National Farm to School Network launches a new project, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and Life Time Foundation, to enhance the well-being of children, fortify family-run farms, and foster thriving communities.

National Farm to School Network is excited to announce the first cohorts for the Farm to School Coordinators Project. Last fall, National Farm to School Network announced the launch of this new project, made possible by the support from USDA and Life Time Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit created by Life Time Inc. (NYSE: LTH), with a mission to inspire Healthy People, a Healthy Planet, and a Healthy Way of Life. 

National Farm to School Network’s goal with this project is to increase the number of dedicated farm to school coordinator positions in school districts across the country—which will result in expanded capacity for locally sourced food items and scratch cooking in schools. This project will also help boost the incorporation of hands-on nutrition education in classroom curriculum and raise participation in farm and garden-based agricultural education activities. 

National Farm to School Network is grateful for the support of Life Time Foundation for this project. This partnership is one way in which Life Time Foundation addresses the elimination of ultra-processed foods as per the Ingredient Guide for Better School Food Purchasing. By promoting the use of locally sourced ingredients in schools, it helps reduce the amount of unnecessary ingredients that are commonly found in highly processed school meals. In line with this, a key finding from the Sapien Labs Consumption of ultra-processed food and mental wellbeing outcomes October 2023 report was, “Mental wellbeing decreases sharply with higher frequency of ultra-processed food consumption.”  

“We are delighted to get started on this work to grow capacity for school district communities to participate in farm to school,” said Sunny Baker, Senior Director of Programs and Policy at National Farm to School Network. “The Life Time Foundation is a wonderful partner for this work and we’re grateful for their support for this generative work.”  

This project includes two groups, one of which is a Community of Practice for current farm to school coordinators. Representing school districts of various sizes from across the country, the following cohort members will come together to share best practices, problem solve, and develop resources that can help others in similar roles succeed: 

  • Allison Pfaff Harris, REAP Food Group, WI 
  • Brianna Jackson, Chicopee Public Schools, MA 
  • Dory Cooper, Wylde Center, GA  
  • Janelle Manzano, San Diego Unified School District, CA  
  • Jennifer Lynn Lewis, East Jordan Public Schools, MI 
  • Kirsten Weigle, Minneapolis Public Schools, MN
  • Maryssa Wilson, Sidney Central School District, NY
  • Rebecca Rodriguez, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, OH 

Likewise, we are also thrilled to announce the School District Working Group, which will convene with the intent to build the case to create a farm to school coordinator role in their school district as well as others across the country: 

  • Amanda Warren, Staunton City Schools, VA
  • Cedra Milton, Jackson Public Schools, MS
  • Emily Becker, Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc. (RurAL CAP), AK
  • Erica Biagetti, Cheshire Public Schools, CT
  • Lynne Short, Willamina School District, OR
  • Margaret Zelenka, West New York School District, NJ
  • Monica Fleisher, Portland Public Schools, OR
  • Nicole Chandler, Little Rock School District, AR
  • Rhonda L. Barlow, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, GA
  • Samantha Goyret, Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, TN

The impact of this project will be far-reaching—collectively, the Community of Practice and Working Group cohort members represent 21 school districts and 433,950 students.

Together, National Farm to School Network and Life Time Foundation envision a future where fresh, locally sourced produce becomes a staple in school cafeterias nationwide, fostering better physical health and deeper connection between communities and their local food systems. By focusing on locally grown food, it allows communities to engage in sustainable food systems that not only support health but also mitigate environmental harm. This partnership underscores a shared commitment to improving the overall well-being of students and transforming the landscape of school nutrition, addressing not only the immediate health needs of students but also providing the foundation for healthy lifelong habits and environmental conservation.  

"We want all children to live healthier, happier lives and that starts with the food they eat," said Megan Flynn, MPH, RD Life Time Foundation Nutrition Program Manager. "That's why we are proud to collaborate with National Farm to School Network to support all school food professionals in their efforts to eliminate ultra-processed foods and educate students on the importance of local, fresh foods for their health and wellbeing." 

About Life Time Foundation 

Life Time Foundation, a 501c(3) nonprofit created by Life Time, Inc. is dedicated to inspiring Healthy People, a Healthy Planet, and a Healthy Way of Life. Through its work, the Foundation supports schools in their efforts to serve healthy, nutritious meals to students; physical movement programs and events that get children active and healthy; and initiatives that promote a healthy planet, including programs supporting forestation and conservation. For more information, visit

About National Farm to School Network 
The National Farm to School Network is an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing, school gardens and food and agriculture education into schools and early care and education settings. The National Farm to School Network provides vision, leadership and support at the state, regional and national levels to connect and expand the farm to school movement, which has grown from a handful of schools in the late 1990s to approximately 67,300 schools in all 50 states as of 2019. Our network includes partner organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories, thousands of farm to school supporters, a national advisory board and staff. Learn more at