The National Farm to Cafeteria Conference began officially on Wednesday morning with a performance by the Great Promise for American Indians Drumming Group.
Then Anupima Joshi, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the National Farm to School Network welcomed the packed room, reflecting on the incredible progress the movement has made. Our movement has benefited more than 21 million kids - and counting.
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Jim Hightower the former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture was next on stage with a hilarious and inspiring speech. He acknowledged the assembled crowd for their incredible achievements and challenged them to keep up the good work, and to be sure to take their efforts to policy makers across the country.
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The next speakers presented on the farm to cafeteria movement in preschools, in hospitals, in colleges and even in neighboring countries. The conversation in the room was also broadcast on social media through an small army of social media amplifiers, all using the hashtag #PoweringUp.
After lunch, the group broke into a series of small sessions on a wide range of topics. The opportunity to come together, to learn together, and to plan together for the next steps for programs across the country created a buzz that reverberated thought the halls as people connected with each other. They shared stories and ideas, reported successes and challenges, and were inspired to persevere and raise the bar as they look to the year ahead.
As the evening came, an impromptu parade spilled out of the hotel and moved westward through the heart of Austin toward one of its most prominent landmarks, the flagship Whole Foods Market. It was there, on the roof, that the connecting and collaborating continued as the sun disappeared.
During his speech that morning, Jim Hightower quipped about a hardware store that was known for its customer service. He joked that their motto was "Together, we can do it yourself". In our movement, it is often the dedication of a committed individual that sparks change. It can sometimes be lonely, but after today, the people #PoweringUp in Austin are clear about at least one thing: They are not alone.