Recognizing the importance of adapting and innovating in this challenging time, we're highlighting five new models that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote and support farm to school, farm to early care and education (ECE), and farm to food bank. Read on for  insights, lessons learned, and ideas for new partnership and collaboration that can keep farm to school moving during a time when everything feels like it's changing.

Photo courtesy of Utah Farm Bureau via the Salt Lake Tribune

Story submitted by: Kate Wheeler, Child Nutrition/Farm to School Specialist with Utah State Board of Education in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kate is the National Farm to School Network’s Core Partner in Utah.

Due to supply chain disruptions as the pandemic churns around the country, farmers have had to destroy crops, dump milk, and smash eggs as they are unable to sell to their typical restaurant and school vendors. In an effort to avoid waste and feed the thousands of hungry children and families in Utah, the Utah Farm Bureau has created the Farmers Feeding Utah partnership to donate excess or unsold food from Utah farms to communities in need. The goal of Farmers Feeding Utah is to connect Utahns in need with safe and locally-grown food.

“Farmers and ranchers have been in just a crazy moment through all of this,” said Ron Gibson, president of the Utah Farm Bureau. “It’s been devastating to some of our industries, and one of the industries that’s been hurt the most is the sheep industry.”

Photo courtesy of Utah Farm Bureau via the Salt Lake Tribune

Volunteers help distribute donated sheep in Montezuma Creek in May 2020, as part of the Farmers Feeding Utah program.

Farmers Feeding Utah identified a particularly vulnerable population in Utah-- its sheep ranchers. The ranchers have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic in terms of hiring sheep herders and selling their lamb to restaurants. Due to the pandemic, Utah’s sheep ranchers have been unable to bring in their herders from Peru and Chile this year and most of the lamb they sell is to restaurants, which have shuttered around the country and nearly 25% in Utah alone. In about one months time, the initiative raised enough money, mostly from grassroots donors, to pursue its first project: purchasing 16,000 pounds of lamb from local farmers and 500 live sheep from Utah ranchers and donating them to families on the Navajo Nation.

Read more on this initiative in the Salt Lake Tribune and visit Farmers Feeding Utah to learn more and how to get involved.