Artwork by Bonnie Acker

In 2007, the National Farm to School Network was founded with core values of local and just food and a vision of equality in the food system. But it was not until more recent years that we’ve come to recognize that the fullest expression of our vision is ultimately equity and justice. Many of the systems and sectors within which farm to school exists—including the food system, education system, economic system, and other public institutions and structures—are deeply racialized and have in the past and continue in the present to exclude, disadvantage, and cause harm to Black, Indigenous, Latino, immigrant and other people of color in our communities. Systems like these that are failing anyone are failing all of us, and we can not engage in farm to school effectively without changing them.

As we begin this new decade, we’re reflecting on National Farm to School Network’s journey to centering our work in equity and focusing our intentions towards justice. Learn about
our efforts in 2019 to further our commitment to equity, and see what we’re planning for in 2020 below.

By Helen Dombalis, NFSN Executive Director

As I shared at the end of 2019, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) aims to center our work in equity and doing so requires persistence and patience. It also requires planning while knowing that this work is not linear, and partnerships while knowing that privilege impacts opportunity to engage. In the spirit of planning and partnerships, I am excited to share what we’re planning for in 2020 to continue NFSN’s equity journey and to invite you to join us in these efforts. This year, we’ll be:

Updating our mission and vision statements to better reflect that we center our work in equity, and that justice is our end goal.

Updating our equity commitment statement to better explain the history and intentional racism behind the cited statistics and our role in this work.

Updating our core values to better highlight the myriad values embedded in farm to school, and then we’ll be pushing ourselves and our partners to strive for farm to school that supports not only local but also just food systems.

Embedding programmatic equity content throughout our 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference program, from workshops and posters to keynotes and field trips. We’re also providing scholarships to make this important gathering more accessible to persons who have been impacted by racial and social inequities in the food system. (Be sure to save the dates: April 21-23, 2020 in Albuquerque, NM!)

Using our Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool to increase our capacity to identify inequities embedded within farm to school programming and policy advocacy initiatives, and to support decision making processes which maximize opportunities for advancing equity.

Starting all meetings with our community agreements.

Meeting monthly as staff and weekly as staff teams to discuss progress along our equity journey, and all staff are embedding equity goals into our job plans.

Allocating professional development funds to equity trainings for all new staff hires.

Participating in the 21-day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge starting on March 30.

Hiring an equity consultant to facilitate some of the above activities and to offer us new, more impactful ways of thinking about our equity work.

Conducting biannual organizational equity assessments (and we may develop our own tool to do so), and we’ll be developing a dashboard to track progress on concrete goals.

Seeking and engaging in celebrations and events like the National Day of Racial Healing, Black History Month, and Native American Heritage Month to share stories, listen, learn, and connect with other people, organizations and movements.

Using our financial resources to deepen farm to school engagement and impact in four high-opportunity locations via our network of partners, and to provide 20 travel stipends to ensure equitable access for participation in our Annual Farm to School Leaders Meeting.

Hosting the first NFSN Equity Learning Lab cohort.

And, we’re exploring more opportunities - like forming an NFSN Staff Equity Team, participating in equity trainings specific to our positions, developing a leadership plan for staff of color, and holding a staff training on how to talk about the equity imperative and what happens if it isn’t achieved. Centering our work in equity means being open to learning, creating and reflecting as we go.

This is an extensive list for one year, but as I said in my last blog about our equity journey, this is work that must be done. Too many inequities in our food system and society persist. What from the list above inspires you? Have you reviewed your mission and vision statements lately with an equity lens? Have you tried out our equity tool? Have you even started conversations about equity in your communities? We want to hear from you!

If you are not already a member, please join us (it’s free) to stay up-to-date in 2020 for more regular news about our equity journey. And, if you’re inspired by reading this, we always welcome donations to support our continued equity journey. Happy New Year, and here’s to a bright and bold 2020 together!