NFSN Leadership Announcement
By Anupama Joshi, NFSN Co-Founder and Executive Director
After 11 fulfilling years with the National Farm to School Network (NFSN), I will be transitioning out of my role in December 2018 to take on an exciting new challenge. I am grateful for the trust and encouragement that NFSN’s Partners, members and supporters have provided for establishing and leading this phenomenal network that has shaped the farm to school movement for more than a decade, and will undoubtedly continue to be a strong force in advocating for healthy children, farmers and communities.
Reflecting on my farm to school journey, which began in 2002, I could not have hoped for anything more rewarding than the people and partnerships that I have experienced through NFSN. I am honored to have played a small part in the larger impact we have made in the lives of children, farmers, and communities across the country.
At NFSN, I leave behind a legacy of incredibly strong partnerships that have framed farm to school as an unprecedented national success story in the good food movement - impacting 24 million children in more than 42,000 K-12 and early care and education settings, and moving $800 million in local products to fuel local economies. The commitment, innovation and vision of countless farm to school advocates and stakeholders have been critical in this success. Together, we successfully advocated for the recognition and institutionalization of farm to school at USDA through the first ever federal farm to school grant program in 2010, and development of the Farm to School Census; and for policies in more than 46 states that are paving the way forward. NFSN’s core values of collaboration, transparency and partnership have kept farm to school Growing Stronger Together!
A Transition Committee has been convened by the NFSN Advisory Board to ensure a smooth transition in the coming months. Additional information about next steps will be shared with NFSN members in our monthly e-newsletter, as details become available.
A heartfelt thank you for being a part of my NFSN journey.
Savor Fall Flavors with a Taste Test
By Elizabeth Esparza, Communications Intern
The fall season is coming up quickly, and with it, our farms and gardens will soon be overflowing with autumnal bounty. Taste tests can be a great way to introduce students to seasonal flavors and encourage them to continue trying new foods. Research shows that children need to try new foods multiple times to know if they like them, and taste tests can be an accessible way to introduce or reintroduce foods to students who might be reluctant to eat a full serving of something new. We all have our tried and true favorites for taste tests, but once in a while, it can be fun to mix in something out of the ordinary or highlight those seasonal items that we don’t always get to work in. Read on for seven fall-inspired taste test suggestions to think about for the upcoming season.
Crabapples: Apples are amongst the most common fruits served at lunch, so why not try their tiny, incredibly tart cousin? Crabapples are generally smaller than 2 inches in diameter, making them a fun and easy size to serve whole or to chop into just a few slices. Have students compare the flavor, size, and shape to the apples they’re used to.
Persimmons: Persimmons are always a sweet treat to try in the fall, and they can be simply sliced and served for a taste test. Fuyu persimmons are probably the better choice for a tasting, as they can be served while still slightly firm. Hachiya persimmons need to get very ripe and soft before you can enjoy their sweetness raw.
Rainbow Carrots: Same great taste, new and exciting colors! Purple, yellow, white - take your pick. Rainbow carrots can be a fun way to highlight a food that many students see all year. See if students can taste a difference between their familiar orange carrots and the rainbow carrots.
Radishes: Radishes can be another familiar vegetable for students, but try tasting different varieties, such as watermelon or daikon radishes. Include the radish greens for a taste test bonus!
Higher Prep: Time in the kitchen is a precious resource, but a little extra can go a long way toward helping get students excited about new foods they might not have tried before. Here are a few suggestions that take a little bit longer to prepare. These foods are also great for a classroom lesson or afterschool program when students can help prepare them!
Butternut squash: These delicious orange wonders can be time-consuming to dig into if you’re getting them whole and roasting them, but the sweet nutty taste can be such an interesting new flavor for students to sink their teeth into.
Pomegranates: These messy fruits and their tiny arils may not be ideal to chop up for lunchtime service from a time perspective, but if they can be worked in somewhere, you’re in for a treat. Not much compares to fresh pomegranate seeds in the fall!
Rutabagas: Rutabagas may need to be peeled or given a good scrub before you can dig into them, but once you do, they’re a great addition to any fall day. They can be eaten raw, but roasting brings out their richest flavor. For a twist, try slicing the rutabagas thinly and bake them for a fun take on a baked chip!
New to taste tests? Here are some resources to help you get started:
- Taste Testing Resource Guide - Action for Healthy Kids
- Taste Test Guide - Green Mountain Farm to School
- Taste Test Toolkit - Montana Harvest of the Month
Results of the National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey
Farm to ECE Supports Healthy Futures for All Children
By Lacy Stephens, Program Manager
The Results Are In
The National Farm to School Network (NFSN), in partnership with Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (MSU CRFS), launched the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey in the spring of 2018. Early care and education (ECE) providers across the country were surveyed to learn about current farm to ECE initiatives, including motivations for participation and challenges to starting or expanding farm to ECE practices. The survey also gathered information from sites not yet participating in farm to ECE to better understand barriers and needs for support.
We heard from 2,030 respondents serving 255,257 children in 46 states. Of responding providers, 49% are already participating in farm to ECE and another 30% plan to start in the future. Farm to ECE participating providers see a wide range of farm to ECE benefits including increasing access to higher-quality foods, engaging parents and families, offering meaningful experiential learning, and at the same time, improving children’s health. Providers are not the only ones excited about farm to ECE. When asked about feedback that they receive about farm to ECE, 82% of respondents report positive or very positive feedback from children, 73% from parents, and 62% from staff. The benefits of and enthusiasm for farm to ECE are reaching diverse ECE settings and children of diverse racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Despite potential barriers to farm to ECE, providers are successfully integrating all three core elements, including using local foods in meals and snacks (69%), gardening (75%), and educating children about where food comes from and how it grows (76%). Respondents are making great use of gardens, from taste testing (62%) and classroom lessons (61%) to producing food for program meals (38%). Local food use will likely continue to grow in ECE settings. Of all respondents (even those not participating in farm to ECE), 54% anticipate increasing their local purchases in the coming years, increasing markets for local farmers and further bolstering local food systems and economies.
Share the Results & Learn More
To lift up and celebrate these results and build awareness of farm to ECE, NFSN and MSU CRFS have developed an infographic and fact sheet that partners and supporters can use to start the conversation in their networks. These resources highlight the reach and scope of farm to ECE and the many reasons ECE providers choose to implement farm to ECE initiatives.
To accompany these exciting new resources, NFSN and MSU CRFS also created this sharing toolkit to make it easy to share the survey results and the benefits of farm to ECE. In this toolkit, you’ll find suggested social media posts and graphics along with sample text for newsletters and blogs.
NFSN and MSU CRFS will continue to offer ways to learn about and further explore this data. Join us for our upcoming October Trending Topics Webinar: Results of the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey on Oct. 11 (register here). Also, look for the release of our full report and state level data from the survey in late fall. Learn more about NFSN’s farm to ECE work, find partners in your state, and learn how to get involved with farm to ECE at farmtoschool.org/earlychildhood. Visit foodsystems.msu.edu to find resources and research on regional food systems from Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems.