Feedback requested: Offer your perspective on NFSN
By Anupama Joshi, Executive Director of the National Farm to School Network
October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate the connections that are happening all over the country between children and local food! This year, we are also using the approach of Farm to School Month as a time to celebrate our connection with YOU, our National Farm to School Network (NFSN) members, so we can ensure that we are serving you as well as we possibly can.
We hope that you will take a few moments to complete the following survey to provide us with your perspective about NFSN’s existing services and your ideas about future work.
Here is a link to the survey:
NFSN serves as an information, advocacy and networking hub for the farm to school/preschoolcommunity. So far, 2014 has been a great year for our work:
- Updated numbers from the first-ever national farm to school census demonstrating the breadth of activities in more than 40,000 schools, positively impacting more than 23 million children.
- Launch of a brand new website, with an increased capability to engage with members and a huge searchable resource database.
- More than 38 states and DC have successfully worked on Farm to school/preschool policies, as we prepare for Child Nutrition Reauthorization at the federal level in 2015.
- Release of a pioneering new resource “Evaluation for Transformation: A Cross-Sectoral Framework for Farm to School Evaluation.”
- NFSN hosted the 7th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Austin, TX, with a record 1,100 participants representing schools, preschools, hospitals, colleges, farms, processors and distributors.
- And we began to engage with a cohort of Native American communities across the country to ensure that farm to school/preschool activities become a reality in tribal nations.
Through this survey, we hope to examine the value that results from our network: our members learning and working together, accessing resources and best practices, and engaging in policy advocacy efforts. We will be using this information to inform our plans for 2015. The survey is anonymous, so please be forthright with your answers and feedback.
We use the abbreviation F2S/F2P to represent both farm to school and farm to preschool activities.
Please contact NFSN Evaluation Consultant Lydia Oberholtzer (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions, technical issues or problems accessing the survey.
Thank you so much for your input. I look forward to learning about your perspectives on NFSN’s efforts in 2014, and ideas for the future.
Kentucky’s Junior Chef Tournament Features Local Food & Team Spirit
(Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)
Looking sharp in maroon and silver football jerseys, and working together as a team, the Owen County High School Rebels won a state championship Friday. But the sport wasn't football.
Owen County's "Cuisine Rebels," sporting aprons made out of old football jerseys, won the second annual Kentucky Farm to School Junior Chef State Tournament during the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. Their winning recipe, potato-crusted bacon cheeseburger quiche, used 13 Kentucky Proud ingredients, which were grown or made in Kentucky. Scroll down for the recipe!
Junior Chef is a program that encourages high school students to learn how to cook by using local ingredients to prepare healthy meals while at the same time teaching students about agriculture, marketing, organization, teamwork and community involvement.
The five members of the winning team - Hailey Chappell, Carley Bennett, Kadee Carter, Cannon Goodrich, and Morgan Woodyard - were each offered $6,000 scholarship from Sullivan University. The team also received $600 from John Wiley & Sons publishing company, along with free textbooks for team members attending Sullivan's culinary program.
In total, 61 teen chefs from 14 Kentucky high schools faced off in this year’s competition. Junior Chef tournament organizer Tina Garland, coordinator of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Farm to School Program and NFSN's Kentucky state lead, said the number of schools and students who participated in this year’s statewide competition, now in its second year, was up from the previous year.
The Kentucky Farm to School Program connects local farmers to school districts to make fresh Kentucky Proud foods available to Kentucky children. Participating Kentucky school districts spent an estimated $468,000 on local foods during the 2012-13 school year. A total of 84 school districts are members of the Kentucky Proud program, which helps Kentucky farmers market their products to their local communities.
Want to taste the winning dish? The Owen County “Cuisine Rebels” have shared their potato-crusted bacon cheeseburger quiche recipe - see below!
Hailey Chappell accepts the Most Outstanding Chef award from David H. Dodd, executive director of the National Center for Hospitality Studies at Sullivan University. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)
Potato Crusted Bacon Cheeseburger Quiche
Winning Kentucky Farm to School Junior Chef State Tournament Recipe
“Cuisine Rebels,” Owen County High School
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp Promise margarine
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 slices bacon
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 cup kale, chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup yellow squash, shredded
1/2 cup zucchini, shredded
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup milk
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
1/3 cup sour cream
Heat oven to 350°.
Place diced potato in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil on medium high heat. Boil potatoes until soft. Drain all but 1/4 cup of liquid. Add margarine, salt and pepper. Mash the potatoes to a smooth consistency. Spoon roughly 2 Tbsp. of potatoes into bottom of greased jumbo muffin tin. Press to the bottom and slightly up the sides to form a crust. Bake potato crusts for 20 minutes or until they start to turn a golden brown.
In a medium skillet, prepare the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon and set aside. In the same skillet, brown ground beef, onion, and peppers. Cook until no pink remains. Drain.
In a medium bowl, combine remaining vegetables with ground beef mixture. Add bacon and 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Toss to mix well. In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs, salt, pepper, and milk until well combined.
When crusts come out of the oven, fill each evenly with egg mixture, then evenly divide the meat mixture and top with remaining cheddar cheese. Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown. Top with a dollop of sour cream and serve.
Farm to School Project Awarded Value-Added Producer Grant
Last month, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the recipients of the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program for fiscal year 2014. The VAPG program assists agricultural producers with value-added activities related to processing and marketing of products. VAPG generates new products, creates and expands upon marketing opportunities, and increases farm incomes.
Among the 247 VAPG recipients named this year was This Old Farm, Inc. in Indiana. The farm was awarded $75,000 to add chopped lettuce as a new value-added product to be marketed in a 400-mile radius around Central Indiana. In addition, This Old Farm is participating in farm to school discussions with the intent of supplying fresh cut produce to schools in the state.
Erick and Jessica Smith, owners of This Old Farm, are collaborating with the Indiana Farm to School Network to foster relationships with stakeholders. They are using the VAPG funds to conduct a feasibility study to explore production of and processing of romaine lettuce for school markets. An integral component of their farm to school goals requires developing strong relationships with schools to garner support and commitments for local procurement of lightly processed produce. This Old Farm currently operates as a food hub with meat processing, and they aim to use their knowledge and experience to expand the scope to produce processing for smaller growers.
To learn more about farm to school in Indiana, visit NFSN’s Indiana farm to school page. To read more about the VAPG awards, check out the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog post.
Farm to school highlighted at the F2Ti Symposium, New Orleans
By Anupama Joshi, Executive Director of the National Farm to School Network
Last month, I attended the 2nd Farm to Table International (F2Ti) Symposium in New Orleans. Farm to school was very well represented at this event and was a topic of great interest among attendees.
Katie Mularz, National Farm to School Network (NFSN) Louisiana State Lead kicked off a Statewide Farm to School Summit of stakeholders to strategize and plan the collaborative work that lies ahead to support robust farm to school activities in Louisiana. The high level of engagement of this group was impressive – they were thinking big about statewide legislative support for farm to school, but planning for baby steps towards it, such as populating a Louisiana Farm to School website to share best practices and promote networking, encouraging state agencies to have a unified voice with regards to farm to school, and perhaps hosting an in-person gathering twice a year to supplement the monthly calls that Katie hosts already. To stay connected with farm to school in Louisiana, contact Katie Mularz.
I had the opportunity to present at a plenary session, during which I highlighted the history, evolution and bright future of farm to school in the US, touching on the importance of local, state and national policy to raise the value placed on school meal programs.
Through an informational workshop, Katie Mularz and Pam Kingfisher (NFSN’s South Regional Lead Agent ) described efforts at the state and regional levels, including work in tribal nations, and guided participants to resources in the region. Nicole Zammit, USDA Farm to School Southwest Regional Lead, shared the agency’s involvement and commitment to farm to school, with specific resources, grants and guidance on how to overcome challenges. Leesa Carter from the Captain Planet Foundation rounded off the discussion with best practices and lessons from their Learning Gardens program, which offers a curriculum kit, mobile, cooking carts, garden signs and guidance to elementary schools. This local initiative with schools in Atlanta, GA and Ventura, CA is going national this fall: Schools across the country will be able to apply to access these resources from Captain Planet Foundation. Stay tuned for more information on their website.
The local media was supportive of farm to school efforts too – check out this report from the TV show This Week in Louisiana Agriculture.
Also at the conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Kid Chef Eliana – author, radio show host and a local food personality, sharing her passion for real food. With the younger generation’s leaders like Eliana involved, the future of farm to school in Louisiana is bright.
Farm to School Legislation Supports New Jersey as the Garden State
By Beth Feehan, Director of the NJ Farm to School Network & Deb Bentzel, Mid-Atlantic Regional Lead of the National Farm to School Network
It’s said that New Jersey’s nickname of the “Garden State” came into being as far back as 1876, when Camden resident Abraham Browning used the phrase to describe his home state, whose bountiful agricultural products were supplying not just New Jersey, but also Pennsylvania and New York. Over the past 138 years, New Jersey remains the “Garden State,” boasting over 9,000 farms spread across 715,000 acres. However, like farming in most states, New Jersey has faced challenges remaining economically viable in the face of an increasingly nationalized and globalized food system. Enter farm to school.
Farm to school advocacy efforts in New Jersey began in 2008 with a stakeholder meeting kick off at Fernbrook Farms in Chesterfield. At the time, the term “farm to school” in New Jersey was not commonly used, despite many groups working on school garden education in varying communities. As the years progressed, more groups joined in the discussion to engage the agriculture community in the state, including the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the New Jersey Farm Bureau and state legislators. This cross-sector collaboration has now resulted in an amazing legislative effort designed to put the farm back on the cafeteria tray, and to further support the three pillars of farm to school: procurement, school gardening, and education.
New Jersey's Acting Governor, Kim Guadagno, signed five farm to school bills into law at a ceremony at Terhune Orchards in central Jersey on August 25th, 2014. Witnesses to the signing included the New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture, New Jersey Farm Bureau, state legislators, representatives from the Department of Education and the New Jersey Farm to School Network.
On Monday, August 25, 2014, New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno signed into law five new actions to support farm to school across the state. These new laws will help advance farm to school practices through:
Promotion and recognition initiatives: The New Jersey Department of Agriculture will now have more dedicated space to promote farm to school and success stories on their website and will create an annual farm to school awards program designed to recognize school meal programs that have taken their food purchasing to the next level by purchasing locally grown foods in meals, and by educating students about the value and benefits to eating Jersey Fresh.
Local food procurement support: Development of an online farm to school clearing house will help connect New Jersey school food buyers to farmers, foods banks, and other suppliers in order to facilitate local food sourcing and relationship-building among those that grow healthy foods in the state, and those that serve it to the state’s K-12 population.
Enhanced funding: New Jersey taxpayers may now voluntarily contribute funds to the “New Jersey Farm to School and School Garden Fund” via a check box on their yearly income tax returns.
Additionally, the state Department of Agriculture is not permitted to accept private donations for farm to school.
We applaud a truly bi-partisan effort in which legislators were able to intrinsically understand the future benefits of farm to school and how support at the statewide policy level would help develop youth into healthy, happy, educated consumers, supporting the state’s talented and dedicated farmers and their communities and preserving agriculture as the industry of which New Jersey is most proud.
A cohort of farm to school advocates from across New Jersey as well as the National Farm to School Network's Mid-Atlantic Regional Lead, approved of the bill signing as is evident by their smiles.
From left to right: Back row - Meredith Taylor (NJ Farm to School Network Board Member), Larry Kuser (NJ Farm to School Network Advisory Board Member); Front row - Deb Bentzel (Mid-Atlantic Regional Lead for National Farm to School Network), Sheri Kurdakul (NJ Farm to School Network Marketing Director), Beth Feehan (NJ Farm to School Network Executive Director) and Chris Cirkus (NJ Farm to School Network Programs Director).
If you are interested in finding out what your state has done to support farm to school through legislative efforts, check out NFSN's State Farm to School Legislative Survey 2002-2013, which was released earlier this year. Since 2014 has been a busy year for New Jersey and other states, we plan to update this survey next year to include activity from 2014. If you know of farm to school policy efforts underway in your state, please contact NFSN's Policy and Strategic Partnerships Director, Helen Dombalis.