By Helen Dombalis, NFSN Programs Director

As a national organization uniquely situated at the intersection of numerous sectors, networking and partnership building are at the core of the National Farm to School Network’s efforts. Partnerships have been - and continue to be - integral to our success as an organization, and are essential to the growth and long-term sustainability of the farm to school movement. From our Core Partner and Supporting Partner organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Territories, to national organizations with whom we collaborate on policy, resource development and movement building, the “network” part of our name is as much an action as it is a noun.

Thus, our new three-year Strategic Plan (2017-2019) outlines the goal to facilitate expanded engagement in farm to school through new and diverse partnerships and promotion, including the designation of a “National Partner of the Year.” Through intentional programmatic collaboration, resource sharing and cross-promotion, we aim to both educate our members about the work of national partners, and increase knowledge of farm to school and our organizations in diverse sectors.

In this inaugural year, we are pleased to announce the School Nutrition Association (SNA) as our 2017 National Partner of the Year. SNA is a national, nonprofit professional organization representing more than 57,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. Our partnership to date with SNA has taken root through several avenues, including collaboration on policy advocacy, celebrating events like National Farm to School Month and National School Lunch Week, and frequent engagement on social media. We look forwarded to a deeper partnership with SNA in 2017 to further these efforts and to better engage our memberships in each other's work.

School nutrition professionals have been integral to the success of farm to school to date; the local procurement figures we see reported in the USDA Farm to School Census are thanks to the tireless efforts of the folks working to plan meals, meet nutritional guidelines, source, cook, serve and educate students. In partnering with SNA, we celebrate these efforts and aim to better connect our members and school nutrition professionals towards fostering a nation of healthy, well-nourished kids engaged in our food system. In the coming months, we’ll be working closely with SNA to identify and share out resources to support SNA members in their work to implement farm to school, and tools for you to better engage at the local level with school nutrition operators. Stay tuned for opportunities to engage with SNA and learn more throughout 2017!