Local Lunches, Apple Crunches & Proclamations: How We Celebrated National Farm to School Month 2019

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Anna Mullen, Communications Manager

For 31 days every October, millions of students, farmers, educators, and communities across the country celebrate the movement that’s connecting kids to local and just food and supporting family farmers and local economies. Over 42,000 schools and early care and education sites across the country put farm to school into action every day, and National Farm to School Month is a time to recognize those efforts, the people who make them happen, and to energize more people in our communities to join in!

Everyone can be part of National Farm to School Month, and this year we saw lots of inspiring celebrations - from state-wide crunch events and local food days, to legislators in the lunchroom and proclamations. Here are some of the ways our farm to school friends like you celebrated this October:

Apple Crunches: Did you hear that CRUNCH? Millions of students across the country participated in state and region-wide crunch events this October. Many places crunched with locally sourced apples, including Alabama, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia. The Mountain Plaines region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming) held its first regional Apple Crunch Off. The Great Lakes Region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin) continued its annual Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch with more than 1.8 million (wow!) crunchers. Louisiana had the Great Louisiana Satsuma Peel. And in states like California, Florida and Hawai’i, schools picked from a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to crunch and munch on local food.

Proclamations: While the federal government first recognized National Farm to School Month in 2010 (House Resolution 1655), numerous state governments recognize this annual celebration with proclamations and declarations of their own. This year, governors including Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made proclamations related to Farm to School Month and kids eating local food in schools.

Local Food Days & Weeks: Statewide local food days and weeks encourage schools and communities to be part of their local food systems. Here are few states that had campaigns to put local on kids plates: Iowa Local Food Day, the Mississippi Farm to School Challenge, New Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week, Pennsylvania Preferred Day, New Mexico Grown Week, Make Your Plate South Carolina Grown Week, the Texas Farm Fresh Challenge, and Virginia Farm to School Week.

Legislators in the Lunch Room: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue kicked off National Farm to School Month at Sugar Creek Elementary School in Wisconsin. VermontSen. Patrick Leahy visited St. Albans Town Education Center. NebraskaRep. Jeff Fortenberry crunched into local apples with students at Clinton Elementary School. ConnecticutRep. Joe Courtney took a tour of school gardens and cafeterias at Groton public School. CaliforniaAgriculture Secretary Karen Ross visited several farm to school sites. IdahoFirst Lady Teresa Little and Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam ate with kids in school cafeterias. And VirginiaSecretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring visited Lynchburg City Schools to see their bulk milk machines carrying single-source, local milk.

And more!Georgia schools planted, tasted, cooked with and learned about squash with the “Oh My Squash” celebration. Indiana Grown and the Indiana State Department of Health unveiled their new local food buyer's guide. Massachusetts had a farm to school awareness day and awarded its 2019 Kale Blazer Award. And in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new funding to support schools purchasing locally grown food.

At the National Farm to School Network, we’ve been leading National Farm to School Month celebrations by sharing farm to school inspiration and stories from partner organizations including Farm to Cafeteria Canada, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, CoBank, Hawthorne Gardening Company, and Farm Credit. And 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 6,500 social media posts celebrated farm to school this month, showcasing hundreds of activities and events. We were so inspired by the excitement for farm to school that we saw!

Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you who are working every day to ensure the health of our nation's children and to support local farmers in our communities. There are 334 days to continue growing and strengthening the movement before the 10th annual National Farm to School Month in October 2020! Help us keep the momentum going by joining our network and stay up-to-date on the latest stories, new resources, policy actions, learning opportunities – like the upcoming 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, April 21-23, 2020 in Albuquerque, NM. Healthy kids, thriving farms and vibrant communities are worth taking action for every day!

Thank you to this year’s National Farm to School Month sponsors - CoBank and the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council - as well as 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!

Welcome, Krystal Oriadha!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

National Farm to School Network is excited to welcome Krystal Oriadha to our team as Senior Director of Programs and Policy! Krystal brings a wealth of experience in policy advocacy, project management, and social justice activism to the National Farm to School Network. In her new role, she’ll be leading National Farm to School Network’s overall programming and policy activities.

Krystal has over 10 years of experience working for government agencies, nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Human Resources Achievement Program, and Hewlett Packard. Most recently, she served as Policy Director for Prince George’s County (Maryland) Council Member Thomas Dernoga.

Krystal is a recognized leader and activist for justice in Prince George’s County and the wider community. She currently serves as Vice President of Make Smart Cool, Co-Chair of Prince George’s County Education Roundtable, and co-founder of the LGBTQ Dignity Project. She’s previously held leadership roles with Prince George’s Mass Liberation Team, Progressive Maryland, and served as a Fellow for both Hilary Clinton’s 2016 and President Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaigns. In 2019, Krystal was named one of Prince George's County Social Innovation Fund's Forty Under 40 Honorees and selected to serve on the Clinton Foundation’s 20|30 Leadership Council.

Krystal attended Howard University for her BBA in International Business. At Howard, she joined The International Fraternity of Delta Sigma Pi, lota Rho Chapter and studied abroad in Tanzania at the University of Dar es Salaam. Krystal received her MBA from Amberton University.

“I am excited for the opportunity to work with the National Farm to School Network because I believe in the mission of this organization, and my experience in understanding how to apply an equity lens to the work will help move the organization forward,” said Krystal. “I have worked for years as a justice advocate, and food justice is an area that has always been important to me. I have worked to end food deserts and food swamps in communities of color by expanding access to healthy options, and I see how the National Farm to School Network plays a significant role in bringing healthy food options to marginalized communities through the education system.”

During our interviews with Krystal, we were energized by her passion for food justice and commitment to ensuring that every voice is welcome at the farm to school table. She’s a big-picture systems thinker who’s diverse experiences and commitment to justice put her in a prime position to widen the touchpoints of our farm to school efforts and support the advancement of equity through out work.

As Senior Director of Programs and Policy, Krystal will lead the strategic direction of programming and policy advocacy of the National Farm to School Network, aimed at strengthening farm to school efforts in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories. Some of Krystal's first projects include finalizing the program lineup for the 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference (save the date! April 21-23, 2020 in Albuquerque, NM) and launching our new equity learning lab, aimed at training farm to school leaders to maximize their impact towards addressing inequities and injustices in our food system.

Krystal is based in our Washington, D.C. office. Connect with Krystal and say hello at krystal@farmtoschool.org. Welcome, Krystal!

Hydroponic garden extends growing season & nutrition opportunities at San Pedro Elementary

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Photo Credit: Sanzuma

With a goal of connecting more students across the country to indoor gardening opportunities, Hawthorne Gardening Company and National Farm to School Network have launched a pilot project to integrate hydroponic growing systems into classrooms and science curricula this school year. This is the story of how one partner school–San Pedro Elementary in San Rafael, CA–is using the hydroponic garden to give students a year-round learning experience of bringing food seed-to-table.

Guest blog written by Lori Davis, Executive Director, Sanzuma

San Pedro Elementary School, located in San Rafael, California, has 572 students. Approximately 97 percent of our student population is Latino, with cultural groups predominantly originating from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. Sanzuma is San Pedro’s nonprofit partner that focuses on improving wellness in Marin County’s low-income schools by helping turn school gardens into productive farms that produce organic food for school meal programs.

On behalf of Sanzuma (where I serve as Executive Director) and San Pedro Elementary School, we are thrilled to be a part of National Farm to School Network and Hawthorne Gardening Company’s hydroponic pilot project and to bring the benefits of indoor gardens to our students. The hydroponic garden is an exciting addition to the educational learning environment at San Pedro, where staff are dedicated to meeting the needs of the school's many English language learners and helping all students achieve high academic goals. We believe that understanding nutrition and where food comes from are important parts of every student’s education. We’ve selected one classroom that Sanzuma will work with to care for the new hydroponic garden. The newly developed curriculum that was designed for this pilot project will be used with students to incorporate their garden experiences into science and STEM lessons.

One of the most exciting aspects of the new hydroponic growing system is that it will allow students to grow food that ordinarily would be out of season. Normally, we can grow tomatoes only during the summer months when the majority of students are on summer break. With the season extension offered by the indoor hydroponic system, we can grow nutrient-rich food throughout the school year–allowing students to be part of that growing process and giving more students access to this food in the cafeteria.

With the new ability to extend our growing season, we’ll also gain ample time to introduce new vegetables to students before they stop by the salad bar at lunch. We will do this by including the crops we grow hydroponically in taste tests.

Through this project, we hope students will develop a deep understanding of the value and importance of growing food, the importance of eating healthy, and how hydroponics can be an alternative growing method to traditional gardening. This pilot program will give our students a hands-on, project-based opportunity to understand the full circle of growing food from seed to table.

More About Sanzuma
Founded in 2012, Sanzuma calls our program “farm to student” because we emphasize nutrition education, taste tests, healthy cooking, and enhancing the lunchroom atmosphere with nutritional messaging. We also focus on school wellness policy work at the state and local level and staff wellness at the schools where our garden programs are run. The food we grow on our school farm is purchased by the San Rafael City School District and included in their salad bars. We have taught thousands of taste tests, nutrition classes, farm to table cooking classes and staff wellness workshops. We teach students (and families) from a very young age how and why to eat healthy, maintain a healthy lifestyle and always have access to healthy food. Learn more about Saunzum and our work at www.sanzuma.org.

This blog is part of a series that focuses on National Farm to School Network and Hawthorne Gardening Company’s work to bring more indoor gardens to more schools. Learn more about the Gro More Good Hydroponics Pilot Project and read more blogs in this series here.

National Farmers Union is Celebrating National Farm to School Month

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest blog by the National Farmers Union - Aaron Shier, NFU Government Relations Representative and Josie Krogh, NFU Intern

John Peterson, Owner and General Manager of Ferndale Market, raises pastured turkeys in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Ferndale turkey is featured on school food menus throughout Minnesota.

This blog is cross-posted on the National Farmers Union website - read it here.

October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate connections happening all over the country between schools, food, and local farmers, ranchers, and fishers!

Over the past decade, the farm to school movement has boomed across the United States, reaching millions of students in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories. Farm to school – which includes kids eating, growing, and learning about local foods in schools – is an important tool in the fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity. In addition to improving student health, farm to school presents an important financial opportunity for farmers by connecting them to a profitable institutional market. According to the USDA Farm to School Census, schools reported spending $789 million on food from local farmers, ranchers, fishers and food processors during the 2013-14 school year.

Many National Farmers Union members are involved in farm to school efforts. And National Farm to School Month seemed like the perfect time to highlight some of their great work.

Minnesota Farmers Union member John Peterson is a third-generation turkey farmer who has been selling his free-range, antibiotic-free turkey to local school districts for over a decade. Their family farm Ferndale Market started off selling turkey to a few school districts that were able to handle and cook raw turkey, but when Minneapolis Public Schools decided to bring locally produced foods into all their cafeterias, the school district became a major buyer of Ferndale turkey.

Peterson said there has been a lot to learn about what products schools are able to work with. “Some districts handle raw protein, but certainly not all. Many schools don’t have traditional cooking facilities. So working with processors has been crucial.” Most of what Ferndale Market sells to schools are value-added, ready to cook products like turkey hotdogs and fully-cooked burgers.

Working with Minneapolis Public Schools has benefited their business by allowing them to utilize all parts of the turkey and by stabilizing demand. “The world of turkey suffers from a seasonality problem, especially because of Thanksgiving through retail outlets,” said John. “So, farm to school programs provide good year-round stability for us by helping smooth out demand.”

Aside from being good for business, Peterson said he takes pride in knowing they’re providing clean, healthy products to nourish students in their community. Ferndale often does events at schools where their turkey is served, which helps students get a better understanding of where and how their food is raised. “It’s common sense on so many levels,” he said. “It’s one of those things where everyone involved benefits. Farmers, students, the local economy. A win-win-win.

Anthony Wagner (far right) pictured during a farm to school group tour on his farm and orchard in Corrales, New Mexico.

Another farm to school success story can be found in New Mexico, where dedicated farmers such as Danny Farrar of Rancho La Jolla Farm and Orchard and Anthony Wagner of Wagner Farms (who are also Farmers Union members), have been major champions of farm to school efforts in the state. Danny and Anthony, in addition to growing fruits and vegetables for schools, have participated in legislative hearings, advocated for a statewide farm to school program, and have provided numerous farm tour opportunities for school food service directors.

Danny and Anthony are also board members of the organization Farm to Table in New Mexico, a Core Partner of the National Farm to School Network (NFSN). Farm to Table has focused on farm to school issues for more than twenty years and in partnership with Farmers Union and other national, regional, and local organizations, has been pivotal in advancing policy and capacity building around farm to school. For example, Farm to Table and its partners helped pave the way for the establishment of the USDA Farm to School Grant program. And subsequently, in part thanks to USDA grants and the leadership of the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, they were able to establish a state farm to school program as well.

Pam Roy is the Executive Director and Co-founder of Farm to Table and the Government Relations Director in New Mexico for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (which covers the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming). Pam explained that “Farm to Table and its partners recently helped establish the New Mexico Farm to School Program in the Public Education Department and secured permanent funding of $510,000 per year for the program.” This program helps schools purchase New Mexico-grown produce. “We are so glad to report that the program helped generate more than $879,000 in locally grown fruit and vegetable purchases by New Mexico Public Schools during the 2017-18 school year, not including grant funding,” said Pam.

Farm to school enriches the connections communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing education and food purchasing practices at schools. By encouraging school districts to purchase food from within their local community, farm to school increases farmer incomes and strengthens rural economies.

Bridging The Farm To School Gap

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest blog by Farm Credit

This blog is cross-posted from Farm Credit's blog. Read the original post here. National Farm to School Network thanks Farm Credit for being a supporter of our work.

Many of today’s young people are more accustomed to playing on iPads than playing in parks. The first step in educating such a generation about agriculture may be by simply getting them outside. The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) strives to close the gap between youth and the food that they eat through outdoor garden education, classroom learning focused on food and farming and local food procurement in school cafeterias.

In the School
Sam Ullery, school garden specialist for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in Washington, D.C., visits schools across the nation’s capital that are interested in teaching their students about the farm to school mission.

Sam recently visited Maurey Elementary where he taught a group of kindergarteners about how to use their senses to observe the natural world. Students collected objects that were shiny and dull, round and flat, scratchy and smooth. They then shared what they found with their peers, discussing what senses they used to categorize their newfound treasures. While this activity didn’t focus directly on food production or the agriculture industry, it got students thinking about the earth in a new, hands-on way.

“Farm to school is very theoretical to those who aren't familiar with it. However, if a teacher came into a classroom and said, ‘we're taking the kids to do a lesson outside on this beautiful day,’ that's farm to school too,’” he said.

Changing Mindsets
Sam makes sure to teach lessons from NFSN’s public curriculum database when he visits D.C.’s schools. He hopes to demonstrate how easy it is to engage students in learning farm to school concepts and encourage teachers to utilize the vast array of NFSN’s online, public resources to do just that.

“The biggest challenge is getting teachers to be comfortable teaching beyond their comfort zone by taking kids outside of the classroom. It’s been a fun challenge to do that, to change the mindset of teachers and administrators,” he said.

Not something extra
Often, Sam accomplishes this is by showing teachers how the farm to school curriculum is designed to connect to teachers’ existing learning goals for their students. “We’re showing how the garden isn't something extra, but it's something that can support what students are learning in the classroom,” he said.  For example, Sam’s kindergarteners practiced exploration skills useful for future science experiments and they learned new descriptive words important for the language arts.

NFSN and Farm Credit are united in our missions to support farmers and rural communities. This means ensuring that future generations of Americans feel connected to the food they eat and understand it is produced. Farm Credit is proud to support NSFN during National Farm to School Month and every month as they educate young people about food and nutrition in the garden, the cafeteria and the classroom.

Farm to School Without Borders: Canada’s Farm to School Story

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest blog by Farm to Cafeteria Canada

The Canadian Context
Founded in 2011, Farm to Cafeteria Canada (F2CC) is a pan-Canadian organization that was formed to work with partners across Canada to educate, build capacity, strengthen partnerships, and influence policy to bring local, healthy, and sustainable foods into all public institutions.

Across Canada we’re seeing and celebrating so much exciting activity to bring the local harvest into school classrooms and cafeterias. Just like in the US, farm to school in Canada is about closing the distance between field and fork and cultivating a generation of healthy eaters and critical thinkers who understand and value food and its role in personal, cultural, and planetary health.

Some communities use the term Local Food to School (LF2S), where “local food” can include seafood, game and other “wild” foods, that connect schools with fishers, elders and other knowledge keepers who can harvest and prepare these foods safely and in a culturally meaningful manner. Check out this short video to see LF2S in action in a remote Indigenous community.

Inspired by the US National Farm to School Network, the Canadian farm to school network championed by F2CC is over 5,000 members/followers strong, with representatives from nearly every province and territory. To date, 1,219 schools and campuses have shared their farm to school activity with F2CC so that it can be tracked on the Canadian Farm to School Map. Institutes report they are providing 864,579 students (about 10% of the national youth population, ages 5-24) with an opportunity to experience growing, harvesting, preparing and eating healthy local foods at school. We know there is much more grassroots activity happening and expect this number to grow as more become aware of the map. We’re also learning from the US and hoping to get farm to school questions embedded into our agricultural census.

Farm to school has drawn the eye and support of the Canadian government. Since 2016, the federal government has partnered with F2CC, investing nearly $2 million in a pan-Canadian farm to school initiative - F2S: Canada Digs In! (F2SDCI). Federal funding has been matched by multiple partners, including Whole Kids Foundation. Thus far F2SCDI has enabled the development of pilot programs in nearly 100 schools, affording more than 35,000 students to experience farm to school. (Read / watch some of their stories here.) This project is significant in that it represents the largest ever federal investment in school food to date, and for the first time ever it has allowed us to evaluate the impacts of farm to school in Canada!

We’re working to paint a new chapter!
As an interesting bit of context about Canada - many schools - especially at the elementary and middle school level - do not have cafeterias, and often lack cooking facilities of any sort. Instead, farm to school program are creative and unique to each and every school, often championed by dedicated teachers, school administrators and parent/community volunteers. Our work at F2CC is building on the amazing efforts of schools and communities at the grassroots level by evaluating and supporting schools to implement best practices in farm to school.

To do this, F2CC has been developing a Canadian farm to school framework and articulating the farm to school approach, within which there are multiple models.

F2CC is not alone in our quest to paint a strong future for school food in Canada. There are many provincial and national groups with brush in hand. The Coalition for Healthy School Food representing more than 80 organizations, is advocating for a federal investment in a national school food program that would eventually ensure that all students have access to a healthy meal or snack at school every day. Many farm to school champions are at that table influencing the development of a set of strong principles that align with those underpinning the farm to school approach (including the need for such a program to be universal, community-driven, and include conflict of interest standards). In addition to ensuring that students can access a meal so that they are ready to learn at school, farm to school champions seek a program that closes the distance between students, their food, and their land while supporting the sustainability of regional food systems.  

Our vision? Every child has an opportunity to experience the joy of farm to school! The momentum is building!

Resources of Interest
Farm to Cafeteria Canada has developed a number of resources that may be of interest.

Farm to School Month!
And how are we celebrating Farm to School Month? Our theme in Canada this year is Healthy People Healthy Planet. To help our schools celebrate we’ve launched a Zero Food Waste Challenge. Visit our Farm to School Month website to check it out!

Top photo: A student at Kinkora Regional High School, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Photo Credit: Amanda Kingman

Farm to School Advocates kick off Farm to School Month in DC

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

This blog was written by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and can be read in-full on their website here.

In September, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) brought three farm to school advocates to Capitol Hill to share the amazing farm to school work they’ve been doing with lawmakers in Congress. Much of the work that these advocates have been engaged in to source more local, healthy food into schools across Arkansas and Kansas is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program.

During their visit to the nation’s capital, Allyson Mrachek and Maegan Brown from Arkansas, and Rachael McGinnis Millsap from Kansas visited eight congressional offices across their home states and had the opportunity to share both the successes they’ve seen, as well as the ongoing challenges, within their own communities. A central goal of their visit was telling decision makers in Congress why healthy food, family farm, and anti-hunger advocates want the next Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR) to include the Farm to School Act of 2019.

The Farm to School Act of 2019, for which NFSN and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) have aggressively advocated, would provide an additional $10 million in annual funding for the Farm to School Grant program. The bill would also make policy changes that would improve access to the program for Native American communities, and prioritize projects that engage beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers.

Read Allyson, Maegan and Rachael’s farm to school stories and learn about impacts of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog.  


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

Gro More Good Launches Hydroponic Gardens

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Students at Kimball Elementary School in Washington, D.C. assemble their new hydroponic growing system.

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, Hawthorne Gardening Company and National Farm to School Network Launch New Hydroponic School Garden Project

15 schools in California, New York City, and Washington, D.C. to participate in STEM curriculum-aligned hydroponic gardening

Because every student deserves the opportunity to experience the wonder of hands-on STEM education and hydroponic gardening, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, Hawthorne Gardening Company and National Farm to School Network launched a new pilot project to integrate indoor growing systems into underserved schools across the country. The project aims to spark a passion for gardening and increase hands-on science experiences for students who otherwise might not have had the opportunity.

The pilot project will expand STEM gardening opportunities at 15 schools in California, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Each school will receive hydroponic growing systems from Hawthorne Gardening Company, one-on-one support and technical assistance from garden experts, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. To help failure-proof the project and make it easier for teachers to incorporate into the classroom, ScottsMiracle-Gro, Hawthorne and National Farm to School Network developed a one-of-its-kind hydroponic curriculum aligned with Next Generation Science Standards. The hydroponic systems and curriculum will be implemented in schools during the 2019-2020 school year.

“Every school should have the opportunity to experience the benefits of hydroponic gardening,” said Chris Hagedorn, senior vice president and general manager of Hawthorne Gardening Company. “Hydroponics enables students to have hands-on learning opportunities within arms’ reach inside of their classroom. We want more students to have access to this incredible and fascinating way to grow.”

“Hydroponic gardens offer an exciting and innovative way for more schools to make gardening opportunities available to their students. Hydroponics allow students to grow fresh produce year-round, can be set up directly in the classroom, and can be made accessible to students of all abilities,” said Lacy Stephens, Program Manager with the National Farm to School Network. “We’re excited to see these growing systems and the accompanying curriculum in action this school year, and we look forward to sharing out the schools’ successes and impacts for the wider farm to school community to learn from.”

The schools participating in the pilot project include:  

  • Sunrise Middle School, San Jose, CA
  • San Pedro Elementary School, San Rafael, CA
  • Ewing Elementary School, Fresno, CA
  • Lu Sutton Elementary School, Novato, CA
  • Hamilton K-8 School, Novato, CA
  • J.O. Wilson Elementary School, Washington DC
  • Kimball Elementary School, Washington DC
  • Tubman Elementary School, Washington DC
  • Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, Washington DC
  • Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy Public Charter School, Washington DC
  • P.S. 134 George F. Bristow, Bronx, NY
  • P.S. 214 The Lorraine Hansberry Academy, Bronx, NY
  • Urban Scholars Community School, Bronx, NY
  • P.S. 55 Benjamin Franklin, Bronx, NY
  • P.S. 32 The Belmont School, Bronx, NY

This pilot project is part of ScottsMiracle-Gro’s larger Gro More Good initiative, which aims to bring the life-enhancing benefits of gardens and greenspaces to 10 million children over the next five years. As part of Gro More Good, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation is partnering with leading not-for-profit organizations, such as National Farm to School Network, to help overcome some of the pressing challenges facing today’s youth––including childhood obesity, poor nutrition and nature deficit––by improving children’s access to fresh food and increasing their time spent connected to nature.

For more information on the Gro More Good initiative, visit www.GroMoreGood.org.

Read the full release and find more stories about this pilot project here.

Honoring America’s Farmers

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

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 2019 National Farm to School Month Celebrations.

Guest blog by CoBank

In recognition of National Farmer’s Day, CoBank honors America’s farmers and ranchers who toil each day to produce the food, fuel and fiber on which we all rely. Through our funding relationship with 21 local and regional Farm Credit associations, we support 70,000 producers with the essential financing they need, and also provide direct financing to thousands of farmer-owned cooperatives and agribusinesses.

CoBank appreciates the dedication, expertise and hard work it takes to raise crops and tend livestock. Only 2 million farmers and ranchers produce all of America’s food – that’s less than 1.5% of our population responsible for feeding 3.9 billion people, plus others around the world.  From nuts and produce, to grains and meats, to dairy, eggs and wine, U.S. production is a cornucopia of safe, affordable food, as well as cotton, timber and biofuels – and nearly 96 percent of the farms producing this plethora of agricultural products are family owned, often passed down through generations.

The production these farmers achieve using both modern and traditional techniques and equipment forms a significant portion of the nation’s economy: in 2017, America’s farms contributed $132.8 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product; including related industries that rely on our farms’ output, agriculture, food and related industries contributed $1.053 trillion, or 5.4 percent, to our GDP.  

That value stems directly from the hard work of our farmers, who are up before dawn and working long past dusk, seven days a week. On this National Farmer’s Day, and every day, CoBank thanks American agricultural producers for their dedication to their mission to feed, clothe and fuel our population, as we continue to deliver on our mission to support agriculture and rural communities with the essential financing they need to thrive.

Welcome, Jenileigh Harris!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

National Farm to School Network is pleased to share that Jenileigh Harris has joined our staff as Program Associate. Since March 2019, Jenileigh has worked with NFSN as Programs Intern.

Jenileigh has experience in education, scientific and legal research, and food and agriculture law and policy. She is passionate about food justice, systems change work, effective policymaking and utilizing education as a tool for advocacy. Jenileigh is a graduate of Vermont Law School (VLS) where she earned her master’s degree in Food and Agriculture Law and Policy. While at VLS, she co-launched the Racial Equity Working Group to host events and facilitate conversations and events celebrating racial and cultural diversity as well as highlighting racial and social inequities in the food system. She has continued working with the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at VLS as a policy research consultant on projects such as farm to school state policy, food system resiliency, and seafood fraud.

In her new role as Program Associate, Jenileigh will continue contributing to National Farm to School Network and the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s cooperative agreement with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Community Food Systems to develop farm to school trainings for agricultural producers. Jenileigh currently resides in Colorado Springs, CO and enjoys mountain biking, trail running, yoga, cooking, reading, and drinking coffee. Welcome to your new role, Jenileigh!

Reflections from the Road: Conference on Native American Nutrition

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Mackenize Martinez, Partnership Communications Intern

As the Intertribal Agriculture Council Partnership Communications Intern working with National Farm to School Network, I recently had the opportunity to attend and present at the Fourth Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition in Mystic Lake, Minnesota. This is the only conference series in the world devoted to the food and nutrition of Indigenous Peoples. It brings together tribal officials, researchers, practitioners, funders and others to discuss the current state of Indigenous and academic scientific knowledge about Native nutrition, dietary health, and food science, and identify new areas of work. My role in helping co-lead a break out session titled “Farm to School as a Strategy for Advancing Food Sovereignty in Native Communities” with Alena Paisano, NFSN Program Manager,  was certainly a profound learning and networking experience.

Our session focused on the ways that farm to school can be used as a strategy to decolonize our food system and take back our food sovereignty in Native communities. A key portion of our presentation also shared about the partnership between the National Farm to School Network and the Intertribal Agriculture Council that is helping to advance this work. In addition, NFSN’s recent Seed Change in Native Communities project was also discussed and these successes - which ranged all across Indian Country - were highlighted for audiences to view. In particular, we engaged with audience members from the Mala`ai Kula: Kaua`i Farm-to-School Pilot who participated in Seed Change to support an existing three-year pilot project to create a culturally relevant farm to school program at two Kaua`i schools. On Kaua`i, where 90 percent of food is imported, Mala`ai Kula helped students build a healthier relationship with traditional food systems through school gardens and locally-grown foods in school meals. I enjoyed seeing everyone come together in this space and share their farm to school experiences and knowledge.

Culturally relevant meals served at Kaua`i schools as part of the Mala`ai Kula: Kaua`i Farm-to-School Pilot.

As a representative on the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance, the national executive board for the Intertribal Agriculture Youth Network, I was very much able to take a first-hand look into the concept of farm to school as a strategy for advancing food sovereignty in Native communities. In order to see how this national partnership is contributing to success in Native communities, it was imperative for me to establish a personal connection and to pinpoint how my passions align in this particular space. Naturally, as I presented to the breakout session, I expressed that my personal connection with farm to school stems from involvement in Intertribal Agriculture Council youth programming. These particular programs are so vital to Native youth because of the emphasis that is placed on developing qualities of leadership, building knowledge of traditional agricultural practices, and being equipped with the skills to take initiative for change back to our communities. While I attended the gathering to help educate others on this, I unequivocally gained a better understanding of how interconnected the roles of National Farm to School Network and Intertribal Agriculture Council are in serving youth through the many forms that farm to school takes. While I have been exposed to the idea of food sovereignty for a few years now, attending this conference gave me a refreshed look into the current efforts of this movement and how essential it is that traditional foods are implemented in school systems serving Native populations. The breakout session that Alena and I led was an effective way to get that particular conversation started.

In addition to helping facilitate our farm to school presentation, I experienced this conference as a first-time attendee. I am still in awe of the energy that this diverse group of individuals carried as we sat in general sessions. Some of my favorite moments from this conference included the keynote speech from Peggy Flanagan, Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. Hearing from one of the highest-ranking Native American women in history was certainly empowering and hopeful. Lieutenant Governor Flanagan spoke of firsthand childhood experiences that included being a recipient of commodity foods and understanding the reality that individuals in these types of nutrition assistance programs face. Knowing that Native communities have her support in moving forward in the reach for food sovereignty is certainly exciting and opens an even wider expanse of opportunities for youth in farm to school.

In addition, through the keynote presentation of Sean Sherman, founder of The Sioux Chef, I learned a lot about the dynamics of Indigenous food systems and actions being taken to revitalize traditional diets on a larger scale. Farm to school is an approach that can help make this type of food revitalization more accessible to Native children because of the direct role that it plays in a child’s wellbeing and everyday life. Schools are institutions that serve as the foundation of a child’s knowledge, and that knowledge shouldn’t stop in the classroom. It should be carried into the cafeteria, as well. Mr. Sherman’s keynote presentation reminded us that in order to take back our food systems and revitalize those traditional diets, we first need to understand them. Farm to school is a way to bridge that gap between the classroom to the cafeteria and help establish traditional knowledge of food and nutrition at earlier ages. In addition, as a tribal member not currently residing on ancestral land, I enjoyed the discussions on access to traditional foods as an urban Native.

As an intern and someone pursuing post-secondary education in the agricultural science field, this conference was a definite experience of growth in knowledge, character, and leadership. I am looking forward to using this event as a milestone to look back on as my time working between the National Farm to School Network and Intertribal Agriculture Council Partnership continues.

4 Steps to Host a Winning Farm to School Event with Highbush Blueberries

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Guest post by the US Highbush Blueberry Council

Fresh or frozen highbush blueberries aren’t just a nutritious and delicious menu staple beloved by students – they’re also a bite-sized bit of bluetiful inspiration for your next farm to school event. Whether you’re thinking of hosting a promotion for National Farm to School Month or are looking for year-round inspiration, these little blue dynamos are a cafeteria favorite, perfect for your next nutrition event. Here are four easy steps to get you started:

1. Get Inspired
Wondering where to start when planning a farm to school event? Draw inspiration from these K-12 case studies featuring three districts that have hosted successful promotions by celebrating fresh and frozen highbush blueberries all year-round:

  • Carrollton City School District, Georgia – Hosted a “Highbush Blueberry Bonanza Week” complete with a blueberry-themed food truck, nutrition education sessions and a highbush blueberry cooking class. The results: An 11% increase in lunch participation at junior high school; and 5% average increase in breakfast participation across elementary, middle and high school.
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, North Carolina – Hosted a “Highbush Blueberry Day” to bring highbush blueberry education to the classroom, followed by student taste test of a new menu item: Highbush Blueberry Breakfast Bark. The results: 85% of students voted that the recipe was “yummy!”
  • Sebree Elementary School, Kentucky – During last year’s National Farm to School Month, in partnership with NFSN and USHBC, Webster County Schools won a sweepstakes for a “Build-Your-Own Highbush Blueberry Day.” This was extended to a full week of highbush blueberry fun, including a blueberry nutrition education session, a blueberry-themed art contest and blueberry taste tests for two recipes: a Blueberry Smoothie and a Blueberry Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette. The results: a 12% increase in breakfast participation that week.

2. Learn from Others
It comes as no surprise that pulling off successful promotions like the ones above are a lot of fun, and a lot of work. Luckily, you can hear from three rockstar school nutrition pros directly in National Farm to School Network’s latest recorded webinar: Bring Farm to School to Life with Highbush Blueberries. The expert panel shared actionable advice on bringing a farm to school promotion to life, with some tips and tricks for planning and execution to make nutrition (and blueberries!) fun for all.

3. Download the Playbook
Now feeling ready to take on an event of your own? Download the Highbush Blueberry Farm to School Playbook, your go-to digital resource to inspire your staff, excite your students, and celebrate with your community. The playbook is packed with menu inspiration, virtual farm tours, nutrition guides, kid-friendly activities and more – everything you need to bring highbush blueberries and nutrition to your students in a fun and engaging way. Plus, it’s free to view, download and print from home!

4. Have Fun
Lastly, and most importantly, have FUN! These events are a fantastic way to engage with students and make them feel involved in their nutrition choices – in a way that’s approachable, memorable and interactive. Incorporate activities and games into your promotion to add an exciting element that will bring a smile to students and staff alike. These fun memories will incite future passions for healthy eating!

Don’t miss out on all the highbush blueberry fun this National Farm to School Month! With these easy steps, you’re ready to celebrate nutrition and serve up a smile with your students. For more positively bluetiful news, kid-friendly ideas and yummy menu inspiration, visit BlueberriesInSchools.com.

31 Day, 31 Ways To Celebrate Farm to School

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Anna Mullen, Communications Manager

The very best month of the farm to school-year is finally here! Let us be the first to wish you a very happy National Farm to School Month!

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.

With 31 days to celebrate, here are 31 ways to dig in:

1. Become a member of the National Farm to School Network – it’s free!
2. Explore our free resources for planning and promoting farm to school this month.
3. See what celebrations are happening in your community and join in the fun.  
4. Sign up your organization to be a National Farm to School Month Outreach Partner
5. Donate to support the National Farm to School Network and help us bring farm to school to communities across the country every month.
6. Share how your celebrating by using the hashtags #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool on social media.
7. Follow the National Farm to School Network on social media - we're at @FarmtoSchool!
8. Stay up to date on all things farm to school and farm to ECE by signing up for our e-newsletter.
9. Learn about the benefits of farm to school.
10. Endorse the Farm to School Act of 2019 and the Kids Eat Local Act to continue growing farm to school efforts through federal policy.
11. Find out if your state has a farm to school / farm to ECE network. If yes, connect with them!
12. Eat in the cafeteria with students.
13. Conduct a taste test of a new food.
14. Visit a farm, orchard or pumpkin patch.
15. Invite a farmer to visit your classroom.
16. Take students on a tour of their school kitchen.
17. Turn your thumbs green – whether in a raised bed, community garden plot, hydroponic garden or other plant growing space.
18. Ask students and families to share their family food traditions and favorite recipes to create a class cookbook.
19. Read a book together about food, farming or cooking.
20. Visit a farmers market and say “Thank You!” to the growers who've produced your food.
21. Cook and enjoy a family meal together, incorporating local foods.
22. Use arts and crafts such as coloring, painting, cutting and pasting or other creative projects to reinforce excitement for fruits and vegetables.
23. Get moving with physical activity games. Try a relay race to collect fruits and vegetables and sort them by plant family or by color.
24. Consider new recipes that are culturally appropriate and relevant to your community.
25. Be brave a try a new food.
26. Celebrate school nutrition professionals by telling them "Thank You!" every day.
27. Take time to be mindful - a garden is a great place to do this. Use all five of your senses to enjoy the natural world around you.
28. Organize a site visit for your policymakers to see farm to school in action.
29. Make a bulletin board celebrating farmers and local food.
30. Volunteer to serve on a school garden committee, district wellness committee, or another group that champions farm to school.
31. Find even MORE ways to celebrate in our National Farm to School Month Celebration Toolkit!

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 2019 National Farm to School Month Sponsors and Supporters, including CoBank and the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, and our 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!

Seeds Farm Reaps Rewards with Farm to School

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Hannah McCandless, Network and Partnership Fellow

With a mission to produce wholesome, quality food, Seeds Farm in Northfield, MN finds that farm to school initiatives are boosting their sales while bringing the community together. Becca Carlson, the founder of Seeds Farm, is extremely passionate about feeding her community farm fresh products and sees farm to school as a way to pursue this passion while preserving land for future farmers and bringing communities and families together.

Becca started Seeds Farm in 2010 with the motivation to connect more closely with her environment and to help her community eat in a more constructive, rather than destructive, way. Since then the small farm has blossomed.

Since Seeds Farm began participating in farm to school initiatives, a number of things have changed and taken hold on the farm. On top of growing more food for schools and adding to the farms profit margin, Becca has found that schools are very understanding of potential mishaps on the farm, such as an early frost or a smaller yield than anticipated. Although the volume of food is not always large, the contracts have remained consistent. Often, contracts are set in the winter and delivered on in the fall, making schools a reliable market for small farms like Seeds Farm. Overall, Becca reports that the small increase in sales to schools has increased sales overall.

By becoming certified to sell to schools in Minnesota, Seeds Farm has been able to sell their products to schools and expand their wholesale contracts with other potential buyers. A number of contacts and potential contracts have been explored because of this new level of documentation, allowing for the farm to expand even further than before.

As Becca looks back on her time participating in farm to school initiatives, she has some advice for farmers or food service directors on how they can get involved. For farmers, her greatest advice is to start early. There is some documentation to get squared away, a bidding process, and contracts to be decided on in the winter months for the following fall. Becca says, “It’s not hard or easy, it takes time, planning ahead, and forward thinking. Very achievable.”

Concerning food service directors new to the movement, Becca says, “Farm to school is the whole package for kids,” and to remember that they are not only bringing healthy produce to students, but they are telling the story of where food comes from and the farmers who grew it. Helping kids view healthy, local food as fun and cool is the key to getting kids more involved.

Like a number of farms across the country, Seeds Farm will continue to grow and thrive as they bring their communities together and provide healthy food, while growing their business and prospering as an organization.

A new report from the National Farm to School Network and Colorado State University, Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools, offers additional insight into the potential for farm to school procurement to economically benefit farmers and the broader community. Using a survey and case study approach, this study aimed to fill this knowledge gap by documenting economic impacts of farm to school procurement and developing a standardized framework for farm to school impact analysis.

Survey Findings
Most surveyed farmers started selling to schools after 2011 and all farmers planned to continue to sell to schools in the future. Farmers were most satisfied with delivery requirements, prices, reliable payments, delivery logistics, time commitment, and ease of communication. The biggest challenge identified by farmers was the volume of sales to schools.

Case Studies
This economic analysis is unique in its rigor as it uses information from the farmer survey and information from previous studies (including the USDA Farm to School Census and the USDA ARMS data) to construct a model for farm to school economic impact. Unlike previous studies, this economic impact analysis takes into account reported farmer expenditures, direct to school and intermediary sales to schools (food hubs, processors, etc.) and opportunity costs of local sales. Researchers used this model to present farm to school case studies for Minneapolis Public Schools (MPLS) and the State of Georgia.

Case Study Findings
Farm to school farms purchase more inputs locally, keeping more money in the local economy:

  • For every $100 spent, MPLS farm to school farms keep $82 in the region (vs. $70 for non-farm to school farms).
  • For every $100 spent, Georgia farm to school farms keep $82 in the region (vs. $79 for non-farm to school farms).

Without considering opportunity cost, for every additional dollar of final demand for farm to school farm products:

  • An additional $0.93 is generated in related sectors in MPLS.
  • An additional $1.11 is generated in related sectors in Georgia.

Economic output multipliers and employment multipliers for farm to school farms from the case studies are larger than the more traditional fruit and vegetable production sector:

  • Economic Output Multipliers – Minneapolis = 1.45, Georgia = 1.48
  • Employment Multipliers – Minneapolis = 1.96, Georgia = 3.35

This study offers a replicable survey tool and framework that stakeholders can use to implement their own farm to school economic impact assessments in their communities. While the two case studies in this study clearly demonstrate that farm to school farms purchase more inputs from the local economy per unit of output, which results in positive local economic impact, additional research and support is needed to better understand the benefits of farm to school and to reach more stakeholders with this information. This will fill an important gap in knowledge and open new opportunities for farm to school implementation and advocacy and build more opportunities for farmers like Becca to benefit from farm to school sales.

The National Farm to School Network thanks
CoBank for their generous support of this blog and our 2017 National Farm to School Month celebrations!