Request for Applications

National Farm to School Network 2017-2019 Core Partners

Last Updated on Jan. 27, 2017

The application period is now closed


The National Farm to School Network (NFSN), a project of Tides Center, celebrates 10 years of tremendous growth and maturity for farm to school in 2017. This first decade of NFSN’s efforts have focused on developing a strong network of partnerships across sectors, building awareness about farm to school, and increasing activities at the state and regional levels through training, capacity building, and policy advocacy. This approach resulted in the unprecedented growth of farm to school from a handful of sites in the late 1990s to more than 42,000 schools in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories – or 42% of all schools – benefiting more than 23.6 million children. Since 2011, NFSN has prioritized early care and education settings (ECE) as touch points for expanding our network and activities. A 2015 Survey of Early Care and Education Providers conducted by NFSN indicates farm to ECE activity in 850 sites covering 48 states and Washington, D.C.

NFSN is an information, advocacy, and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and ECE settings. Farm to school and ECE empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. NFSN’s more than 15,000 members and Core Partners reflect our tagline “Growing Stronger Together” and a belief that robust movement building is possible only when we work collaboratively across sectors and locations.

NFSN has a record of extraordinary accomplishment, pioneering a national and budding international farm to school movement and placing farm to school and ECE as a ubiquitous part of food systems change work, federal and state policy, and cross-sectoral connections. NFSN was instrumental in establishing the USDA Farm to School Grant program that has disbursed $20 million in federal grants in the last four years, and has institutionalized national and regional farm to school staffing within USDA. As of 2014, over 25 states have farm to school supportive policies such as the Healthy Tots Act in Washington, D.C. (farm to ECE), and as of 2015, there are an estimated 28.5 full time staff equivalents dedicated to expanding farm to school efforts within State Departments of Agriculture, Education,and Health. NFSN has developed innovative resources such as Evaluation for Transformation, Benefits of Farm to School, and State Farm to School Legislative Survey to support and guide farm to school stakeholders. Beginning in 2011, NFSN expanded the farm to school model into ECE settings and continues to build partnerships to expand capacity for farm to ECE.

While the growth over the last decade is impressive, there are significant disparities in implementation and access across states and communities. For example, there are several states with less than 30% of school districts participating in farm to school activities. Nationwide, only 39% of children participating in free or reduced price meals have access to farm to school activities. This represents a gap in access especially for children from low-income families for whom school meals are a significant source of nutrition. Additionally, only about half the states in the U.S. have farm to school coordinator positions at state agencies or extension, critical to sustained support for technical assistance and guidance to schools and farmers.  

**View a larger version of this map here. Map updated on Dec. 21, 2016.**

For farm to ECE, disparities in implementation and access are more dramatic. Only 14% of school-based ECE sites participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and of those just 5% purchase local foods. To date, Washington, D.C. alone has passed a specific farm to ECE supportive policy. In comparison to 50% of U.S. states that have farm to school coordinator positions, only 8 states have dedicated staff time to support farm to ECE. There is significant room for growth in farm to ECE practices as a strategy for providing a high-quality learning environment in ECE settings.

The next phase of NFSN’s work will continue to build on the gains of the last decade but prioritize areas of high-need, specifically locations with low farm to school and ECE penetration, high poverty and obesity rates, high free and reduced price meal eligibility, lack of state agency support, policy support or dedicated coordinator positions, weak or nonexistent state networks, and minimal funds to support farm to school and ECE. The work undertaken by selected Core Partners will scale up network activities and impacts by strengthening farm to ECE, facilitating expanded engagement in farm to school through diverse partnerships and promotion, advancing social equity and preserving cultural traditions, and promoting institutionalization and sustainability for farm to school and ECE activities nationwide.

Several high-impact strategies have resulted in significant growth and coverage across states, and these will be the cornerstones of NFSN’s future engagement, especially in high-need locations:

  • Dedicated farm to school and ECE coordinator positions within state agencies (e.g., HI, VT);
  • State-wide grants to jumpstart activities (e.g., OR);
  • Leveraging state dollars for school meal reimbursements by prioritizing local products (e.g., MI, DC);
  • Robust state farm to school and ECE networks (e.g., CA and MS, and MO which hosts a quad partnership-led network with Extension and state Departments of Education, Agriculture, and Health); and
  • Partnerships with organizations building local food infrastructure (e.g., NC and WI).

NFSN’s goal is to institutionalize farm to school and ECE so that it is a norm in all K-12 schools and ECE settings, and benefits all children and communities. The selection of Core Partners through this Request for Applications is a critical first step in laying the groundwork towards this goal.

Program Description and Purpose

NFSN is seeking partner organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands) to serve as Core Partners during 2017-2019 in the next phase of farm to school and ECE growth and evolution. Organizations and agencies from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories interested in and capable of contributing to the advancement of farm to school and ECE are encouraged to apply. We are specifically seeking Core Partners who will contribute to network development, information sharing, and policy development. NFSN will support the activities undertaken by Core Partners through structured opportunities for peer learning and integration of on-the-ground activities into a coordinated national movement for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories with the goal of advancing and institutionalizing farm to school and ECE across the nation. Core Partners will demonstrate capacity to accomplish the following measurable outcomes:

  • Development of a robust, multi-sectoral (e.g., agriculture, health, education) farm to school and ECE network in one of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., or U.S. Territories;
  • Leveraging of policy opportunities to advance farm to school and ECE;
  • Securing agency support through farm to school and ECE coordinator positions/responsibilities and dedicated funding;
  • Identification of additional and diversified sources of funding for farm to school and ECE; and
  • Providing equitable access to farm to school and ECE information and resources for all children and communities.

Grant awards will range from $4,000 to $12,000 based on need and farm to school and ECE growth potential over the 2017-2019 timeframe. All selected Core Partners will receive a $4,000 award (Level 1 grants). Additional support of up to $8,000 (Level 2 grants) will be allocated to a subset of selected Core Partners representing high-need areas of the country (maximum of 14 awards) with readiness for engagement in the work. This application serves as the Request of Applications for both Level 1 and Level 2 support. Applicants need to demonstrate a 100% match for receiving Level 1 support at the time of application, and an additional 100% match for Level 2 support if selected.

Eligibility Information

The following is a list of eligibility requirements for entities applying to serve as Core Partners. Please review these thoroughly prior to submitting an application.

  • Applicants must be members of NFSN. Membership is free and may be obtained any time prior to submission. Please click here to join NFSN.
  • Organizations who have served as Core Partners in the past are eligible to serve again and are encouraged to apply. Previous partnership does not guarantee selection for the 2017-2019 timeframe.
  • Applicants must be organized and operated as an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit or organized for charitable purposes in the U.S. or abroad. This includes 501(c)(3) public charities and private foundations, government entities, fiscally sponsored organizations, 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, incorporated organizations with exemption pending, and other organizations with a qualifying tax status. Applicants must not be prohibited from receiving funds from the U.S.
  • Grant recipients must contribute a dollar-for-dollar match, or 50% of the total project budget. Match support may be demonstrated as cash or in-kind contributions in the form of services provided by state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and private sources. In-kind contributions are defined, when used as a cost share or match for a grant, as the value of services provided by a third-party for the benefit of the grant program, where no funds transferred hands. Costs associated with facilities and equipment are not eligible for match. The grantee must maintain written records to support all allowable costs that are claimed as contribution, as well as costs paid by NFSN. In the event the grantee does not provide the minimum amount of cost share, the NFSN contribution will be reduced in proportion to the grantee’s contribution and the balance must be returned to NFSN. A sample breakdown of the grant request and match contribution is as follows:

Level 1
Level 2
Grant Request:
Match Amount:
Total Project:
NFSN Contribution:
Applicant Contribution:
  • Applicants must demonstrate partnerships with other farm to school stakeholder organizations (identified as Supporting Partners), defined as follows:
  • Core Partners: The applicant, committed to carrying out the scope of work and serving as the point of contact for NFSN within the state/D.C./U.S. Territory.
  • Supporting Partner(s): Organization(s) supporting the Core Partner applicant and committing to collaborating in support of the scope of work.

A maximum of four and a minimum of one Supporting Partner must be identified at the time of application. We encourage at least one Supporting Partner to be from a different sector, meaning if the Core Partner is a state agency then one Supporting Partner is a nonprofit and vice versa. Applicants must include a letter of support from each Supporting Partner.

Award Information

Award amount: Level 1 grantees will receive $4,000, and Level 2 grantees will receive up to $12,000 for participation in grant activities over a period of three years.

Distribution of awards: One Core Partner will be selected and awarded per state, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territory.

Issuing of funds: Funding will be provided through the grant award process, via check from Tides Center (NFSN’s fiscal sponsor). NFSN expects to make the first payment at the beginning of the project and the remaining payment for Level 2 grantees at the beginning of year two, pending acceptance of a satisfactory progress report. The submission of an application does not guarantee funding.

Period of performance: The period of performance will be approximately three years (for both Level 1 and Level 2 Grants), with an anticipated end date of 10/31/19.

Summary of award information

Level 1
Level 2 (High Need)
Awarded to
Selected Core Partners (one each for the 50 states,
Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories)
Sub-set of selected Core Partners (maximum 14)
Grant amount
Total $4,000
Total $12,000
Payment schedule
One instalment of $4,000 in 2017
Two instalments
- $4,000 in 2017
- Up to $8,000 in 2018
Grant Period
From approval of grant award through 10/31/19
From approval of grant award through 10/31/19

Use of grant funds:

  • Grant funds may be used to cover expenses related to activities as identified in the scope of work, including staff time, programmatic expenses, travel to the NFSN Annual Meetings and other relevant travel, and expenses for Supporting Partner(s).
  • Grant funds may not be used to:
  • Fund activities not covered under the scope of this application;
  • Make sub-grants or sub-contracts to individuals on a non-objective basis, or for any non-charitable or non-educational purpose;
  • Carry on propaganda or to attempt to influence specific legislation either by direct or grassroots lobbying;
  • Participate in or intervene in (including the publishing or distribution of statements) any campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office; or
  • Fund any specific voter registration drive that is conducted in a manner that favors a particular candidate or slate of candidates.

Core Partner Benefits

Core Partners are recognized leaders in the farm to school and ECE movement, with a featured contact listing on the NFSN website through which stakeholders can connect with them directly. Core Partners will have opportunities to engage with NFSN on project-based funding partnerships, development of information and resources, content and design of national farm to school and ECE campaigns or events, and strategic discussions about the growth and evolution of farm to school, farm to ECE, and NFSN. Relevant requests for speaking engagements, events, and media queries will be directed to Core Partners, and they will have access to support and assistance from a network of peer partners, national staff, NFSN Advisory Board, and farm to school and ECE stakeholders across the country.

The websites of Supporting Partners will also be listed on NFSN website (see example of NFSN State Profile, featuring current State Lead and Supporting Partner websites).

Core Partner Responsibilities

Applicants, either alone or in collaboration with identified Supporting Partner(s), must demonstrate capacity for supporting all three elements of farm to school and farm to ECE – (1) local and regional procurement, (2) food and farm education, and (3) gardening activities – through the following strategies:

  • Building capacity for farm to ECE expansion;
  • Creation of robust farm to school and ECE networks;
  • Development and dissemination of information resources;
  • Convening and coordination with cross-sector partners;
  • Advocacy to promote and institutionalize farm to school and ECE policies;
  • Tracking of defined and aligned metrics and measurement; and
  • Participation in NFSN required meetings and activities.

The scope of work is intended to highlight current and planned community-based and state-level efforts while coordinating that work in alignment with the national movement. At the end of three years, we expect to see growth in key indicators such as:  

  • Farm to school and ECE sites impacting low-income children;
  • Dollars allocated to local procurement through child nutrition and school meal programs;
  • Supportive policies passed or proposed;
  • NFSN membership from Core Partner state, Washington, D.C., or U.S. territory;  
  • Media stories featuring farm to school and ECE;
  • State and regional events where NFSN/farm to school and ECE were represented;
  • Leaders of color engaged and represented; and
  • Dedicated state agency farm to school and ECE coordinator positions established.

All Core Partners are required to:

  • Commit to upholding and promoting the mission, vision, and strategic direction of NFSN and to accelerating the growth and sustainability of farm to school and ECE in the state, Washington, D.C., or U.S. Territory by engaging in the previously noted strategies;
  • Identify as a Core Partner in email signatures, on business cards and websites, at events, and with the media;
  • Use the NFSN state, Washington, D.C., or U.S. Territory logo on your website(s) and other communication channels; and
  • Identify a minimum of one and a maximum of four Supporting Partners to implement the full scope of work as outlined above. Applicants can delegate the scope of work as needed, according to capacity and expertise of the Core Partner and Supporting Partner(s). A letter of support that demonstrates willingness, ability, and capacity is required for all Supporting Partners.

Level 1 Scope of Work
Level 1 Core Partner Scope of Work is expected to add minimal new activities to your workload; rather, the Scope of Work elevates and aligns work that is already underway. The Scope of Work related to Level 1 Core Partners equates to up to two hours per week, which may fluctuate with important milestones and events. Level 1 Scope of Work includes:  

Farm to school and ECE activities

  • Serve as a point of contact for NFSN in the state, Washington, D.C., or U.S. Territory;
  • Respond to queries for assistance in the state, Washington, D.C., or U.S. Territory, including inquiries through the NFSN website;
  • Track and report emerging and relevant farm to school and ECE research and data;
  • Represent NFSN at events and in the media, and actively seek out these opportunities;
  • Disseminate NFSN information to and from key stakeholders in a timely manner (best practices, innovations, and learnings), including for National Farm to School Month; and
  • Engage in the NFSN listserv.

National alignment

  • Participate in at least one NFSN topical call per month (e.g., policy, farm to ECE);
  • Attend mandatory NFSN Annual Meetings; and
  • Complete NFSN required reporting of activities and an annual survey to assess the partnership and NFSN’s collective impact.

Level 2 Scope of Work
Core Partners receiving Level 2 grants are expected to undertake activities in addition to the Level 1 scope of work. The goal of Level 2 Scope of Work is to facilitate rapid growth of farm to school and ECE in high-need states, D.C., and U.S. Territories. Level 2 Core Partners will be responsible for the development of robust networks, establishment of supportive policies and agency supported coordinator positions, identification of barriers and opportunities for moving the needle on farm to school and ECE adoption, and sharing of best practices and successful strategies from other states. Level 2 Scope of Work includes:

Farm to school and ECE activities

  • Same as Level 1;  
  • Develop or expand a farm to school and ECE network comprised of key stakeholders;
  • In partnership with NFSN, develop a targeted activity plan to address barriers to farm to school and ECE implementation, including funding opportunities for long-term sustainability;
  • Track and report on local and state policies; identify and address policy opportunities and barriers;
  • Facilitate agency engagement towards the goal of establishing coordinator positions/responsibilities for farm to school and ECE; and
  • Provide trainings and technical assistance on farm to school and ECE to various stakeholder groups.

National alignment

  • Same as Level 1; and
  • Submit progress reports on targeted activity plan.

Additional Opportunities for Engagement Outside the scope of work of this grant, there may be additional opportunities for engaging in NFSN activities, including but not limited to:

  • Participate in federal policy advocacy;
  • Contribute ideas to inform NFSN’s strategic direction and policy advocacy;
  • Contribute to planning and implementation of the National Farm to School Month campaign;
  • Contribute to planning and implementation of the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference; and
  • Participate in NFSN-led dialogue to advance racial and social equity in farm to school and ECE settings.

Application and Submission

Important Dates and Timeline: Applications are due January 26, 2017 at 6:00pm ET. Applications received after the deadline will be deemed ineligible and will not be reviewed or considered. NFSN will not consider any additions or revisions to an application once it is received.

Email NFSN at with any questions regarding the Request for Applications.

Q&A Calls
Friday, January 6, 2017, 2:00-3:00pm ET
Thursday, January 12, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm ET
Call in information: 605-475-3235, passcode 351513#
Application Deadline
Thursday, January 26, 2017 at 6:00pm ET
Notice of Award
Anticipated mid-February, 2017
Thursday, March 9, 2:30-4:00pm ET
Wednesday, March 15, 2:00-3:30pm ET
Thursday, March 16, 11:30-1:00pm ET
NFSN 2017 Annual Meeting**
Week of May 1-5, 2017 (exact dates to be announced)

* Selected NFSN Core Partners and Supporting Partners must attend one of the three scheduled orientations. Orientations will be provided via webinar.
** Selected NFSN Core Partners must attend NFSN’s 2017-2019 Annual Meetings. Up to one Supporting Partner is invited to attend these meetings. Grant funds may be used to cover travel/attendance costs for Core Partners and Supporting Partners, as decided by the grantee.

Grant Application and Attachments

Application Components:

  • Background Questions
  • Application questions
  • Attachments

Only one application per organization or agency will be considered and an organization or agency cannot be included in more than one submission (either as the Applicant or Supporting Partner). For example, a state agency cannot be the applicant in one submission and a Supporting Partner in another submission, or cannot be a Supporting Partner in two different submissions. We encourage you to connect and collaborate with key stakeholder organizations to identify the best-suited applicant for your state, Washington, D.C., or U.S. Territory early in the planning process. As you complete the application questions, please respond as the applying organization or agency, not in an individual capacity.

Required attachments:

  • Current organizational operating budget, and
  • Letter of support from each Supporting Partner, minimum of one and a maximum of four.

Optional attachments:

  • Strategic Plan or goals for farm to school and ECE in the state, Washington, D.C., or U.S. Territory, and
  • Additional information about the organization (e.g., Annual Report, Core Values, Diversity/Equity Statement or Commitment) or organization’s farm to school and ECE efforts (e.g. fact sheets, toolkits, reports).

Attachments must be one of the following formats and cannot exceed 16MB per attachment: .doc, .docx, .pdf

How to apply

Apply Here

Complete an online application by clicking the button above, or download the application here and mail to:

Attn: NFSN Core Partner Application 2017-2019
National Farm to School Network
P.M.B. #1048770 West Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 1300
Chicago, IL 60631-3515

Mailed applications must be received (not postmarked) by January 26, 2017.

Application Review and Award

Selection criteria: Core Partner grants will be awarded based on requirements as outlined in this Request for Applications, including eligibility, strength of described vision and goals, organizational capacity, support for racial and social equity, demonstrated partnerships, and plans for sustainability. Applications will be reviewed and scored by a committee. Level 2 grants will be selected based on need as articulated in the application, and as it relates to penetration of farm to school and ECE (% sites), poverty rates, free and reduced price meal eligibility, and lack of existing networks, policies, dedicated coordinator positions, or funds to support farm to school.

First instalment payments will be issued following the notice of award, anticipated in mid-February 2017. Acceptance of grant payment indicates agreement to all terms and conditions of the grant. Any portion of payment not used for grant purposes must be repaid to NFSN.

Grant funds will be made available on a competitive basis, subject to availability of funds. NFSN/Tides Center is not obligated to make any award as a result of this Request for Applications. The submission of an application does not guarantee funding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to frequently asked questions can be found here. Last updated Jan. 9, 2017

Two Q&A Calls are scheduled for questions regarding the Request for Applications. Call in information: 605-475-3235, passcode 351513#
Friday, January 6, 2017, 2:00-3:00pm ET
Thursday, January 12, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm ET

Email with additional questions regarding the Request for Applications.