebrations by sharing farm to school inspiration and stories from partner organizations including School Nutrition Association, National Head Start Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and Newman’s Own Foundation. We also highlighted innovative approaches to farm to school by talking about breakfast and reducing plate waste in the cafeteria.
On social media, we celebrated by encouraging people to share their ideas and help spread awareness for the farm to school movement using #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool. Over 6,000 social media posts celebrated farm to school this month, showcasing hundreds of activities and events. We were so inspired by the creative ideas and excitement for the farm to school movement we saw!
Regionally, millions of students and teachers took a collective “crunch” into delicious local produce this month - states in the Great Lakes region, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia all ate local apples, while Florida enjoyed some cucumbers for “Cucumber Crunch!” Policymakers created Farm to School Month proclamations in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Arkansas, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Utah. Some states celebrated by creating exciting farm to school events: Georgia “Kickin’ It with Kale,” Iowa Local Food Day, Louisiana Farm to School Conference, the D.C. Greens Summit, Massachusetts Farm to School Awareness Day, New Jersey Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week, Texas Farm Fresh Challenge, and Mississippi Farm to School Week all helped spread awareness in a fun environment!
States also showcased their seasonal harvests in a variety of ways: California designated peppers as their “Harvest of the Month,” Idaho celebrated Harvest Day, Minnesota celebrated Minnesota Thursday, Maine hosted a Harvest Lunch Week, New Hampshire celebrated kale, Hawaii celebrated ‘Ulu (also known as breadfruit), and Nebraska launched Nebraska Thursdays. And that's just a snapshot!
Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you, who take action and try new things every day to encourage local food sourcing and food, agriculture, and nutrition education to students across the nation. While Farm to School Month has come to an end, we encourage you to keep the momentum going and continue to celebrate the positive power that farm to school brings to kids, farmers and communities. To stay up-to-date on the latest stories, new resources, policy actions, learning opportunities and more, join our network. Let’s keep taking action all year long!
Thank you to this year’s National Farm to School Month sponsors - CoBank, Newman’s Own Foundation, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Captain Planet Foundation, Farm Credit, FarmLogix, Organic Valley, and High Mowing Organic Seeds - as well as the Featured Partner and Outreach Partner organizations that helped us spread the word about farm to school far and wide throughout October. And, thanks to YOU for being a farm to school champion in your community!
Plate Waste Warriors: How Schools Are Reducing Food Waste
The blog is sponsored by CoBank, who shares the National Farm to School Network's mission of growing farm to school to support farmers and vibrant rural communities. We thank CoBank for being a sponsor of our 2018 National Farm to School Month Celebrations.
By Elizabeth Esparza, NFSN Communications Intern
Observe any school cafeteria during a typical lunchtime, and you are bound to witness a perplexing problem. On the one hand, you would certainly see students who rely on school meals to meet their daily nutritional needs getting the food they need. Simultaneously, on any normal day, you would also undoubtedly notice the staggering amount of waste that cafeterias across the country inevitably produce.
Though plate waste abounds, schools and communities throughout the country are stepping up to fight the issue with creative solutions. Reducing plate waste in schools is an important things to consider in ensuring that all students get the food they need while working to send less food to the landfill. Here are a few examples of how school campuses across the country are taking steps to put more food in tummies, and send less food into trash bins.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine recently published a how-to Guide to Reduce Wasted Food in Maine’s K-12 Schools. One of the study’s coauthors, Ryan Parker, formerly a commercial farmer, was interested in how much it was costing school districts to purchase and prepare food that would ultimately be thrown away. Recognizing the barriers schools encounter in reducing their food waste such as limited staff time, serving mandates, and the length of lunchtime, the guide focuses on composting and share tables, two great ways to make sure the food they produce doesn’t go to waste. Public schools produce 1.9% of food waste in the country, which amounts to 36.5 pounds of food per student per year. Though there is certainly more waste to be found in other areas such as households, schools provide a great opportunity to teach and influence students to create positive habits for the future. Check out the guide from some practical examples that can be implemented at any school.
The Campus Kitchens Project, a national program of DC Central Kitchen, has an innovative model to turn what could be waste into much needed meals for the community. The program works with students at 65 universities and high school campuses throughout the country to transform unused food from cafeterias and other community kitchens into meals for their hungry neighbors. With a model that targets the many root causes of hunger, Campus Kitchens not only feeds those who need it and keeps food from going to waste, it also creates opportunities for high school and college students to gain leadership and entrepreneurial skills that can benefit them into their future careers. Here’s an example of the impact one school has made through the program: Gonzaga College High School, located in Washington, D.C., has recovered 28,990 pounds of food since launching in 2005. The Campus Kitchen cooks twice a week, and delivers twice a week to mostly senior, low-income housing communities - watch the video the learn more! Overall, schools participating in The Campus Kitchen Project in the 2016-2017 academic year recovered 991,872 pounds of food that would have otherwise gone to waste, and prepared 378,423 nutritious meals for those in need.
Another key strategy for reducing food waste is educating students about why this is an important issue in the first place. The more students know about food waste, food insecurity, and the complete cycle of the food system, the more likely they are to be conscious of what's left on their plate at the end of a meal. In Michigan, fifth graders at Traverse Heights Elementary have had a hands-on lesson with bananas (rescued from a local grocery story) that illustrated how much food is wasted despite the fact that many people are food insecure. In Arkansas, Washington Elementary School found success when students led a food plate waste audit. In the months following the audit, students reduced their milk waste by 20% and shared various unopened lunch meal items (e.g. milks, apples, oranges, etc.) as afternoon snacks with other students. And in Hawai'i, the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation's 3R’s School Recycling Program focuses on educating students to reduce, reuse and recycle waste in gardens, schoolyards, cafeterias, and classrooms. The program trains students leaders to engage their school community in implementing a school-wide recycling system by conducting classroom presentation, creating campaign materials, and serving as mentors on campus. Empowering students to feel knowledgeable and invested in taking action to reduce waste in the cafeterias and throughout their school campuses is an important step in creating lasting impacts on reduced school food waste.
Whether they utilize share tables, composting, or transforming food, schools and communities are working to combat food waste by reducing what they are able to, reusing what they can, and repurposing what is left.
If you are interested in fighting food waste in your school, here are some more resources to get you started:
- Webinar Recording: Farm to School and Food Waste
- Article: School Lunch Share Tables Fight Food Waste & Hunger (Civil Eats)
- Guide: Guide to Conducting Student Food Waste Audits (USDA)
- Guide: Share Tables and Food Donations in Schools (Los Angeles County Food Redistribution Initiative)
Are you taking steps to reduce food waste in your school? We’d love to hear about it! Send us a note via our Story Form or tag us in a post on social media.
How State Departments of Agriculture Grow Farm to School
Guest post by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
New Jersey State Department of Agriculture, 8th Annual Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association which represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries and directors of the departments of agriculture in all fifty states and four U.S. territories. NASDA grows and enhances agriculture by forging partnerships and creating consensus to achieve sound policy outcomes between state departments of agriculture, the federal government and stakeholders. NASDA appreciates its partnership with the National Farm to School Network (NFSN), as connecting farmers with new markets and children with healthy food is a common sense opportunity to create vibrant communities of all sizes. Across the nation, NASDA Members support farm to school activities in several creative ways. Read just a few of our success stories below:
Georgia Department of Agriculture
In 2014, the Georgia Department of Agriculture implemented a farm to school program, “Feed My School,” to help school nutrition programs utilize locally grown foods. Through identifying barriers to sourcing Georgia grown products and creating practical solutions for school nutrition directors, the department has reached over one-third of the state’s K-12 population.
“Georgia Grown Test Kitchens” have tremendously aided the formulation of new meals and program implementation methods as they develop, test and share menu plans for schools across the state. Following the Feed My School program’s initial success, the department of agriculture has set a new goal to include 20 percent locally grown products in every school meal. To learn more about the Feed My School program and the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s goals, visit www.FeedMySchool.com.
New Jersey Department of Agriculture
The New Jersey State Department of Agriculture hosted a program this September to recognize New Jersey farmers’ farm to school efforts. This year’s winner, recognized during the 8th Annual Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week, was Terhune Orchards.
Terhune Orchards regularly hosts classes from schools and events for children all year round. The orchard currently has a tour program that explores how crops grow, and life on the farm. Also, in one of the orchard’s barns, it features a life size story about corn showing the growth stages of corn until it is ready for harvest. “We feel strongly that it is important to show children how food is grown and to teach them about the importance of eating healthy,” said Gary Mount, Terhune Orchards owner and operator.
During the 2017-18 school year, the influence of the Jersey Fresh Farm to School Program led to 255 schools purchasing some local produce from their main distributor, 223 districts buying local produce directly from farms, 212 districts using a curriculum that ties cafeteria meals to healthy eating education and 114 districts organizing field trips to farms.
West Virginia Department of Agriculture
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is collaborating with the West Virginia Department of Education and West Virginia University Extension Service on a USDA Farm to School Implementation Grant project totaling $91,540. Together, they are designing and executing a two-year strategic plan that expands market opportunities for farmers. In addition to benefitting farmers, the project will increase awareness of West Virginia agriculture and provide resources to farmers, buyers and producers statewide. Stay updated on the program’s progress by visiting the West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s website.
On a federal policy level, NASDA supports increased funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program from $5 to $15 million in order to incubate more farm to school programs throughout the United States. We also encourage Congress to provide additional regulatory flexibility to school food procurement practices. In order to provide this clarity, Congress should expand existing local procurement and geographic preference language to specifically allow “local” as a product specification for school food, provided competitive bidding is maintained.
For those looking to learn more about their state’s farm to school initiatives, or if you have ideas on how to collaborate, NASDA suggests contacting your state department of agriculture. Search NASDA’s directory here.
Celebrating Farm to School with Head Start Gardening!
Guest post by the National Head Start Association
Gardens offer untapped potential in low-income communities
Head Start strives to provide at-risk children with the support they need to reach their full potential in school and in life. Head Start recognizes good health and nutrition as the foundation of school readiness and child development, and takes a comprehensive approach to supporting and promoting the health and well-being of children and families. This approach includes high-quality health and nutrition standards that are required to be culturally and developmentally appropriate, meet the nutritional needs of all individual children, follow the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and USDA recommendations, and served as family-style meals to promote staff-child interactions and healthy socialization. However, we believe there is untapped potential for garden projects in Head Start and Early Head Start programs which can further improve the health and development of children in vulnerable communities, where fresh foods are most scarce.
Recognizing the importance of strong health and nutrition in early childhood and understanding many at-risk children and families suffer from lack of access to fresh foods, the National Head Start Association (NHSA) has partnered with the National Farm to School Network to celebrate National Farm to School Month and to spread awareness on this critical issue. In celebration of National Farm to School Month, NHSA is expanding our reach, resources, and partnerships with organizations related to farm to early care and education, with the overall goal to increase access to gardening and its many benefits to low-income communities.
Numerous benefits to starting gardening early
Gardens and the fresh foods they provide in early care and education programs offer numerous benefits, ranging from increased access to nutritious and local foods for children in their vital years of development, to improved physical activity and hands-on learning related to agriculture, health, and nutrition. But not only does gardening contribute to positive child health outcomes, it also fosters healthy interactions and social skills between children, teachers, and families. Additionally, when schools and communities support local food systems, the surrounding economy thrives.
Research to support these many benefits has grown in recent years and as a result, local fresh foods and gardens have spread through communities and schools. However, most families in vulnerable communities are still food insecure and often live in areas with little to no access to fresh foods, or “food deserts.” Far too often, low-income children and families lack access to basic fresh foods.
So in addition to the National Farm to School Network, NHSA has also joined forces with The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation. Through our partnership with Scotts Miracle-Gro, we will work with Head Start programs across the country to support children, families, and communities in the growing of their own fresh produce for life. This multi-year initiative will make garden grants, garden kits, educational curriculum, and garden training available to all Head Start programs, with the goal of creating more edible gardens for young children and their families. The partnership also includes a webinar series, as part of NHSA’s Year of Whole Health, to share information about how to create and sustain a successful Head Start garden program and the benefits for children, families, staff, and the surrounding community.
By partnering with the National Farm to School Network and Scotts Miracle-Gro, NHSA’s goal is to expand access to gardens, fresh foods and nutrition education materials for children, families, and staff across the Head Start field. NHSA hopes that each new garden grown or current garden maintained will stimulate healthy child development, family and community engagement, and sustainable locally sourced foods.
How can you help?
Through these partnerships, NHSA encourages all families, teachers, and program leaders in Head Start and across the early care and education field to share educational materials and resources with your communities and find ways to incorporate gardens into your programs and schools.
- Visit the NHSA & Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Garden Grants Initiative website to apply for a grant for your Head Start or Early Head Start program and learn about future webinars and resources.
- Join us in celebrating National Farm to School Month! Check out NFSN’s Celebration Toolkit for ideas on how your community, school, or program can spread awareness and support locally sourced foods. Did you know that October is National Head Start Awareness Month, too? Head Start programs can celebrate both by raising awareness of Head Start’s impacts and the ways they’re growing healthy kids and healthy families through farm to school activities.
- Read through NFSN’s Growing Head Start Success with Farm to Early Care and Education report to understand more about the role Head Start can play in promoting farm to ECE.
- Read through the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey produced by NFSN and Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems. This information is easily shared with families, teachers, and communities through the Fact Sheet, Infographic, and Sharing Toolkit provided in the above link.
- Search other helpful resources in NFSN’s resource database to understand more about the benefits of gardening and supporting local fresh foods and how you can spread this initiative to all children and families in need.
Newman’s Own Foundation is Focused on Fresh Food Access
Guest post by Newman's Own Foundation
Paul Newman spent his life giving back and supporting others in their efforts to give back. He was particularly passionate about fresh food, which is why Newman’s Own Foundation is proud to highlight nutrition as one of its four focus areas.
At the beginning of October—National Farm to School Month—Newman’s Own Foundation announced $1.7 million in grants to nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting fresh food access. This adds to the more than $38 million Newman’s Own Foundation has donated since 2010 to healthy food and nutrition programs.
This most recent set of grants went to 37 organizations involved with everything from healthy cooking for kids, urban agriculture, farmers markets, community gardens, and more. Let’s take a look at what a few of these organizations are doing to promote nutritional education and fresh food in schools across the U.S.
Edible Schoolyard NYC: In support of their mission to offer edible education for every child in New York City, Edible Schoolyard NYC partners with the city’s public schools to cultivate healthy students and communities through hands-on cooking and gardening education.
Wellness in the Schools: Wellness in the Schools partners with public schools to provide nutrition and fitness education, healthy scratch-cooked meals, and active recess periods. Their goal is long-term change by shifting school cultures and teaching kids healthy habits to learn and live better.
Jones Valley Teaching Farm: Good School Food is Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s primary program. It encourages hands-on learning with food as the main teaching tool. Read more about Newman’s Own Foundation’s Road Trip to Jones Valley Teaching Farm.
Healthy Schools Campaign: Cooking Up Change, part of Healthy Schools Campaign in Chicago, “puts student voices front and center in the national dialogue about school food.” The program challenges students to create their own healthy, great-tasting meals that satisfy the requirements for the national school meal program.
“Newman's Own Foundation is proud to support the people and the nonprofit organizations they represent who each and every day work to improve access to fresh foods in their communities," said Bob Forrester, President and CEO of Newman's Own Foundation. "Through their diligent efforts, they are making a significant difference in the lives of thousands of children and families around the country and an overall contribution to the health of our nation.”
In addition to offering aid to other organizations, Newman’s Own Foundation formed its first Nutrition Cohort in 2014 to address challenges around nutrition. The Cohort consisted of six nonprofits and a research university which all gathered to share best practices, coordinate their efforts, and brainstorm ideas for improving nutrition. Working together gave the organizations the opportunity to make a larger impact.
Here are a few ways you, too, can take action for farm to school in your own community.
- Volunteer at your local school or community garden
- Get in touch with schools and encourage them to serve local meals
- Thank your school nutrition staff
- Participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and support local farmers
- Take the family to a farmers market
- Support Newman’s Own Foundation nutritional grantees
Don’t forget to share your story and encourage others to get involved during National Farm to School Month and throughout the year.
National Farm to School Network thanks Newman's Own Foundation for being a sponsor of our 2018 National Farm to School Month Celebrations
There’s Lots (of Local Foods!) to Love in Your School Cafeteria!
Guest post by Gay Anderson, SNS, President of the School Nutrition Association (SNA)
Schools from coast to coast are celebrating National School Lunch Week with the theme “School Lunch: Lots 2 Love,” and indeed, there are so many reasons to get excited about school lunch! School meals, which meet federal nutrition standards, support efforts to improve students’ diets and combat food insecurity for America’s most vulnerable children. And we all love how school lunch has helped introduce young people to foods grown and raised in their local communities.
In fact, a recent national survey of school meal program directors shows schools are serving more locally grown foods and utilizing farm to school programs to increase student consumption of healthy meals. SNA’s “School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2018,” based on survey responses from 1,550 school districts nationwide, reveals the farm to school movement has taken firm root in school cafeterias:
- 60% of responding districts offer locally sourced fruits and vegetables
- More than half include preferences for local or regional sourcing of foods in solicitations or purchase specifications
- Nearly half have implemented farm to school initiatives, and
- 34% utilize school gardens to promote healthier food choices
With updated nutrition standards requiring larger servings and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables with each school meal, school nutrition professionals have worked even harder to ensure students are eating and enjoying all that fresh produce. Through farmer visits, garden activities, Harvest of the Month initiatives and taste tests to promote locally sourced produce, schools are gradually turning finicky young students into eager fruit and veggie eaters. Schools across the country are utilizing these tactics not just during National School Lunch Week and Farm to School Month, but year round from Indiana to Georgia and New York to Washington.
Even in my home state of South Dakota, where long winters challenge efforts to source locally, we are proud to report that some local producers and nearby school meal programs are finding ways to overcome these hurdles. USDA recently profiled a partnership between Huron Public Schools and Fairacre Farm, which utilizes a high tunnel greenhouse to supply Huron schools with a variety of fresh produce throughout the school year. Thanks to these efforts, students were introduced to okra and cauliflower, sweet potatoes and peppers in the cafeteria and through summer meals and classroom snacks. South Dakota’s school nutrition professionals are even working to locally source school meal entrees. Burke Public School District is finalizing plans to begin serving locally raised beef next semester.
As president of the School Nutrition Association, I have been excited to see school nutrition professionals networking with their colleagues in other districts, sharing successful tactics to increase local sourcing and teach children the benefits of eating local foods. One of the many advantages of working in the school nutrition industry is the spirit of collaboration – instead of competing for customers, school nutrition professionals are all working together to help raise healthy eaters – and it’s that spirit that has fostered the growth of farm to school.
SNA is pleased to partner with the National Farm to School Network and USDA to host education sessions and share resources to help school nutrition professionals improve their procurement practices, connect with local growers, launch school garden initiatives and market locally sourced foods. We look forward to continuing that partnership and sharing new ideas throughout the year ahead.
Bringing Farm to School Into Breakfast
By Elizabeth Esparza, Communications Intern
October 15-19 is National School Lunch Week, which offers great opportunities to highlight local food in your school lunches. But let’s not forget about breakfast! National Farm to School Month is a time to find ways to expand outside of your current activities and try new things, such as introducing local foods into your breakfasts.
The importance of breakfast is no secret, and the benefits of breakfast for students are numerous: students who eat breakfast do better academically, are more attentive in school, are less prone to acting out, and have a lower risk for developing diet related diseases. Integrating fresh, local ingredients into the most important meal of the day can only serve to stretch these benefits even further!
There are so many delicious ways to implement farm to school into your breakfast program. You can try scrambling local eggs for a protein-filled, hearty breakfast burrito, and add a side of salsa featuring farm fresh tomatoes. Scrambled eggs are also a great place to feature school garden-grown herbs! Local berries, yogurt, and granola can make for a sweet and delicious breakfast parfait in the morning. Whole grain bread and potatoes can add some much needed heartiness to your breakfasts to keep students full and attentive.
Here are some great examples of schools finding fresh and fun ways to add farm to school into their breakfast menus:
Iowa: For Iowa Local Food Day 2018, Des Moines Public Schools served up a sausage and egg breakfast pizza and sunny corn muffins with ingredients sourced from Iowa producers. This healthy breakfast pizza packed with protein is a student favorite, and makes an easy Grab n’ Go meal that fuels up bodies and minds for the first classes of the day.
Rhode Island: A few years ago, a Rhode Island baker started incorporating local zucchini, carrots, and apples into breakfast bars and muffins he makes for Providence schools. Those items are packaged and used in Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab n’ Go breakfasts. Though apple bars and muffins are a natural favorite of students, a couple years of experience has taught the schools that peeled zucchini and fun names for the bars and muffins can make the other options much more kid-friendly.
Texas: Austin Independent School District’s Breakfast in the Classroom program includes breakfast tacos featuring local eggs. Eggs are a great lower cost meat alternative that offers students filling and tasty protein, and they are such a versatile breakfast option that pairs well with so many other foods.
Massachusetts: Boston Public Schools also offers a healthy muffin that includes local apples, zucchini, and carrots, which was selected specifically for its ability to work well for Breakfast in the Classroom. Muffins are a hearty and quick breakfast option, making them perfect for Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab n’ Go breakfasts, or Second Chance Breakfast. Just outside of Boston, Cambridge Public Schools makes oatmeal using local apple cider as the cooking liquid. Apples are a common favorite fruit among students, and finding ways to taste them in new and creative ways is a great way to not only incorporate local foods into different meals, but also to show students the versatility that their favorites can offer in every meal!
If adding to your breakfast program feels like just too big a leap right now, fear not! You can always plan for the future. National School Breakfast Week is March 6-10, 2019. Mark your calendars and get thinking about how you can get farm to school into your breakfast soon!
3 Steps for a Positively Bluetiful School
Guest post by US Highbush Blueberry Council
Celebrate National Farm to School Month the bluetiful way with highbush blueberries! From their great taste to their added health benefits, highbush blueberries are the berry that loves you back making them a fruity favorite of cafeteria managers across the country. With the help of these little blue dynamos, you can teach your students that nutritious, healthy foods can also be absolutely delicious. Here are 3 easy ways to incorporate highbush blueberries into your farm to school activities this October (and all year-round!) making your school Positively Bluetiful:
1. Boost Your Blueberries
A little change like adding more highbush blueberries to your menus can have a big impact on your students’ interest in eating more foods that meet school nutrition standards. And with increased emphasis on healthful options and a lot of little mouths to feed each day, what schools need are tasty, nutritious items kids will love. Here’s how highbush blueberries can help:
- NUTRITIOUS + DELICIOUS: When it comes to flavor and health benefits, highbush blueberries are proof that good things do come in small packages! Providing fiber, vitamin C, manganese and – of course – deliciousness, highbush blueberries will add a burst of flavor to your students’ day.
- NO-FUSS FRUIT: For cafeteria managers, highbush blueberries are a low-labor fruit making them easy to add to school menus. No peeling, slicing, or dicing—simply wash and explore all the ways to enjoy their goodness from smoothies to salads, dipping sauces to pizza!
- YEAR-ROUND AVAILABILITY: From local fresh highbush blueberries to USDA Foods frozen highbush blueberries, your district can enjoy blueberries on menus no matter the season, learn how!
2. Explore the Playbook
Searching for a resource that can help transform your school’s nutrition program from good to Positively Bluetiful? Look no further than the Highbush Blueberry Farm to School Playbook! From kids’ activities, nutrition guides, blueberry inspiration and more, the Playbook is packed with resources that will excite your students, inspire your staff and celebrate with your local community. Whether you’re just starting a farm to school program or your nutrition education is proclaimed nationwide, we promise the Highbush Blueberry Farm to School Playbook will be your new go-to resource making nutrition – and blueberries! - fun for all.
3. Join in the Fun
In honor of National Farm to School Month, one lucky school district will win a “Build-Your-Own Highbush Blueberry Day!” Easy as 1, 2, 3…here’s how you can enter:
- Explore the Highbush Blueberry Farm to School Playbook
- Enter the National Farm to School Month Sweepstakes
- Cross your fingers and toes, while you snack on some blueberries!
Wondering what “build-your-own” means? If your school is the lucky winner, you’ll have the opportunity to customize a special “Highbush Blueberry Day” with the support from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and its marketing experts to help you plan, execute and promote the perfect event for your district, students and community. Host a highbush blueberry taste test with your students? Invite a local grower to discuss the life cycle of highbush blueberries from little seed to plump berry? Explore the versatility of highbush blueberries in a cafeteria cooking demo? Let your blueberry dreams run crazy!
Now, what are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on the fun! Explore the Playbook, enter the sweepstakes and bring buckets of blueberry fun to your school today!
National Farm to School Network thanks the US Highbush Blueberry Council for being a sponsor of our 2018 National Farm to School Month Celebrations!
Putting the CRUNCH in Farm to School Month
By Elizabeth Esparza, Communications Intern
National Farm to School Month is a time when schools, farms, and communities come together to share and celebrate the fantastic work being done to build farm to school throughout the country. No matter where you are in the country, National Farm to School Month offers opportunities for everyone to share in the festivities in some way!
One way that many states and regions come together each year is by hosting “crunch” events. By encouraging schools throughout a state and region to crunch into a local food on a specific day, at a specified time, or even simply anytime during the month of October, crunch events create a unifying experience and a sense of camaraderie amongst National Farm to School Month celebrators. (Plus, it’s a tasty way to celebrate!)
How do you host a crunch event?
First, find out if your state or region already has a crunch that you can participate in. Check out our calendar of Farm to School Month events to see if there is a crunch in your area. North Carolina, Iowa, Utah, Alabama, California, Montana, Florida, Hawai’i, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio are some of the many who are hosting crunch events this month.
Pick your produce. While apple crunches are most common, feel free to crunch into any local item you choose. Carrots and cucumbers are also great choices that give a great crunch sound!
Get the whole school involved. Make sure that your crunch event really celebrates all of your hard work in farm to school. Invite a local farmer, invite families to participate, celebrate your food service staff and administrators that make farm to school happen in your school. Everyone can be invited to enjoy the crunch of a fresh, local food!
Set a time for the crunch. One of the best things about a crunch event is the collective noise you can all make to celebrate farm to school. So whether you crunch to start out lunchtime or get everyone gathered to crunch in some other way, setting a time is another way to truly make your crunch an event to remember!
Make it more than a crunch. Incorporate your crunch item into a meal or taste test. Once you’ve crunched, keep the tasting going! Work with food service staff to bring that item into breakfast or lunch, or try a taste test of that food cooked in several different ways.
Print some stickers. Get students even more excited to crunch by giving them the opportunity to wear their tasting accomplishment with pride. Whether you want a National Farm to School Month sticker or a taste test specific sticker, we have a few to choose from here.
Spread the word. A crunch event is a great opportunity to share your farm to school story with local media outlets. Download our National Farm to School Month Celebration Toolkit for media pitch ideas and suggestions for connecting with local reporters.
Share the celebration! No matter where or how or when you crunch, be sure to share it with the wider farm to school community by posting to social media with the hashtags #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool. Scan these hashtags now to see how others are crunching this National Farm to School Month!
Are you participating in a crunch event at your school this October? Does this list inspire you to organize your own? We want to hear about it! Tell us how you’re celebrating National Farm to School Month this October - with a crunch event, or any farm to school activity! - and we’ll enter you to win a package of farm to school prizes for a school of your choice. This year's prizes include a "Build-Your-Own Blueberry Day" from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, assets from the Captain Planet Foundation Project Learning Garden™ program, organic dairy products from Organic Valley, and a collection of seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds. No action or crunch is too small - take the pledge today!
Need a little bit more inspiration to get your CRUNCH on? Check out these highlights from recent apple crunches in Virginia and Washington. Happy CRUNCH-ing!
Yesterday was officially Taste Washington Day & every student across the district celebrated by taking part in the annual Washington Apple Crunch. Apples from Bill's Berry Farm were delivered to every classroom & at 2 p.m. everyone took one loud crunch #WAapplecrunch #TasteWADay pic.twitter.com/wNX4ntpvrU
— Grandview Schools (@THEGSD200) October 4, 2018
2018 Fall Funding Round Up
National Farm to School Month is a time to try new things and take action to grow your farm to school activities. One great way to try something new in your program is to apply for funding to help support or grow your efforts. If you’re new to farm to school, check out our getting started resources:
- Getting Started with Farm to School
- Getting Started with Farm to Early Care and Education
- Starting and Maintaining a School Garden
- Growing Farm to School in Native Communities
Ready to kickoff or expand your farm to school efforts? Here are several fall funding opportunities to explore:
USDA FY 2019 Farm to School Grant RFA
The FY 2019 Farm to School Grant Program Request for Applications (RFA) is now open to applicants. Due to additional funding made available to the Farm to School Grant Program through the FY 2018 Omnibus Bill, the Office of Community Food Systems seeks to award approximately $7.5M in FY 2019 funding. Applications are due December 4, 2018. Learn more and apply here.
The National Farm to School Network advocated for the establishment of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program and is committed to ensuring it reaches the communities that need this funding most. NFSN is available on a consultation basis to provide assistance to potential applicants in the areas of: planning and preparing the application; customized support for Native communities; evaluation; and, focus on early care and education / pre-K. For more information about National Farm to School Network consultation services - including specific consultation offerings, pricing, and a form to express interest - click here.
Nature Conservancy School Gardens
The Nature Conservancy is awarding grants to support projects that implement green infrastructure to address local environmental challenges. These include access to healthy food, air quality, heat island effect, climate change, and storm water collection. Young people will work as social innovators to help their communities through project design and implementation. A $2,000 grant will be awarded to up to 50 schools. Applications are due October 5. Learn more here.
National Education Association Grants
Student Achievement Grants, offered by the National Education Association (NEA) Foundation, are for projects that help students learn how to think critically and solve problems in order to improve student learning. Learning & Leadership Grants, offered by the National Education Association (NEA) Foundation, are for professional development opportunities for individuals or groups. Grants are available to current members of the National Education Association who are educators in public schools or public institutions of higher education. Preference is given to proposals that incorporate STEM and/or global learning into projects, which can include farm to school activities. Two levels of funding are available: $2,000 and $5,000. The next deadline for applications is October 15.
Whole Kids Foundation School Garden Grant Program
The Whole Kids Foundation, in partnership with FoodCorps, is now accepting applications for its School Garden Grant Program, an annual grantmaking program that supports school garden projects designed to help students learn about topics such as nutrition and health, sustainability and conservation, food systems, and community awareness. These grants will be in the amount of $2,000 for year-long projects. The applications are due October 15. Learn more here.
Seeds for Education Grant Program
Teachers and students across the US are expanding learning opportunities by enhancing their schoolyards with butterfly gardens, nature trails, prairies, woodland wildflower preserves, and similar projects. These projects enrich the learning environment and provide aesthetic and environmental benefits. Wild Ones offers assistance for all aspects of such projects. Cash grants under $500 are available for plants and seeds, and in-kind donations from Nursery Partners can help stretch these dollars. Applications are due October 15. Learn more here.
Whole Kids Foundation - Bee Grant Program
The Bee Grant program allows for a K-12 school or non-profit organization to receive support for an educational bee hive. Four grant options are available, and all include remote consultation and assistance with Beekeeper partnership from The Bee Cause Project. Applications are doc October 31. Learn more here.
Annie’s Grant for Edible School Gardens
Want a school garden? Annie’s believes that showing future generations how sustainable food is grown changes their lives. Connecting kids to gardens helps them to start thinking more holistically about their food, their communities, and the planet. Applications are due November 1. Learn more and apply here.
Safer® Brand School Garden Grant
Safer® Brand is starting an annual school garden grant to help kids build healthy habits through gardening, bring classmates closer together and unite everyone in a common goal of better health. The $500 grant will be awarded to a school in the United States to start a school garden in 2018. Applications for this grant are due December 1. Learn more here.
2019 Youth Garden Grant
Any nonprofit organization, public or private school, or youth program in the United States or US Territories planning a new garden program or expanding an established one that serves at least 15 youth between the ages of 3 and 18 is eligible to apply. The selection of winners is based on demonstrated program impact and sustainability. The top 5 programs will be awarded grant packages worth $2,100. Grant packages worth $500 will be awarded to 20 additional programs. Applications are due December 17. Learn more here.
Find more ideas for supporting your farm to school activities in our Funding Farm to School factsheet. Stay tuned to our This Week blogs, posted every Tuesday, for more farm to school funding, resources and engagement opportunities.
31 Days to Celebrate Farm to School
October is a time of year when farms and gardens are overflowing with delicious harvests of every size, shape, color, and flavor – and a time when we come together with schools, farms, and communities from throughout the country to celebrate National Farm to School Month! The National Farm to School Network advocated for the creation of National Farm to School Month by Congress in 2010 (House Resolution 1655) and since then, the yearly October festivities have brought together thousands of students, teachers, parents, farmers, food advocates, school lunch professionals, and community members from a wide range of sectors to raise awareness of the important role of farm to school in improving child nutrition, supporting local economies, and building vibrant communities. This National Farm to School Month, join the celebration of food education, school gardens, and lunch trays filled with healthy, local ingredients. Anyone can get involved!
As National Farm to School Month has grown throughout the years, states have expanded their celebrations. Some states, such as New Jersey and Virginia, host their own statewide Farm to School Week to focus on the exciting farm to school efforts happening throughout their states. Others, such as Iowa, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, choose a specific day to raise awareness and highlight local food in their states with a “Local Food Day”. A number of states promote statewide apple crunches, including the Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin), Montana, North Carolina, and Alabama. From garden harvests to locally sourced lunches, states throughout the country have seized the opportunity to celebrate their local bounty and encourage those throughout their state to get involved wherever they are, all while educating their communities about the origins of their food.
No matter where you live, everyone can join in the National Farm to School Month celebration! Here are a few ways to get involved this month:
- Take the Pledge: Sign our Take Action Pledge and commit to taking action to advance farm to school in your community this October.
- Explore resources: Download our new Farm to School Month Celebration Toolkit and check out other free resources for planning and promoting celebrations in your community, including customizable posters and bookmarks, stickers, activity suggestions and communications tools.
- See what’s happening: Explore our national calendar of Farm to School Month events to see what celebrations are happening in your community.
- Donate to support our work: Invest in the future of farm to school. Donate to the National Farm to School Network and help us bring farm to school to communities across the country every month! Take one small step and make a charitable donation today.
- Share the celebration: We want to know how you’re celebrating! Share your Farm to School stories on social media with #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool.
- Wear your support: Check out our Farm to School Month store for t-shirts, stickers, buttons, and more to wear your Farm to School love all month long!
- Stay up to date: Make sure you’re signed up for our e-newsletter. We’ll be sending a few emails this month with more action ideas and ways to celebrate. Sign up here.
Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you taking small actions every day to grow healthier kids, support local agriculture and cultivate vibrant communities. These next 31 days are the perfect time to celebrate how far we've come, and dig in to keep growing the movement!
Special thanks to our 2018 National Farm to School Month Sponsors and Supporters - including CoBank, Newman's Own Foundation, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Captain Planet Foundation, Organic Valley, Farm Credit, FarmLogix, and High Mowing Organic Seeds - as well as the Featured Partner and Outreach Partner organizations that are helping us spread the word about farm to school throughout October. And, thanks to you for being a farm to school champion in your community.
Happy National Farm to School Month!