News Release: Kids Eat Local Act Introduced in Senate & House

NFSN Staff
April 2, 2021

Today, a bipartisan group of congressional leaders took an important step towards making it easier for schools to source locally grown, locally raised, and locally caught food and farm products for school meals. The Kids Eat Local Act, introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Josh Harder (D-CA), and Alma Adams (D-NC), would help break down barriers between school food purchasers and family farmers and food producers by simplifying local purchasing guidelines for school meal programs.

By including the Kids Eat Local Act in the next Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, schools would be given a new, easier to use local product specification option through which they could specify “locally grown,” “locally raised” or “locally caught” in their procurement language, and then make the award to the lowest bidder who can meet that product specification. The addition of local product specification would substantially improve opportunities for local producers by providing more flexibility for school districts. The Kids Eat Local Act would also allow schools flexibility in determining the definition of “local” that best suits their needs.

National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition thank the bill sponsors in both the Senate and House for introducing the Kids Eat Local Act and paving the way for increased healthy food in schools and new economic opportunities for local farmers. We urge all members of Congress to support this simple, yet significant change and look forward to continue working with our partners and allies as this bill and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization move forward.

Read our full press release here.
Learn more about the Kids Eat Local Act here.

Have questions about the Kids Eat Local Act or want to learn more about how you can be a farm to school policy advocate? Contact Karen Spangler, our Policy Director, at karen@farmtoschool.org.

National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.

The was originally posted on April 28, 2021.

News Release: Farm to School Act of 2021 Introduced in Senate

NFSN Staff
April 1, 2021

Today, a bipartisan group of Senate leaders introduced the Farm to School Act of 2021 which will support our nation’s schools, farmers and communities in building back equitably from the Covid-19 pandemic. The bill, sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Susan Collins (R-ME), will expand funding for and programmatic scope of the highly successful USDA Farm to School Grant Program, while also ensuring that more communities – specifically those serving racially diverse and high-need student populations, as well as engaging with beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers – have a competitive opportunity to benefit from this valuable program.

A similar bill (H.R. 1768) was introduced in the House by Representatives Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Alma Adams (D-NC) in March.

"The Farm to School Act of 2021 couldn’t come at a more necessary time,” said Karen Spangler, Policy Director with National Farm to School Network. “When the pandemic began, school nutrition professionals, educators, and local food producers – the people who make farm to school work – were some of the very first community members to step up and ensure the ongoing care and support of children and families. The measures included in the Farm to School Act will give them much-needed resources to continue their work as we emerge from the pandemic, while helping our country build a more resilient and equitable food system."

The USDA Farm to School Grant Program provides funds on a competitive basis to schools, farmers, nonprofits, and local, state and tribal government entities to help schools procure local foods for school meals and to support activities like school gardens, hands-on science lessons, and new food taste tests. The program was originally funded as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and includes $5 million in annual mandatory funding.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, USDA has awarded over $52 million through Farm to School Grants, funding a total of 719 projects across all 50 States, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico, reaching almost 21 million students in 47,000 schools. In recent years, the program has benefited from temporary funding boosts through annual appropriations. The Farm to School Act of 2021 would increase annual mandatory funding to $15 million to permanently allow more of these impactful projects to be realized. The proposed legislation, as introduced in the Senate, will also:

  • Increase the maximum grant award to $500,000,
  • Prioritize grant proposals that engage beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and serve high-need schools,
  • Fully include early care and education sites, summer food service sites and after school programs; and,
  • Increase access among Native and tribal schools to traditional foods, especially from tribal producers.

Read our full press release here.
Learn more about the Farm to School Act of 2021 here.

Have questions about the Farm to School Act of 2021 or want to learn more about how you can be a farm to school policy advocate? Contact Karen Spangler, our Policy Director, at karen@farmtoschool.org.

National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.

This was originally posted on April 22, 2021.

News Release: Farm to School Act of 2021 Introduced in House

NFSN Staff
March 1, 2021

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders introduced the Farm to School Act of 2021 (H.R. 1768) which will support our nation’s schools, farmers and communities in building back equitably from the Covid-19 pandemic. The bill, sponsored by Representative Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Representative Alma Adams (D-NC), will expand funding for and programmatic scope of the highly successful USDA Farm to School Grant Program, while also ensuring that more communities – specifically those serving racially diverse and high-need student populations, as well as engaging with beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers – have a competitive opportunity to benefit from this valuable program.

When the pandemic began, school nutrition professionals, educators and local food producers – the people who make farm to school work – were some of the very first community members to step up and ensure the ongoing care and support of children and families. The measures included in the Farm to School Act of 2021 will give them much-needed resources to continue their work as we emerge from the pandemic. Furthermore, the bill’s emphasis on ensuring equitable access to this important grant program will help those who have been most impacted by the pandemic, including Native and tribal communities, racially diverse communities, and early care and education sites. There has never been a better time to build on the successes of this program.

The USDA Farm to School Grant Program provides funds on a competitive basis to schools, farmers, nonprofits, and local, state and tribal government entities to help schools procure local foods for school meals and to support activities like school gardens, hands-on science lessons, and new food taste tests. The program was originally funded as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and includes $5 million in annual mandatory funding.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, USDA has awarded over $52 million through Farm to School Grants, funding a total of 719 projects across all 50 States, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico, reaching almost 21 million students in 47,000 schools. In recent years, the program has benefited from temporary funding boosts through annual appropriations. The Farm to School Act of 2021 would allow more of these impactful projects to be realized by:

  • Increasing annual mandatory funding to $15 million and increase the maximum grant award to $250,000,
  • Prioritizing grant proposals that engage beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and serve high-need schools,
  • Fully including early care and education sites, summer food service sites and after school programs, and
  • Increasing access among Native and tribal schools to traditional foods, especially from tribal producers.


Read our full press release here.
Learn more about the Farm to School Act of 2021 here.

Statements from the Farm to School Act of 2021's Cosponsors:

Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI): “Millions of students are eating healthier and engaged in food and agriculture education because of the Farm to School Program. It is a commonsense program that benefits children and their families while providing economic opportunities to our farmers. The increased demand for Farm to School programming tells us that more people are beginning to understand the connection between local foods and healthy young minds. I’m proud to introduce this legislation in support of our nation’s schools and local farmers who help improve classroom diets and local economies.”

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Ranking Member, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA): “The Farm to School program feeds kids, teaches kids, inspires kids. What an impactful, nutritious way to connect the farm to the family, enhance regional economic benefit, and promote good health. I am happy to lead the development of the program.”

Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), Vice Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture: “The Farm to School Grant Program supports healthy students and strengthens our local food systems. The Farm to School Act of 2021 expands participation in this critical program and increases its funding, which is more important than ever as our students, schools and farmers face difficult challenges due to the global pandemic. Teachers, parents, and farmers all know that healthy students are successful students, so I am proud to support the introduction this important legislation.”

Have questions about the Farm to School Act of 2021 or want to learn more about how you can be a farm to school policy advocate? Contact Karen Spangler, Policy Director, at karen@farmtoschool.org.

National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.

This was originally posted on March 11, 2021.

Racial Healing & Our Call for a Racially Just Food System

NFSN Staff
January 14, 2021

January 19 is the 5th Annual National Day of Racial Healing, a time for contemplation and collective action on how we heal from the effects of racism. Racial healing is a process that restores individuals and communities to wholeness, repairs the damage caused by racism, and transforms societal structures into ones that affirm the inherent value of all people.

Helen Dombalis, Executive Director of National Farm to School Network, shares her reflections on how racial healing is part of our work towards our new call to action: By 2025, 100% of communities will hold power in a racially just food system.

Video Transcript:

"This is Helen Dombalis, I serve as Executive Director of the National Farm to School Network. At the end of 2020, we released a call to action for our food system that by 2025, 100% of communities will hold power in a racially justice food system. In other words, were making a commitment to shifting power in order to achieve a racially justice food system. In the process leading up to that call to action's finalization we kept coming back to the fact that if you don't work differently the gap between our vision and our current reality will continue to widen. We can't keep working on local procurement, gardens, and food and food and agriculture education in the same ways and expect different results. We have to be intentional about shifting power in order to achieve a racially just food system.

We know that our call to action takes all of us at the National Farm to School Network and through farm to school activities, but also across our food system. So, today being January 19th, the Annual National Day of Racial Healing is an important day and in our ongoing work to recognize that we can't make progress without also healing.

In our nation and communities, and in our food system there is a deep history in intentionality of racism including the foundation on which our American agricultural system was built from enslavement of African peoples to settler colonialism and stolen land from Indigenous peoples. We're not just working against that history, we're also saying that there's a history and it continues today in the real and destructive ways that are current unjust food system impacts communities of color.

For example, during the pandemic with food workers having higher rates of Covid and not being given due protections during the pandemic. So as we do this work, we have to acknowledge what got us here and how racism is continuing today to harm all of us.

We're all people with families, with communities, with hopes with challenges, and regardless of our skin color, racism is fueling divisiveness, not unity, difference, not inclusion, and bias, not trust.

So, as National Farm to School Network Executive Director, and on a personal level, as a mother, I'm committed to a world and a food system where all people are valued and respected equally regardless of skin color, income, immigration status, job, or any other criteria. But I also know that it's not enough to just hold that commitment, to have that value system. Action is necessary.

With the National Day of Racial Healing, it's a moment to making a commitment to learning more and taking action, including in the food system and looking at our own contributions to racism and ending it. So, I'm committed to learning more about the history of school meal and child nutrition programs being rooted in survival and power building in Black communities and also looking at and acknowledging that farm to school very much predates the founding of the Network Farm to School Network, when you look at Indigenous communities, for example, and the connection and honoring of land and food and integrating that into learning.

I'm also committed to shifting power, recognizing that there's a spectrum and ultimately we have to defer and ensure that those who are impacted by decisions are actually the one who is making the decision. So, for example, producers of color showing up and working with school districts and their purchasing and the producer saying,"Here's what we have available here. Here's what we will have available," and integrating that in the school meal programs and meeting a price point that's a living wage for those producers. It's not enough to have the school districts be the ones to say, "Okay, we'll buy this from these producers of color." At the furthest end of the spectrum, it's the farmers of color that are making those decisions themselves.

So with that example, I will leave you all with my firm commitment to learning, and also to action, and ask you all to join me in contributing to understanding that we need to heal from our past and in our current reality, in order to move forward and achieve a more racially just food system. Thank you."


Gro More Good Hydroponics Project Launched with New K-2 Classroom Guide in 25 Schools

NFSN Staff
October 17, 2019


Students at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Washington, D.C. with their AeroGarden. Amidon-Bowen participated in the first iteration of the Gro More Good Hydroponics Project in 2019-2020. 

National Farm to School Network, the Scotts-Miracle Gro Foundation, and Hawthorne Gardening Company are excited to launch the second iteration of the Gro More Good Hydroponic Garden Project! Discovering Through Hydroponics brings together kindergarten through second grade educators in 25 schools and organizations across Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon, and Washington to integrate hydroponics gardening into their classrooms and other educational settings. The project aims to spark a passion for gardening and increase hands-on science experiences for students who otherwise might not have had the opportunity.

Each participating school and organization will receive an AeroGarden hydroponic kit and supplies to grow fresh vegetables in educational settings, the STEM-aligned Discovering Through Hydroponics: K-2 Classroom Guide, networking and peer learning opportunities with other participating schools and organizations, and programmatic support from the National Farm to School Network and Gro More Good team. 

This project builds on the success of the first iteration of the Gro More Good Hydroponic Garden Project, which was launched in the Fall of 2019, and piloted the Exploring Hydroponics: A Classroom Lesson Guide in 15 schools in California, New York and Washington D.C. While the previous project focused primarily on third through fifth grade, this year’s activities will focus on classrooms serving kindergarten through second grade students, using the new Discovering Through Hydroponics: K-2 Classroom Guide as a roadmap and resource for engaging young students in exploring plants and STEM-aligned concepts. 

Participating schools include:

  • Osborn School District, Phoenix, AZ
  • Manuel "Lito" Pena Jr. School, Phoenix, AZ
  • Bret R. Tarver School, Phoenix, AZ
  • Peridot - Our Savior's Lutheran School, Peridot, AZ
  • Catalina Ventura School, Phoenix, AZ
  • Frank Borman School, Phoenix, AZ
  • Yavapai Accommodation School, Prescott, AZ
  • St. David Unified School District, Saint David, AZ
  • Joseph Zito Elementary, Phoenix, AZ
  • Bancroft Elementary School, Pleasant Hill, CA
  • Poinciana Elementary School, Naples, FL
  • Wimauma Community Academy, Wimauma, FL
  • Thunderbolt Elementary School, Fleming Island, FL
  • James Stephens International Academy, Fort Myers, FL
  • North Andrews Gardens Elementary, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Immokalee Community School, Immokalee, FL
  • Fairfield Elementary School, Eugene, OR
  • Melrose Elementary School, Roseburg, OR
  • Pendleton Early Learning Center, Pendleton, OR
  • Prairie City School, Prairie City, OR 
  • Dilley Elementary School, Forest Grove, OR
  • Westside Village Magnet School, Bend, OR
  • Klamath County School District Talented and Gifted Program, Klamath Falls, OR
  • Nestucca Valley Elementary School, Neskowin, OR
  • Modest Family Solutions - Ummah Sustained, Everett, WA

This project is part of Scotts Miracle-Gro’s larger Gro More Good initiative, which aims to bring the life-enhancing benefits of gardens and greenspaces to 10 million children by 2023. As part of Gro More Good, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation is partnering with leading not-for-profit organizations, such as National Farm to School Network, to help overcome some of the pressing challenges facing today’s youth––including childhood obesity, poor nutrition and nature deficit––by improving children’s access to fresh food and increasing their time spent connected to nature. 

Action Alert: Protect Child Nutrition by Passing Build Back Better

NFSN Staff
June 27, 2018

Thanks to your advocacy, this week the White House announced an agreement for the Build Back Better Act through budget reconciliation with landmark investments in child nutrition, investments and technical assistance to rural communities and Native sovereign nations, and a transformative investment in early childhood care and education. Details on this plan are still emerging, but we need your continued support to get this legislation across the finish line in Congress.

With $10 billion in funds for child nutrition, Build Back Better would:

  • Expand the number of schools that would be able to offer free meals to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision.*
  • Give states the option to implement the Community Eligibility Provision statewide, allowing all students in the state to receive school breakfast and lunch at no charge.*
  • Extend Summer EBT nationwide for students who receive free or reduced-price school meals (including those who attend Community Eligibility Provision, Provision 2, or Provision 3 schools).  The Act would allow states as well as Indian Tribal Organizations that participate in WIC to provide Summer EBT.
  • Provide $30 million for school kitchen equipment grants.*
    *Length of funding for these programs is still being determined

Additionally, the plan would provide universal free preschool education for all 3- and 4-year olds, and subsidize and expand quality child care to 20 million children per year. Finally, the new Rural Partnership Project would offer flexible funding for community-driven rural development, and higher education funding would invest in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and minority-serving institutions* (MSIs).
*This is a term in U.S. federal policy to denote colleges and universities serving Black, Hispanic, Native, and Asian American or Pacific Islander communities.

Now is the time for your Members of Congress and Senators to hear from you that they need to fight for bold measures to advance equity for our kids, their families, and their communities.

TAKE ACTION

Your voice is needed! Call your Senators and Representatives TODAY and tell them you want to see their support for children, families, educators and food systems workers by passing the Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill. Here’s how:

Step 1: Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Step 2: Ask to be connected with the office of your Member of Congress. Give the Switchboard your zip code and they can connect you to your 1 Representative and 2 Senators.

Step 3: Leave a message for your Senators and Representatives like this:

Hi, my name is ___, and I am a constituent and a [parent, educator, farmer, etc.]. I’d like to ask [your Congressperson/Senator’s name] to pass Build Back Better because of its crucial investment in ensuring all kids have access to nourishing food every day, its expansion of quality early childhood education, and its investment in rural communities and communities of color.

I urge [your legislator] to pass the critical investments that will  improve the nutrition of our nation’s children at a critical time, while investing in the resilience of our communities and food system as a whole. These issues matter to me because ____ [tell your story!]. Thank you!

Step 4: Take two more minutes to your story on social media so your networks know about this critical moment!

If you work for a government agency or university and cannot lobby, you can still make a difference! Instead of calling your legislators to discuss these specific policy asks, share general information about farm to school experiences and needs in your community. Sharing information is not lobbying - it’s education, which we can all do!

Taking action right now, while this reconciliation bill is in discussion, is especially crucial. Make your calls and forward this message to a friend. THANK YOU for taking a few minutes out of your day to make your voice heard.