Making Moves on our Call to Action: First Year Update

NFSN Staff
October 16, 0202

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

NFSN Staff
October 23, 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

NFSN Staff
October 17, 2019


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

NFSN Staff
October 1, 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: https://bit.ly/MovementMeeting-NFSN 

(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!


Take Action: Call your Members of Congress about priorities in the budget reconciliation bill

NFSN Staff
September 9, 2021

Congress is currently negotiating a budget reconciliation package that offers new funding for a broad range of issues important to farm to school and early care and education stakeholders. With a tentative funding level of $3.5 trillion, Congressional committees and leadership are in the process of finalizing details of specific program funding. This bill is a rare opportunity to secure significant new funding and advance equity in child nutrition, education, worker protections, rural communities, and climate-resilient agriculture.

One of the most important provisions, outlined by the House Committee on Education and Labor, would make tremendous progress toward universal school meals by offering a state Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), lowering the threshold of low-income kids for individual districts, and increasing the reimbursement offered through CEP.

See more details on these provisions in our blog post from earlier this week.

We anticipate pressure on Congressional leaders to reduce the overall price of this legislation, forcing cuts to these initiatives. Now is the time for your Members of Congress to hear from you that they need to fight for bold measures to advance equity for our kids, their families, and their communities.

If you work for a government agency or university and cannot lobby, you can still make a difference! Instead of calling your Members of Congress 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, sign-on to the letter, and forward this message to a friend. THANK YOU for taking a few minutes out of your day to make your voice heard.

Be Our Partner! Announcing NFSN's New Partnership Structure

NFSN Staff
September 9, 2021

Last year, National Farm to School Network (NFSN) issued a bold, new Call to Action for ourselves and for the wider food system: By 2025, 100% of communities will hold power in a racially just food system. We share this Call to Action as a pressing need that none of us can reach alone. It’s going to take all of us, and it’s achievable if we each offer our time, talents, and resources to make it happen. 

As part of our work to get us there, National Farm to School Network is restructuring and broadening our network of partners to ensure that our organization reflects our commitment to shifting power and achieving a racially just food system. Join us! We seek Partner organizations from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the five U.S. territories, and Native nations to join us in moving on our Call to Action. 

Who can sign-on to be an NFSN Partner? Any organization! We are dedicated to creating space for organizations that align with our core values. And, while we are committed to building authentic relationships and partnerships with organizations owned and led by Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC), NFSN strongly believes we need everybody at the table to dismantle white toxicity and correct the racial inequities in our food system. 

What is the new Partnership structure? Our new structure is now flat - no levels or special categories. There’s also no cap on the number of Partners in our network! We know it takes all of us to achieve our vision of a strong and just food system. All Partner organizations in each place will be given equal recognition by NFSN for their roles in our network. 

Why the new Partner structure? Once we identified our Call to Action, we knew there were a lot of changes we needed to make - both internally and externally - to shift power to those most impacted by inequities in the food system and achieve a racially just food system by 2025. In addition to reassessing and adapting our priorities and projects, building a policy platform centered in racial equity and examining our organizational culture, we knew we needed to diversify and strengthen our Partner network. The voices of those in the most impacted communities, including partners in Native nations, have not always been reflected in our past partnership structures. Moving forward, we strive to prioritize building a multiracial and multicultural movement which means we need both BIPOC leaders as well as white allies and co-conspirators to join us in this work.

What are the benefits of being an NFSN Partner? NFSN commits to creating spaces for collaboration and relationship building across our network and to elevating and amplifying the efforts and voices of our Partners through our network and platform. While NFSN will be hosting regular engagement opportunities like webinars, training and networking events, we’ll be looking to you to determine what those look like to better meet your needs as Partners.

What are the expectations of being an NFSN Partner? We expect our Partners to be actively working toward shifting power and centering racial equity in your work. As partners, we ask that you contribute to community-driven policy and systems change; facilitate diverse and multisectoral networking and movement building; and co-create resources and leadership development opportunities to advance community food systems rooted in justice.

Commit to being an NFSN Partner Organization by completing this form. There is no deadline to sign-up to become a Partner. Still have questions? Check out our FAQs here or email Krystal Oriadha, Senior Director of Programs & Policies, at krystal@farmtoschool.org.

Federal Budget Reconciliation Includes Wins for Farm to School

NFSN Staff
October 11, 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.

State Values-Aligned Working Groups

NFSN Staff
September 10, 2021

By Tomas Delgado, NFSN Program Manager

National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is excited to share a new project we’re working on to support four state cohorts of grassroots community groups, nonprofits, and farm to school stakeholders in convening across issue areas and identifying shared goals for food justice policies and programs in their communities. This “State Values-Aligned Working Groups” project is in support of  our Call to Action that 100% of communities will hold power in a just food system by 2025. Towards that goal, we will work with these participating state groups to shift power to the most impacted stakeholders in their communities at the nexus of education, nutrition, agriculture, community health, and the environment.

What Do We Mean by “Values-Aligned”?

We believe that farm to school and farm to early care and education (ECE) can be a vehicle to advance racial equity, economic justice, environmental justice, respect for workers and educators, and health equity for children. (Read more about our six community values here.) We aim to support other groups who are aligned with these same values, both in the farm to school movement and in the wider community. We’re advancing this at the national level through our call for a policy that would provide school meals to all children that promote these values in our food and educational systems.

Where Are We Working?

We have recruited four place-based cohorts to support their capacity for action planning and mobilization for policy and/or program innovations that advance equity. Our cohorts hail from:

  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • New Brunswick, New Jersey
  • New York City, New York
  • United States Virgin Islands

What We Will Do
By the end of 2021, each group will have formed connections across their disparate sectors to:

  • Identify and share the most pressing barriers to racial equity as experienced by their communities,
  • Explore policy and advocacy solutions for these issues at the local, state, and national level,
  • Identify common goals and values for shared policy and/or programmatic development and mobilization,
  • Create concrete objectives for a cross-sector advocacy campaign or innovative program to advance their shared goals, and  
  • Deliver an action plan for implementation in 2022.


NFNS will support planning through 2021, during which groups will outline fundraising needs to put their campaign or program into action in 2022, and identify where NFSN can support that fundraising capacity. We plan to support participants with a stipend for their time and expertise advancing this work. NFSN has secured funding for $10,000 per cohort through 2021 for action planning, and has offered Year 2 seed funding for implementation. We prioritized stipends for grassroots groups led by people of color and organizations who may not have resources to support dedicated staff time on this work. We thank the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Campbells Soup Foundation for making this funding support possible.

Stay tuned for updates on this project over the coming months. Have questions? Connect with our Programs Team to learn more.