Action Alert: Protect Child Nutrition by Passing Build Back Better

Monday, November 1, 2021

Thanks to your advocacy, this week the White House announced an agreement for the Build Back Better Act through budget reconciliation with landmark investments in child nutrition, investments and technical assistance to rural communities and Native sovereign nations, and a transformative investment in early childhood care and education. Details on this plan are still emerging, but we need your continued support to get this legislation across the finish line in Congress.

With $10 billion in funds for child nutrition, Build Back Better would:

  • Expand the number of schools that would be able to offer free meals to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision.*
  • Give states the option to implement the Community Eligibility Provision statewide, allowing all students in the state to receive school breakfast and lunch at no charge.*
  • Extend Summer EBT nationwide for students who receive free or reduced-price school meals (including those who attend Community Eligibility Provision, Provision 2, or Provision 3 schools).  The Act would allow states as well as Indian Tribal Organizations that participate in WIC to provide Summer EBT.
  • Provide $30 million for school kitchen equipment grants.*
    *Length of funding for these programs is still being determined

Additionally, the plan would provide universal free preschool education for all 3- and 4-year olds, and subsidize and expand quality child care to 20 million children per year. Finally, the new Rural Partnership Project would offer flexible funding for community-driven rural development, and higher education funding would invest in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and minority-serving institutions* (MSIs).
*This is a term in U.S. federal policy to denote colleges and universities serving Black, Hispanic, Native, and Asian American or Pacific Islander communities.

Now is the time for your Members of Congress and Senators to hear from you that they need to fight for bold measures to advance equity for our kids, their families, and their communities.


Your voice is needed! Call your Senators and Representatives TODAY and tell them you want to see their support for children, families, educators and food systems workers by passing the Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill. Here’s how:

Step 1: Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Step 2: Ask to be connected with the office of your Member of Congress. Give the Switchboard your zip code and they can connect you to your 1 Representative and 2 Senators.

Step 3: Leave a message for your Senators and Representatives like this:

Hi, my name is ___, and I am a constituent and a [parent, educator, farmer, etc.]. I’d like to ask [your Congressperson/Senator’s name] to pass Build Back Better because of its crucial investment in ensuring all kids have access to nourishing food every day, its expansion of quality early childhood education, and its investment in rural communities and communities of color.

I urge [your legislator] to pass the critical investments that will  improve the nutrition of our nation’s children at a critical time, while investing in the resilience of our communities and food system as a whole. These issues matter to me because ____ [tell your story!]. Thank you!

Step 4: Take two more minutes to your story on social media so your networks know about this critical moment!

If you work for a government agency or university and cannot lobby, you can still make a difference! Instead of calling your legislators to discuss these specific policy asks, share general information about farm to school experiences and needs in your community. Sharing information is not lobbying - it’s education, which we can all do!

Taking action right now, while this reconciliation bill is in discussion, is especially crucial. Make your calls and forward this message to a friend. THANK YOU for taking a few minutes out of your day to make your voice heard.

Our Food, Our Future: Interns and Innovators

Thursday, October 28, 2021

For National Farm to School Month this year, we are amplifying the visions, voices and leadership of young people who are forging the way forward for a more just future - in our food system and wider communities. 

Tylon Jones of Teens Grow Greens, a Milwaukee-based youth development organization, is a leader, innovator, and advocate and was interviewed by Sophia Rodriguez, National Farm to School Network's Communications Intern, in Our Food, Our Future: Interns and Innovators. As a natural orator and inspiring presence, Tylon serves as a shining example of the power of youth leadership, and he shares his experience as an entrepreneur and intern in his community and in our food system.

Entering into the interview, he offers a call to action and imparts this wisdom:

“Our environmental reality is being heavily affected by our choices and these issues will only increase with time. It’s time we connect with our environment and make a difference.“

In our interview, Tylon shares tangible ways we can make a difference. He offers how he and other young people stay positive by finding inspiration everywhere - even in the most unconventional people and places. Sharing that young people need a platform to elevate their voices and the listening ears of those in power, he urges the importance of increasing representation of youth and BIPOC leaders, expanding opportunities for youth influence, and acknowledging the efforts of grassroots movements.

Watch this powerful interview here, and learn more about Teens Grow Greens (TGG) and our Q&A with a TGG mentor, Mikaela Dupont.

2021 Movement Meeting

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Last October, National Farm to School Network launched Our Call to Action: By 2021, 100% of Communities Will Hold Power in a Racially Just Food System. We know this goal cannot be accomplished without intersectional and interdisciplinary collaboration, and as we seek to  highlight our organization's values in the work we do, we must center other movements that are contributing to increasing racial equity.

Since young people are impacted stakeholders of the work we do in farm to school, we are responsible for uplifting their voices and listening closely to their thoughts and ideas. During our Shifting Towards the Next Generation: NFSN Movement Meeting, we hosted a panel of young leaders of color to discuss their perspectives of and visions for progress in their communities, including: 

  • Adonis Adams, a 12th grader in Indian Trail, NC
  • Jaelyn Jackson, a 10th grader in Washington, D.C.
  • Ozioma Jatto, a 12th grader in Prince George's County, MD

In this incredible session, moderated by Krystal Oriadha, NFSN Senior Director of Programs & Policy, the panelists shared their unique perspectives as young, passionate change-makers. In the face of the global pandemic that impacted their lives and advocacy work, these young people also identified racial injustice, police brutality, underfunded schools and inaccessible youth development spaces as the issues most pressing to their communities. Young people, so close to and directly impacted by these issues, have strong ideas for how to shift power and foster equity. Challenging those in power to center youth voices, they proposed the importance of consistently offering young people the opportunity to have a seat at the table, build meaningful relationships and share their insights in decision making. 

Highlighting the notion that young people find it easy to prioritize intersectionality in the work they do, young leaders and older listeners alike will hear and be inspired by the insights of Adonis, Jaelyn and Ozioma. Watch here.

Special thanks to Mushrooms in Schools, Farm Aid, Farm Credit, National Co+Op Grocers and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for their support of National Farm to School Network’s Movement Meeting

Making Moves on our Call to Action: First Year Update

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Last October at our virtual Movement Meeting, Helen Dombalis (our Executive Director) shared big news about the next chapter in National Farm to School Network’s story. For the next five years, we’re orienting all of our work towards a bold, new Call to Action: By 2025, 100% of communities will hold power in a racially just food system. 

Since our founding in 2007, National Farm to School Network has collaborated with thousands of partner organizations and tens of thousands of people across the country to grow the farm to school and early care and education movement to include more than 65% of K-12 schools and thousands of early care and education sites. And yet, racial disparities continue to grow within the areas of our society that farm to school touches, impacting every community's ability to thrive. So 13 years into our story, we knew it was essential to reexamine our approaches and to be bold in our path forward. Setting our intentions towards shifting power for a racially just food system through all of our farm to school work is what we know is needed most in this moment. (Read more about our journey to this Call to Action here.)

The launch of our Call to Action set in motion changes big and small for us at National Farm to School Network. A few of of these have included: 

  • Relaunching our structure of Partner organizations in order to diversify and strengthen our network, prioritizing building a multiracial and multicultural movement that defers to the voices of those in the most impacted communities. Learn more about becoming a Partner organization here. Any organization that aligns with our community values is welcome!
  • Honing in on six shared community values – economic and environmental justice, health, racial equity, workers’ rights, and animal welfare – to guide our policy advocacy priorities for the upcoming Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization and other important federal policies. These values are also guiding our programmatic work, like our new State Values-Aligned Working Groups
  • Creating space for conversations about racial equity in farm to school and the wider food system through our monthly Coffee Chat conversation series on Facebook Live. You can watch recordings of these conversations here
  • We hosted a virtual Community Gathering in June to focus on shifting power to cultivate justice in our food system. Over 1,000 people registered to join us across four sessions, including a workshop on shifting power within food systems organizations and panel discussions on building community power through farm to school strategies. Watch recordings of the sessions here
  • And this month, we had our second annual Movement Meeting, focusing on how young leaders of color are intersecting the food justice movement with other justice-centered movements, and how those of us working in food systems can best champion, defer to, and center their leadership. You can watch a recording here

We cannot achieve the Call to Action on our own, and we are proud to have countless partners, members, supporters, and stakeholders across the wider food systems movement who share with us this vision for a racially just food system and a commitment to achieving the change we each seek. This includes support from partners like the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation, which we’re proud to share is investing in National Farm to School Network’s work towards this Call to Action over the next year. National Farm to School Network is grateful to Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation for their partnership and support in our collective work towards a racially just food system. Thank you!

Be sure you’re signed up for our e-newlsetters to stay in the loop on the next steps forward towards our Call to Action and ways you can get involved in the coming months.

Our Food, Our Future: Q&A with Mikaela Dupont, Southside Educator at Teens Grow Greens

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Photos courtesy of Teens Grow Greens, Milwaukee, WI

Inline with this year's theme for National Farm to School Month, Our Food, Our Future: Youth Leadership for a Racially Just Food System, we are highlighting the innovative work of Teens Grow Greens in Milwaukee, WI. Mikaela DuPont is a science teacher and the Southside Educator of Teens Grow Greens. As a member of the Teens Grow Greens organization, she strives to provide a safe learning environment and sound mentorship for teens as they become healthy leaders in their community. We asked her to share with us what makes their program unique and effective.

What is Teens Grow Greens?

Teens Grow Greens (TGG) is a 501c3 non-profit organization serving Milwaukee youth. TGG employs teenagers through three leadership internships and four pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. All programming is designed to develop teens through transformative experiences that cultivate belonging, life and career skill building, and connections to opportunities that grow leadership. In providing these opportunities, TGG hopes to accomplish its vision of healed and healthy teens, leading change in their communities.

In the first internship, teens learn to lead themselves by developing a foundation of healthy lifestyle habits, such as cooking and money management.

In the second internship, teenagers focus on leadership in the community. Teens learn about the history of food apartheid and the lack of food access occurring in many Milwaukee communities, while receiving agricultural and outdoor culinary training. The third and final internship focuses on preparing teens to lead in future innovation and act as change makers. In this internship, teens receive mentorship from local entrepreneurs to develop a product, lean business model, and a pitch that meets the triple bottom line: a product that is good for the planet, profit, and people. Teens with the best products win cash prizes, and all teens leave with a developed resume, personal branding skills, and interview preparedness training. 

Teens who graduate from all three internships are able to participate in one of five pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, which provide paid, on-the-job training in education, greenhouses, gardens, entrepreneurial, or food and beverage/hospitality settings. 

What are the biggest takeaway lessons from the internship model that other orgs might learn from?

An important lesson other organizations can learn from TGG’S internship model is providing incentives to encourage program participation. All TGG interns and apprentices are compensated with hourly pay that is above minimum wage. Teens need money and money management skills, and TGG meets this need by partnering with funders and seeking grants that are in alignment with our values. TGG believes that career readiness skills and leadership training should be provided to all teens, but we also feel strongly that teens should be paid to receive this training. Paying our participants teaches them that their time is valuable, and that TGG is an organization invested in the growth and development of strong youth leaders.  

In addition, other organizations can look at TGG’s model and learn that adaptation and flexibility are important. Based on teen input and participation trends, the internship model we utilize has shifted from a single nine-month internship, to three separate internships that align with the general start and end times of local Milwaukee schools. Structuring the internships this way allows TGG to set clear expectations regarding internship participation and attendance; teens should plan to avoid any extracurricular activities that could interfere with TGG during their three month internship. 

This strategy also helps us to serve more teens. TGG strives to serve 25-30 interns in each of our two cohorts, so if an intern decides to end their internship experience, we are able to rehire more teens as we enter the next internship period. Teens also appreciate this flexibility because it gives them freedom to end or continue their internships with TGG at transition times that blend smoothly with their academic calendars. Organizations serving students with year-round programming need to adapt and be flexible around school schedules and typical teen commitments (sports, clubs, part-time jobs, etc) in order to retain and serve the desired number of youth for their organization.

 Guidance to other organizations seeking to work more intentionally with young people. 

Serving youth with intentionality is a complex task, requiring many different moving parts coming together to create impactful experiences with long lasting success. A few concepts that have become indispensable to TGG’s intentionality are a clear value system, a vision statement, and a method to measure the success of youth programming. 

Beginning with a list of hundreds of different “values,” TGG staff came together to determine the values we each found essential to our work: love, learning, and integrity. Defining and agreeing on the meaning of each term allowed us to develop a vision statement for the organization that aligns with our values and shapes our programming, while also communicating TGG’s goals to the community. The vision of TGG is “Healed and Healthy Teens, Leading Change in Their Community.” This vision statement guides all that we do, and we are constantly examining the ways that we can support teens on their path to healing, health, and leadership. 

Additionally, after programming is developed and provided for your youth participants, it is important to measure the success of the program. Measuring the success of the program can be a simple evaluation form youth complete right after the program. At TGG, we follow up with all of our program graduates at six-month intervals for years to come, examining the ways they are healed, healthy, and leading in their communities long after receiving our programming. Based on the trends we receive in participant feedback, the organization engages in reflection, reinforcement, revision, and/or elimination to refine the program for success. 


What advice would you give for supporting young people into becoming leaders in their communities? 

In general, teens need a “why” that motivates them to act. In our leadership internships, the motivating forces behind participation vary from teen to teen. The greatest motivator for some TGG interns might be the paycheck every two weeks. On the other hand, we can try to create a sense of belonging among the teens, and amongst the community, that can hopefully become the “why” behind their leadership, long after they stop receiving TGG paychecks. 

By bringing teens into a community and creating that sense of belonging, the interns recognize the importance of investment in the wellbeing of their communities. Not only because they live or work there, but because they value that community’s inhabitants, infrastructure, and environmental features. If a teen feels invested in their community, they will want it to thrive and flourish, which requires courage to lead and, if necessary, create change. Intentionally creating motivation based on community belonging, along with lots of encouragement and guidance for young people, goes a long way towards ensuring they are genuinely and authentically pursuing leadership.

Gro More Good Hydroponics Project Launched with New K-2 Classroom Guide in 25 Schools

Monday, October 18, 2021

Students at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Washington, D.C. with their AeroGarden. Amidon-Bowen participated in the first iteration of the Gro More Good Hydroponics Project in 2019-2020. 

National Farm to School Network, the Scotts-Miracle Gro Foundation, and Hawthorne Gardening Company are excited to launch the second iteration of the Gro More Good Hydroponic Garden Project! Discovering Through Hydroponics brings together kindergarten through second grade educators in 25 schools and organizations across Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon, and Washington to integrate hydroponics gardening into their classrooms and other educational settings. 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.

Each participating school and organization will receive an AeroGarden hydroponic kit and supplies to grow fresh vegetables in educational settings, the STEM-aligned Discovering Through Hydroponics: K-2 Classroom Guide, networking and peer learning opportunities with other participating schools and organizations, and programmatic support from the National Farm to School Network and Gro More Good team. 

This project builds on the success of the first iteration of the Gro More Good Hydroponic Garden Project, which was launched in the Fall of 2019, and piloted the Exploring Hydroponics: A Classroom Lesson Guide in 15 schools in California, New York and Washington D.C. While the previous project focused primarily on third through fifth grade, this year’s activities will focus on classrooms serving kindergarten through second grade students, using the new Discovering Through Hydroponics: K-2 Classroom Guide as a roadmap and resource for engaging young students in exploring plants and STEM-aligned concepts. 

Participating schools include:

  • Osborn School District, Phoenix, AZ
  • Manuel "Lito" Pena Jr. School, Phoenix, AZ
  • Bret R. Tarver School, Phoenix, AZ
  • Peridot - Our Savior's Lutheran School, Peridot, AZ
  • Catalina Ventura School, Phoenix, AZ
  • Frank Borman School, Phoenix, AZ
  • Yavapai Accommodation School, Prescott, AZ
  • St. David Unified School District, Saint David, AZ
  • Joseph Zito Elementary, Phoenix, AZ
  • Bancroft Elementary School, Pleasant Hill, CA
  • Poinciana Elementary School, Naples, FL
  • Wimauma Community Academy, Wimauma, FL
  • Thunderbolt Elementary School, Fleming Island, FL
  • James Stephens International Academy, Fort Myers, FL
  • North Andrews Gardens Elementary, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Immokalee Community School, Immokalee, FL
  • Fairfield Elementary School, Eugene, OR
  • Melrose Elementary School, Roseburg, OR
  • Pendleton Early Learning Center, Pendleton, OR
  • Prairie City School, Prairie City, OR 
  • Dilley Elementary School, Forest Grove, OR
  • Westside Village Magnet School, Bend, OR
  • Klamath County School District Talented and Gifted Program, Klamath Falls, OR
  • Nestucca Valley Elementary School, Neskowin, OR
  • Modest Family Solutions - Ummah Sustained, Everett, WA

This project is part of Scotts Miracle-Gro’s larger Gro More Good initiative, which aims to bring the life-enhancing benefits of gardens and greenspaces to 10 million children by 2023. 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. 

Farm to School Month 2021: Our Food, Our Future

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Our Food, Our Future National Farm to School Month 2021 logo

October is National Farm to School Month, an annual 31-day campaign to recognize, appreciate and celebrate the connections happening across the country between kids, families and their community food systems. National Farm to School Month was designated by Congress in 2010, making this year’s campaign the 11th anniversary of National Farm to School Month celebrations. 

This year, our theme is “Our Food, Our Future: Youth Leadership for a Racially Just Food System.” Youth and young people (which we define as anyone under the age of 21, including children in early care and education (ECE) settings, K-12 students, and young adults) are the leaders and changemakers of tomorrow and today. As we continues our work of shifting power to cultivate a racially just food system, we strive to elevate and amplify the visions, stories, and dreams of the young people who are at the heart of why we do farm to school. Their fresh perspectives, clear-eyed optimism, and commitments to justice must be heard and celebrated. We want to know: what are their hopes and ideas for the future of our food system? What does food justice mean to them? And how can we support their leadership in moving these visions into reality? That’s why this year for National Farm to School Month, our activities are centered on amplifying youth leadership around six community values – economic and environmental justice, health, racial equity, workers’ rights, and animal welfare – for a racially just food system. 

Here's are 5 easy ways you can join us this October:

(1)  Amplify Youth Voices & Leadership: Throughout October, we’ll be amplifying the visions, voices and leadership of young people across the country who are forging the way forward for a more just future – in our food system and wider communities. Check out our blog, social media channels, and e-newsletters to hear their stories throughout October. 

(2) Participate in our Virtual Movement Meeting, October 14: Join National Farm to School Network for a virtual Movement Meeting on Thursday, Oct.14 from 1-2:30pm ET, featuring young leaders of color working to transform their community, for deep conversation and action-oriented reflection on how the next generation is working to intersect the food movement with racial justice, environmental justice, economic justice, and other key justice-centered movements. Register here: 

(3) Get Involved Locally: Explore our national calendar of Farm to School Month events to see how you can celebrate locally.

(4) Spread the Word: Shout out about farm to school and share what you’re doing for National Farm to School Month with the hashtags #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool on social media. Follow the National Farm to School Network on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Download our Sharing Toolkit for sample messages and graphics to share with your community.

(5) Donate to Support Our Work: Invest in the future of farm to school! Donate to the National Farm to School Network and support our work to shift power in communities through farm to school activities in order to cultivate a raciall just food system. 

Find more action ideas, resources and printable National Farm to School Month materials here.

Special thanks to Farm Credit, National Co+op Grocers, and Mushrooms in Schools for sponsoring our 2021 National Farm to School Month campaign!

Happy National Farm to School Month!

Federal Budget Reconciliation Includes Wins for Farm to School

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

By Karen Spangler, NFSN Policy Director

Congress will continue work on a budget reconciliation package that offers new funding for a broad range of issues important to farm to school stakeholders. The House Budget Committee voted to advance the general outline of the overall $3.5 trillion budget, covering agriculture spending, labor enforcement, employment education and training, school facilities funding, higher ed, child care and pre-K, and child nutrition.

The child nutrition portion, estimated at $35 billion, contains several big wins for equity. Most notably, the bill would widely expand the Community Eligibility Provision -- a big step toward school meals for all! -- and increase funding for meals served under CEP. It also would fund expanded summer EBT, as well as school kitchen modernization and training. 

Finally, it allocates $634 million to Healthy Food Demonstration Incentive grant for schools to improve school nutrition, including hands-on experiential learning, increasing scratch cooking, and procuring local, regional, and culturally appropriate foods and foods produced by “underserved” or “limited resource farmers” (as defined by USDA). The language of the grant program is broad in this legislation, leaving much up to the discretion of the Secretary. If passed, this will be an important opportunity for NFSN partners and impacted communities to give feedback on how grants can be prioritized and administered to increase racial equity. NFSN has signed on to advocate for $1 billion in funding for this grant, as originally proposed in the White House’s Build Back Better plan. 

Other highlights include:

  • A federal and state partnership to help parents cover the cost of child care
  • Support for universal pre-K
  • Funding for states to improve public school facilities 
  • More robust enforcement of labor standards and protections
  • Investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other Minority-Serving Institutions.

The House Agriculture Committee had previously voted to advance a partial proposal of $66 billion in new spending on rural development, agricultural research for climate resiliency, biofuels, and forestry. This week, the Committee finalized an additional $28 billion in conservation spending, which would begin immediate investments in programs towards President Biden’s pledge to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Committee also unveiled $2 billion in debt relief provisions and assistance to “at-risk producers,” including loan payoffs and modifications for USDA borrowers, financial assistance to producers who suffered discrimination under USDA loan programs, assistance with legal issues of land access, and outreach and mediation services. Previous debt relief targeted at producers of color was halted amid legal challenges. 

This week, Congressional leadership will be working to gain the coalition of votes needed to pass both this legislation and separate infrastructure package. As part of this process, negotiators will be choosing between many high-profile priorities competing for funding. Now is the time to contact your legislators and voice your support for the measures important to farm to school stakeholders!

This was originally posted on September 14, 2021 and was updated on October 1, 2021.