Search our Resource Database

Use the quick guide to search through our resource database. You can search by topic, setting, or keywords in order to find exactly what you are looking for. Choose a filtering mechanism above to get started.

View all resources

Use the Keyword search to filter through: descriptive keywords, title, or organization.

pick a date

pick a date

Connect with your state

Farm to school is taking place in all 50 states, D.C. and U.S. Territories! Select a location from the list below to learn more or contact a Core Partner. 

National Farm to School Network

News

This Week in Farm to School: 8/11/20

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 11, 2020
SIGN UP: National Farm to School Network has weekly e-newsletter to share a roundup of COVID-19 related resources and information with farm to school and farm to ECE stakeholders - similar to what is shared weekly in these This Week in Farm to School blog posts. Sign up here to have this information delivered in your inbox weekly.

Every week, we share opportunities, action items and a selection of media stories that relate to the farm to school movement. To submit an item for consideration, send us an email. To be considered, content should be of national interest to the farm to school community. 

 
Grants & Funding
1. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Request for Proposals: Research on Agriculture and Local Food Activity in the Appalachian Region. 
Deadline: August 19
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) invites proposals from qualified researchers and consultants to examine agriculture and local food activity in the Appalachian Region (Region) using both quantitative and qualitative analysis. The main purposes of the research are to (1) provide a comprehensive quantitative overview of agricultural and local food activity throughout the Region, including changes over recent years, (2) identify best practices and promising models from across Appalachia, as well as elsewhere in the country, that support the development of local food systems and help farms increase revenues, and (3) identify emerging opportunities in agriculture ,including types of crops and products as well as strategic and technological innovations. The selected contractor will work closely with ARC to shape this effort over the course of a twelve-month period beginning October 1, 2020 and concluding September 30, 2021. Proposals will be evaluated on contractors’ qualifications, expertise, track record, work samples, and cost-effectiveness. Learn more and apply.

2. COVID-19 EQUITY Northeast BIPOC Farmer Relief Fund 
Deadline: August 20
Are you a BIPOC farmer or fisherperson that has been impacted by COVID-19? The Northeast BIPOC Farmer Relief Fund is now accepting applications from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or People of Color) producers with priority for those who use sustainable, regenerative or environmentally sound practices and who contribute to their community in some way. Funded by Farm Aid, this fund will provide $500 relief payments for up to 200 applicants. Learn more and apply.

3. USDA RFA: Innovating Formal and Non-Formal Educational Experiences in Food and Agricultural Sciences During the Time of Social Distancing
Deadline: August 20 
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Education and Workforce Development RFA now includes a new program area priority to address the need to develop and deploy rapid, reliable, and readily-adoptable strategies in workforce preparation through formal K-14 education, as well as in youth development through non-formal education to cultivate interest and competencies in STEM and agriculture during this challenging time. This program area accepts new applications only. Learn more and apply. Interested applicants are invited to register for an informational webinar on July 28, 2020 at 12:00 pm Eastern Time.

4. USDA's Office of Partnership and Public Engagement RFA: Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program
 Deadline to apply: August 26
Via section 2501 funding, these grants support community-based and non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and Tribal entities to conduct programming to assist producers. The deadline to apply is August 26th (please note, the announcement in the Federal Register incorrectly states the deadline as September 11!) OPPE will host a call for potential applicants on July 28, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. EST (Telephone Number: (877) 692-8955, Passcode: 6433267). No registration needed. Learn more and apply.

5. Cigna Foundation's Healthier Kids For Our Future Grant Program
Deadline: September 30 
Cigna Foundation is looking to partner with school systems and surrounding communities — including clinicians, local and national nonprofits — to supplement existing mental health programming and help close gaps both within and outside the school environment to address loneliness, anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. To that end, it will fund programs that foster collaboration between various stakeholders, including school administrators and teachers, clinicians, and local and national nonprofits. The grants are up to $65,000 grants per year for two years. Learn more and apply.

6. USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Foundational and Applied Science Program RFA
Deadlines: Vary based on program, view RFA for details
The AFRI Foundational and Applied Science Program supports grants in six AFRI priority areas to advance knowledge in both fundamental and applied sciences important to agriculture. The six priority areas are: Plant Health and Production and Plant Products; Animal Health and Production and Animal Products; Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health; Bioenergy, Natural Resources, and Environment; Agriculture Systems and Technology; and Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities. Research-only, extension-only, and integrated research, education and/or extension projects are solicited in this Request for Applications (RFA). See Foundational and Applied Science RFA for specific details.


Webinars & Events
1. Produce Summer University (PSU) Summer Series: Writing Produce Specifications
August 11 // 3pm ET
At the end of this webinar, participants will be able to:
- Use and interpret US grade standards when writing fresh produce specifications
- Describe the consequences of poorly written specifications.
- Identify resources for writing produce specifications including USDA Commercial Item Descriptions (CIDs).
Register here.

2. Healthy Schools Campaign: Change For Good Town Hall
August 13 // 1pm ET
The crises facing our nation have revealed how much children and families depend on schools for more than just a quality education. Schools serve as essential community anchors that provide daily meals, outdoor space and critical mental and physical health services. With so much at stake in the upcoming election and the coming school year, Healthy Schools Campaign is hosting a virtual town hall to hear from national and local leaders, education and health experts, and you. A networking session will follow the virtual event at 2 PM ET. Register here.

3. Webinar: Connecting Children With Local Foods and Farmers Through Summer Meal Programs
August 20 // 11am ET
In this webinar hosted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), join summer meal experts who will share best practices and lessons learned from their experience piloting their own “Farm to Summer” initiatives during the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and learn about IATP’s report documenting the opportunities and challenges of Farm to Summer!  Register here.

4. EQUITY Webinar: Delivering More Than Food: Understanding and Operationalizing Racial Equity in Food Hubs
August 24 // 2:30pm ET
The webinar, sponsored by the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems in association with the Racial Equity in the Food Systems Workgroup, will share results from a qualitative study led by a diverse group of food system practitioners as to how U.S. based food hubs understand and operationalize engagement in racial equity work. You will hear examples of how food hubs operationalize equity within their business, and with their partners, and with the community they serve.  Authors and food hub leader discussants will also offer perspectives on the deeper questions that must be addressed to meaningfully support equity across the food system. Register here.

5. Webinar: Cooperatives 101
August 26 //  6:30pm - 8:30pm ET
Join this free webinar with Center for Cooperatives in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State. and GDUCCI will present this Cooperative 101 webinar course where we welcome farmers, organizations, and folks in the food industry to learn about what a cooperative is, and how cooperatives work. Learn more and register.

6. Virtual Listening Sessions: Feasibility of Insuring Local Food Production
August 17-20, 24-28, 31, and September 1-3
As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress required USDA's Risk Management Agency to solicit feedback about improved crop insurance coverage options for farmers and ranchers selling through local food markets. This includes discussing how existing crop insurance programs can be improved, as well as exploring the possibility of a new crop insurance program. There are several scheduled Zoom listening sessions, which will be held from mid-August through early September with the sessions for farmers and ranchers divided by region, commodity, and market channel. Please contact Andre Williamson (240-432-0308 OR email: awilliamson@agralytica.com), President of Agralytica, with any questions. If you email, please include “Local foods insurance” as your subject line.

7. EQUITY Black Farming: Beyond "40 Acres and a Mule."
September 11-12
People of African descent have a long agricultural tradition. In spite of their forced farm labor under chattel slavery in the Americas, in emancipation most African Americans returned to this tradition as independent farmers or sharecroppers. Co-sponsored with Antioch College and The National Afro American Museum and Cultural Center, this conference will be discussing the influential history of black farmers in Ohio with an emphasis on the strength of community, preparing the next generation of underrepresented farmers for the future, and cultivating the cooperative business model to promote healthy farming and sustainable businesses. There will be keynote addresses, breakout sessions, networking, a resource fair, and more! Learn more and register. 


Research & Resources 
1. NFSN COVID-19 National Farm to School Network  (NFSN) COVID Support Survey
More than 100 days into the COVID-19 pandemic, NFSN remains committed to supporting you, the farm to school & ECE community, through this crisis. As a new school year approaches, we're pausing to ask - what kinds of support can National Farm to School Network provide to help you do your work in the coming months? Please take our short, 8 question survey to share your feedback!

2. COVID-19 NFSN National Farm to School Network - 2020 Back to School: Farm to School/ECE and COVID-19 Resource List
National Farm to School Network is compiling back-to-school resources that will be relevant to farm to school and farm to ECE stakeholders during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. See the resource list. Have resources to suggest? Please email us at info@farmtoschool.org

3. COVID-19 How Is COVID-19 Impacting Your Community? The Federal Reserve Wants to Hear From You
Deadline: August 12
In April and June, the Federal Reserve System conducted surveys to understand better the range of challenges facing under-resourced and low-income communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings are available in Perspectives from Main Street: The Impact of COVID-19 on Communities and the Entities Serving Them. The insights gained from previous survey rounds helped understand how this crisis is affecting organizations, like yours, supporting community needs, and directly informed policymaking deliberations within the Federal Reserve. The survey should take about 10 minutes to complete. Take the survey here.

4. Seeking 2020 Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HHFI) Application Reviewers
Deadline: August 31
Reinvestment Fund is looking for food systems and food access experts to serve as application reviewers for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Targeted Small Grants Program.The 2020 HFFI Targeted Small Grants Program is making $3 million available for grants to innovative fresh food retail and food system enterprises that seek to improve access to healthy food in underserved areas. We are seeking reviewers with personal and professional experience with improving access to affordable, nutritious food through food retail. Reviewers will be required to participate in a training session, which will be done by a video or conference call, prior to reviewing the applications. No travel is required. Reviewers will receive a stipend. Apply here.

5. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB): Call for Papers on Sustainable Management of Food
Deadline: September 15
While the greatest impact on sustainability of food systems is related to food production, this is outside the scope of JNEB. However, an important aspect of the sustainable management of food that is within JNEB’s scope is investigation of reductions in food loss and waste that involve behavioral changes. For those studies involving an intervention, authors do not need to make a clear connection between their intervention and increasing sustainability, but acknowledgement of this link should be evident in the Introduction and Implications section, with caution not to overstate results. Examples of papers that would fall with this topic include: Food Waste in a School Nutrition Program After Implementation of New Lunch Program Guidelines and A Plate Waste Evaluation of the Farm to School Program. Learn more.

6. North American Food Systems Network's (NAFSN) Sourcebook
Online training in food systems work is growing due to its safety, convenience, and cost-effectiveness in these times. The North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN) would like to help promote online training opportunities through its free Sustainable Food Systems Sourcebook. Listings include certificates, webinar series, workshops, and the like related to the production, marketing, and consumption of good food. Online training programs can be for-fee or for-free, but should be available to everyone in North America. If you are directly involved with or know of a remote learning opportunity or online training program focused on food systems work, email Javier Ramirez at jar548@cornell.edu with a brief description of the program or opportunity and your contact information.

7. COVID-19 Georgia Organics' Seed Sharing Toolkit
As many school districts return to school virtually, there is a demand for hands-on learning opportunities. In an effort to support active, experiential learning while strengthening community Farm to School connections, Georgia Organics has created the Seed Sharing Toolkit. This guide includes advice on the sourcing and distribution of seeds and educational resources in partnership with school or community meal providers. View the toolkit here.


Policy News
1. COVID-19 NFSN Sign-On To Endorse NFSN's COVID-19 Federal Policy Platform
As Congress works to finalize its next COVID-19 response bill, NOW is that time to make our voices heard. National Farm to School Network's federal policy platform calls on Congress to strengthen its support for school meal and child nutrition programs, farmers and those who feed us, Native communities, essential workers, children and families, and others who have been historically underserved and underrepresented. Please add your voice by endorsing our federal COVID-19 policy platform, and help us advocate for key food systems priorities on Capitol Hill. Sign on here.
2. COVID-19 Issue Brief: COVID-19 School Reopening: Supporting School Meals and Students' Health in School Year 2020-2021 
View this brief co-authored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Michigan, and the Center for Ecoliteracy on policy recommendations for supporting school nutrition programs as they reopen for the next school year. View the brief and The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics statement on the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act here

3. New Massachusetts Law Will Require High-Poverty Schools to Provide Breakfast After the Bell
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed what supporters called the Breakfast After the Bell bill Tuesday. Starting in 2022, schools with 60 percent or more of students eligible for free or reduced meals must offer breakfast after the bell, which could mean the food can be eaten in class or picked up to eat later in the morning or day. Read more.


In The News
Since March, U.S. Schools Have Been Able to Feed Anyone Under 18. Now, They’ll Have to Turn Some Kids Away.
At the same time they’re facing new populations of food-insecure students, school nutrition directors are preparing to scale down their food distribution efforts, gearing up to charge for meals again, and bracing to say they can’t provide for every child in a family. (The Counter)

New Indigenous Food Lab Looks to Mend a Broken System
Plans to open the very first Indigenous Food Lab in Minnesota is underway. The space will include a restaurant, a training kitchen and education center, and aims to be a hub for Indigenous food education. Owners hope the lab and others like it will allow Indigenous people to reclaim cultural food traditions that have been absent for multiple generations. (Modern Farmer)

A Portland Farm Seeks to Restore Black People to the Land
The Black Futures Farm is part of a coalition of Black and African-identifying food producers that, along with educators, community builders and advocates, are working towards a goal of Black food sovereignty. The Black Food Sovereignty Coalition aims to provide healthy, culturally relevant food to people in the Black community through stewardship of the land and to deconstruct barriers to wealth through the creation of food. (Oregon Public Broadcast)

Georgia Preschool Farm Stand Clears Final Hurdle to Sell Produce
The Forest Park, Georgia City Council on Monday granted a conditional use permit to Little Ones Early Learning Center to sell produce they grow in their own garden along with organic produce from area farms. City code enforcement had ordered the stand to close last year because the school is located in a residential area that previously was not zoned for commercial activity. (The Atlanta-Journal Constitution)
Read past editions of This Week for more funding opportunities, webinars and events, jobs, and ways to take action to support farm to school growth across the country.

New Ways to Farm to School: Utah-Farmers Feeding Utah

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 11, 2020
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. 

New Ways to Farm to School: Maryland-Facetime with a Farmer

NFSN Staff Monday, August 10, 2020
From Vermont to Georgia and Utah to Virginia (and thousands of places in between) farm to school efforts are rapidly adapting to promote community-grown food and the health and wellbeing of children, families, farms and communities. There is no one magic formula to help children feel more connected while social distancing, support families in home gardening and nutrition education, or address food insecurity, but that has not stopped folks from around the country from stepping up to meet the needs of their communities. 
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 Farm Alliance Baltimore
Story submitted by Anne Rosenthal, Farm to School Programming Specialist at Great Kids Farm in Baltimore, Maryland
Great Kids Farm (GKF), a 33-acre property of abundant fields and forest just west of the city, was originally bought by Rev. George Freeman Bragg as a school and foster home for young boys from Baltimore City. The school provided kids not only with educational opportunities but also with practical experience in agriculture and other trade skills. The land was then purchased by Baltimore City Public Schools in the 1950s, and then in 2008 a campaign clean up and restore began. Currently the land is owned and operated by Baltimore City Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services and used by Great Kids Farm in partnership with Baltimore City Schools as a space to help students connect deeply to the sources of their food, and commit to leading their communities towards a healthier, greener future.

“The students were super engaged and really enjoyed seeing the different plants and animals! It was such a great opportunity to connect the learning that they're doing virtually to real life!” – Hannah Kennedy, first grade teacher at Elmer A. Henderson: after a Facetime the Farmer session.

A Facetime the Farmer Session at GFK. Photo courtesy of Laura Genello
With daily on-farm programs cancelled at GKF, the farm to school staff has sought new ways to reach students. In coordination with the Living Classroom Foundation and Friends of Great Kids Farm, GKF created more than 3,000 windowsill garden activity kits which included tomato and pepper seedlings sourced from produce grown at Great Kids Farm. These kits and seedlings were distributed directly to summer programs serving students. 

Photo of one of the 3,000 windowsill garden activity kits developed by GKF staff.
Photo courtesy of Laura Genello
A regular part of the GKF experience for students is curriculum-aligned field trips to the farm, themed student summits with expert-led workshops, and paid work opportunities for highschoolers. While much of the in-person programming has been suspended due to the pandemic, GKF and the farm to school staff has been able to continue to engage students in farm-based education through "Facetime the Farmer" sessions. During these sessions GKF provides live, virtual farm tours, aiming to align with the students current curriculum. GKF and farm to school staff have also started a Youtube series, What’s GROWIN on @ the Farm? to engage students and families while providing a glimpse of the farm from their homes. 

Advisory Board Perspectives: Wande Okunoren-Meadows and Little Ones Learning Center Team

NFSN Staff Wednesday, August 05, 2020
This post is part of National Farm to School Network's new series of interviews with members of our Advisory Board about the impacts, challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 has brought about for the farm to school movement. 


Photo Credit: Linden Tree Photography (courtesy of Little Ones Learning Center) 
Name: Wande Okunoren-Meadows
Title: Executive Director
Organization: Little Ones Learning Center
Location: Forest Park, GA 
First-year on the National Farm to School Network Advisory Board

Little Ones Learning Center Team: Stacie McQuagge (Farm to ECE Educator), Pang Skelton (Little Lions Farm Stand), and Luyanda Koboka (Master Gardener)

Wande Okunoren-Meadows and her dedicated team at Little Ones Learning Center joined Sadé Collins, NFSN Programs Fellow, to discuss the COVID-19 emergency in early care and education (ECE) centers. Wande and partners share how Little Ones Learning Center is using innovation in farm to ECE and the importance of building resilient and equitable community food systems during this time. 

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

“There continues to be a need for wholesome grab-and-go options and funding to support farmers providing local produce and ECE providers continuing nutrition education. Food banks are not enough.” -Wande Okunoren-Meadows


Little Ones Learning Center in Forest Park, Georgia has continued to live up to their motto “Where Children Grow. Serving the Child, Family and Greater Community” even during unprecedented times. Over the years, the center has prioritized healthy eating and bringing their community together to educate parents and children on healthier food choices. Farm to early care and education (ECE) is part of their holistic environment where young learners are able to plant, care for and harvest their own foods on-site. This hands-on engagement provides nutrition education and the promotion of local foods.
Sade: Briefly tell us about your current professional role and your connection to National Farm to School Network. 

Wande: I am the Executive Director of Little Ones Learning Center in Clayton County. The center is located in the suburb area of metro Atlanta where the Child Well Being Index is the lowest of the metro Atlanta counties. The index provides a sense of the direction of overall well-being and resources that are needed to tackle complex issues and drive sustainable change. Supporting child and family well-being during the pandemic has called attention to opportunities for positive change and that there is much work that needs to be done in the area in which the center resides.

Stacie: I have served as the Farm to ECE Educator and the lead for farm to ECE programming for the last 3-4 years.

Pang: I am the assistant to everyone at the center, I do everything. 

Luyanda: I serve as the Master Gardener and am responsible for Tasty Tuesdays.

“Teaching children about social distancing, as the children are transitioning back to the center, is hard because they don’t understand why they cannot be with their friends and other teachers.” -Pang

Sade: Tell us about how the COVID-19 emergency has impacted your work. 

Wande: The COVID-19 emergency has impacted the work of the center in a way that is uncertain.  The impacts have been felt by the community, the local food banks, and the children. Neighbors inquire about receiving food from the center from time to time to help feed their families and local food banks and meal sites were initially not accessible for all children in the area which presented equity challenges. Now, due to public outcry, local administrators have changed their practices to include young children. There continues to be a need for wholesome grab-and-go options and funding to support farmers providing local produce and ECE providers continuing nutrition education. Food banks are not enough.

Stacie: It has been difficult not being able to see the children and children not being able to see us, so we are trying to make things as normal and accessible as possible for children and parents. Our chef is still preparing fresh foods while using fresh ingredients sourced locally as well as from our own school garden. To adapt our Farm to ECE program for COVID-19, we have been using virtual platforms to do taste test activities and learning games with the children that are not able to be at the center, such as Funtastic Fridays, where children do a different activity each week based on the Harvest of the Month. Some of the foods they have made and sampled are berry and yogurt parfaits, blueberry bark, Texas Caviar, and blueberry juice through the USDA Grow It, Try It, Like It kit. To extend our Farm to ECE educational program for the children at home, we are working with the Small Bites Adventure Club for a pilot program at home.  For the families at our center, as well as the families in the community, we have been distributing farm fresh produce through the Hand, Heart + Soul Project's Farmers to Families Food Box program. This program is providing families in the community farm fresh produce every Thursday, for 6 weeks, distributing about 300 boxes per week. [Note: the Hands, Heart + Soul Project received a grant from National Farm to School Network's COVID-19 Relief Fund.]

Luyanda: At this time, I am really missing the children, especially gardening and talking with the young learners about harvesting. Overall, there is a void.

Pang: The number of children at the center has decreased and more families are staying home which has impacted the centers house and teachers schedules. Teaching children about social distancing, as the children are transitioning back to the center, is hard because they don’t understand why they cannot be with their friends and other teachers.

Sade: What inequities and challenges are you seeing as a result of the COVID-19 emergency?  

Wande:  It is frustrating, it is inequity, upon inequity. Grab-and-go, shelf table food while convenient, is not always the most nutrient dense and nutritious, wholesome food to sustain kids long term.

“Getting businesses to help our communities with resources such as food is our goal. We want to provide children with healthy foods such as fresh produce from gardening and the food that is offered isn’t always nutritious and healthy.”-Stacie


Sade: Thinking about what has helped Little One’s Learning Center continue to offer enriching nutrition education and resources for young learners and families, what relationships have been meaningful and impactful during this time?

Wande: Existing relationships, networks and partnerships have provided critical support to Little Ones Learning Center’s work during this time.  Georgia Organics, a non-profit providing direct support to small and organic farmers, has been a great partner in engaging in meaningful dialogue. Additionally, funding from National Farm to School Network will allow the center to purchase more boxes from Small Bites Adventure Club, an organization that offers farm-to-table cooking kits for classrooms, to introduce local foods to kids. 

Stacie: Getting businesses to help our communities with resources such as food is our goal. We want to provide children with healthy foods such as fresh produce from gardening and the food that is offered isn’t always nutritious and healthy. Also, young learners are not getting time in the garden and have to wear masks which is different for small children. Social interaction is also missing because the classrooms are no longer gardening together. 

“Emerging out of COVID-19, there is the idea of understanding collaborations through “equitable dinners”....the sharing of different perspectives would lead to meaningful collaborations.”-Wande


Sade: What are you doing now, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, that you hope to keep moving forward, once we emerge out of an emergency state?

Wande: Emerging out of COVID-19, there is the idea of understanding collaborations through “equitable dinners” by bringing various stakeholders such as health, educators, farmers and parents together to have dialogue. This dialogue would be accompanied by facilitated sessions that are about how the different worlds intersect. For example, explaining monocrop farming, genetically modified organisms and multigenerational farming to parents. The sharing of different perspectives would lead to meaningful collaborations.

StacieEmerging out of COVID-19, there is interest in continuing online taste testing monthly or weekly for family night to keep families engaged.

Luyanda: This time has allowed for focusing on lesson planning and revamping priorities at the center. Overall it has been great seeing parents engage more on social media and through other online platforms.

Pang: Communication through social media has been helpful in engaging families. A weekly newsletter has also been created to keep families informed of what is happening at the center and other local opportunities. I hope all parents support local farmers moving forward. 


“Kids need to know how to grow their own food and understand that they can do many things on their own without approval or waiting on others to "save" them. The less we have to get "permission" from the government or others to do things that we know are good and beneficial to children and for communities, the better.”-Wande 


Sade: What has this crisis shown you about our country’s food system?

Wande: The crisis has uncovered the food system needs work. The “Stay-at-Home” mantra is not applicable to all. It has shown that grocery store workers are essential and they cannot stay at home. Child care centers are still open and needed for people who are working outside of home. 

Sade: Why is farm to ECE, and more broadly, community food systems, so important right now?

Wande: Kids need to know how to grow their own food and understand that they can do many things on their own without approval or waiting on others to "save" them. The less we have to get "permission" from the government or others to do things that we know are good and beneficial to children and for communities, the better. There is no reason that there should be regulations around children eating from the garden or purchasing from their onsite garden. It's nature! If we can reach the kids now, at the foundation, we can change the wiring of a generation. 

Stacie: Farm to ECE was very important before COVID-19 and it has come into play because children know where food comes from. Farm to ECE concepts are also translating from the center to homes.

Pang: Children are missing out on essential needs. 

To learn more about the experience of Little Ones Learning Center staff amidst the COVID-19 crisis, watch Wande testify to members of Congress serving on the DNC planning committee.


This Week in Farm to School: 8/4/20

NFSN Staff Tuesday, August 04, 2020
SIGN UP: National Farm to School Network has weekly e-newsletter to share a roundup of COVID-19 related resources and information with farm to school and farm to ECE stakeholders - similar to what is shared weekly in these This Week in Farm to School blog posts. Sign up here to have this information delivered in your inbox weekly.

Every week, we share opportunities, action items and a selection of media stories that relate to the farm to school movement. To submit an item for consideration, send us an email. To be considered, content should be of national interest to the farm to school community. 


Grants & Funding
1. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Request for Proposals: Research on Agriculture and Local Food Activity in the Appalachian Region. 
Deadline: August 19
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) invites proposals from qualified researchers and consultants to examine agriculture and local food activity in the Appalachian Region (Region) using both quantitative and qualitative analysis. The main purposes of the research are to (1) provide a comprehensive quantitative overview of agricultural and local food activity throughout the Region, including changes over recent years, (2) identify best practices and promising models from across Appalachia, as well as elsewhere in the country, that support the development of local food systems and help farms increase revenues, and (3) identify emerging opportunities in agriculture ,including types of crops and products as well as strategic and technological innovations. The selected contractor will work closely with ARC to shape this effort over the course of a twelve-month period beginning October 1, 2020 and concluding September 30, 2021. Proposals will be evaluated on contractors’ qualifications, expertise, track record, work samples, and cost-effectiveness. Learn more and apply.

2. COVID-19 Northeast BIPOC Farmer Relief Fund 
Deadline: August 20
Are you a BIPOC farmer or fisherperson that has been impacted by COVID-19? The Northeast BIPOC Farmer Relief Fund is now accepting applications from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or People of Color) producers with priority for those who use sustainable, regenerative or environmentally sound practices and who contribute to their community in some way. Funded by Farm Aid, this fund will provide $500 relief payments for up to 200 applicants. Learn more and apply.

3. USDA RFA: Innovating Formal and Non-Formal Educational Experiences in Food and Agricultural Sciences During the Time of Social Distancing
Deadline: August 20 
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Education and Workforce Development RFA now includes a new program area priority to address the need to develop and deploy rapid, reliable, and readily-adoptable strategies in workforce preparation through formal K-14 education, as well as in youth development through non-formal education to cultivate interest and competencies in STEM and agriculture during this challenging time. This program area accepts new applications only. Learn more and apply. Interested applicants are invited to register for an informational webinar on July 28, 2020 at 12:00 pm Eastern Time.

4. USDA's Office of Partnership and Public Engagement RFA: Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program
 Deadline to apply: August 26
Via section 2501 funding, these grants support community-based and non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and Tribal entities to conduct programming to assist producers. The deadline to apply is August 26th (please note, the announcement in the Federal Register incorrectly states the deadline as September 11!) OPPE will host a call for potential applicants on July 28, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. EST (Telephone Number: (877) 692-8955, Passcode: 6433267). No registration needed. Learn more and apply.

5. Cigna Foundation's Healthier Kids For Our Future Grant Program
Deadline: September 30 
Cigna Foundation is looking to partner with school systems and surrounding communities — including clinicians, local and national nonprofits — to supplement existing mental health programming and help close gaps both within and outside the school environment to address loneliness, anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. To that end, it will fund programs that foster collaboration between various stakeholders, including school administrators and teachers, clinicians, and local and national nonprofits. The grants are up to $65,000 grants per year for two years. Learn more and apply.

6. USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Foundational and Applied Science Program RFA
Deadlines: Vary based on program, view RFA for details
The AFRI Foundational and Applied Science Program supports grants in six AFRI priority areas to advance knowledge in both fundamental and applied sciences important to agriculture. The six priority areas are: Plant Health and Production and Plant Products; Animal Health and Production and Animal Products; Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health; Bioenergy, Natural Resources, and Environment; Agriculture Systems and Technology; and Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities. Research-only, extension-only, and integrated research, education and/or extension projects are solicited in this Request for Applications (RFA). See Foundational and Applied Science RFA for specific details.


Webinars & Events
1. National Farmers Market Week
August 2-8
National Farmers Market Week (NFMW) is an annual celebration that highlights the important role farmers markets play in the nation’s food system. This year, amidst a global pandemic and nationwide unrest, it is more important than ever for markets to do their part in bringing people together safely. Learn more and participate.

2. PSU Summer Series: How to Use AMS Market News Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Information in School Meal Programs
August 4 // 2pm CT
At the end of this webinar, participants will be able to:
1. Identify information in AMS Market News reports to aid in school nutrition procurement decisions, including Buy American;
2. Use AMS Market News to determine the market value of produce and factors that impact cost; and
3. Use AMS Market News to check for seasonal availability and associated costs.
Register here.

3. Webinar: Walk-through of New CEP Grouping Tool, Meals Count
August 5 // 2pm ET 
Strategic grouping can maximize federal reimbursement for districts operating the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). But with so many potential combinations, it can be difficult to know which grouping scenario is the best. Meals Count can help! Meals Count is a free interactive, customizable tool to help districts optimize their CEP groupings, maximize school meal funding, and fight childhood hunger. Join this webinar with No Kid Hungry to learn how to use Meals Count and maximize the benefits of CEP in your district.

4. Facebook Virtual Field Day
August 6 // 12:15pm-12:45pm CT
Have you ever been curious about designing a local ingredient-based meal kit?
Hear what North Iowa Fresh has learned with support from a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Farmer/Rancher grant, while piloting some kits this season. Join on Facebook here.

5. EQUITY Webinar: From 21 to 365: The FSNE 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge - Where are we now and how are we moving from here?
August 6 // 1pm ET
Food Solutions New England (FSNE) invited those of you who took part in the FSNE 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge to join us for a participatory** online session to revisit our shared learnings from the Challenge, consider them in light of what has been happening in the weeks since, and hear from one another in small groups about how we are applying our knowledge and commitments to take action now and in the year ahead. There is no charge to attend, but registration is required. Please come prepared to listen, learn, be inspired and to share your thoughts if you are moved to do so.

6. Prescott College's Food Systems Friday Webinar Series
Aug 7 // 12pm PT
Join Dr. Robin Currey, Director of the MS in Sustainable Food Systems program at Prescott College, as the "Food Systems Fridays" series moderator for Episode 13 of Food Systems Friday: Re-indigenizing Food. Learn more, register, and view past webinars here. 

7. Change For Good Town Hall
August 13 // 12pm CT
The crises facing our nation have revealed how much children and families depend on schools for more than just a quality education. Schools serve as essential community anchors that provide daily meals, outdoor space and critical mental and physical health services. With so much at stake in the upcoming election and the coming school year, Healthy Schools Campaign is hosting a virtual town hall to hear from national and local leaders, education and health experts, and you. A networking session will follow the virtual event at 1PM CST. Register here.

8. Webinar: Delivering More Than Food: Understanding and Operationalizing Racial Equity in Food Hubs
August 24 // 2:30pm ET
The webinar, sponsored by the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems in association with the Racial Equity in the Food Systems Workgroup, will share results from a qualitative study led by a diverse group of food system practitioners as to how U.S. based food hubs understand and operationalize engagement in racial equity work. You will hear examples of how food hubs operationalize equity within their business, and with their partners, and with the community they serve.  Authors and food hub leader discussants will also offer perspectives on the deeper questions that must be addressed to meaningfully support equity across the food system. Register here.

9. NFSN National Farm to Cafeteria Conference Cancelled 
With the utmost concern for the health and wellbeing of our attendees and the Albuquerque community, National Farm to School Network and the 10th National Farm to Cafeteria planning committee have made the difficult decision to cancel the 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, originally scheduled for April 2020 and then rescheduled for April 2021. Gathering in person with amazing farm to cafeteria leaders and practitioners from across the country is a highlight of our work, yet protecting the health and safety of everyone in attendance, as well as the community we are traveling to, is our highest priority. More information and details can be found here. 


Research & Resources
1. NFSN COVID-19 National Farm to School Network  (NFSN) COVID Support Survey
More than 100 days into the COVID-19 pandemic, NFSN remains committed to supporting you, the farm to school & ECE community, through this crisis. As a new school year approaches, we're pausing to ask - what kinds of support can National Farm to School Network provide to help you do your work in the coming months? Please take our short, 8 question survey to share your feedback!

2. COVID-19 NFSN National Farm to School Network - 2020 Back to School: Farm to School/ECE and COVID-19 Resource List
National Farm to School Network is compiling back-to-school resources that will be relevant to farm to school and farm to ECE stakeholders during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. See the resource list. Have resources to suggest? Please email us at info@farmtoschool.org

3. COVID-19 The Longest Summer: Childhood Hunger in the Wake of the Coronavirus
No Kid Hungry has released a new research-driven report, The Longest Summer: Childhood Hunger in the Wake of the Coronavirus. Through two national surveys and a series of video diaries capturing the stories of families from across the country, The Longest Summer Report provides new insight into COVID-19’s impact on children and families. Learn more here. 

4. Study: Association of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act With Dietary Quality Among Children in the US National School Lunch Program
The investigators of this study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), concluded that Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was linked to improved dietary quality for lunch for children who were part of National School Lunch Program. Unfortunately, as the study notes, the act has been watered down over the years. It now allows less whole grains, more flavored milk, and more sodium. Additionally, the US Department of Agriculture is currently considering changing the policy to allow participating schools to serve fewer servings of vegetables. Read more and access the full report.

5. COVID-19 Brief: Child Care and Feeding Young Children during the Pandemic: Exploring the Role of the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program
Many young children depend on the food they receive in child care settings, and specifically food funded by the Child and Adult Food Nutrition Program (CACFP), to meet their daily nutritional needs. Yet many children lost access to these meals when the COVID-19 pandemic caused many child care programs to at least temporarily close. Now, months into the pandemic, a quick scan of existing data and interviews with experts reveals how the CACFP system and policy needs to shift to support young children and the people that care for them. Read more.

6. Earth to Tables Legacies Project
Since 2015, the Earth to Tables Legacies project has brought together a small group of food activists across big differences for an exchange around food justice and food sovereignty. You're invited to explore the new, ever-evolving website that introduces the 17 collaborators (Storytellers), the framing ideas of dynamic tensions and the collaborative methodology (Setting the Table) and 10 videos and 11 photo essays (Conversations) which are the heart of the exchange. Earth to Tables has filmed their conversations and food initiatives, culminating in a multimedia educational package that includes facilitator’s guides, further resources and commentaries by activists and academics. Learn more.

7. No Kid Hungry Back to School Resources
These resources are designed to help schools and child nutrition program operators navigate the unprecedented challenges of School Year 2020-2021 and ensure that children continue to receive the nutrition they need. No Kid Hungry will continue adding new resources and updating this page. View the repository here.

8. A Guide to Transformative Land Strategies: Lessons From the Field
This report, published by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), synthesizes the practices and strategies of transformative community land organizations under three primary themes: participatory comprehensive planning, partnerships across grassroots and mainstream organizations, and community and cooperative financing.  These findings are relevant for activists, practitioners, planners, policymakers, and educators - and the many working between these roles - who are invested in the transformative potential of the Community Land Trusts and other community land ownership models. Read the full report.


Policy News
1. COVID-19 NFSN Sign-On To Endorse NFSN's COVID-19 Federal Policy Platform
As Congress works to finalize its next COVID-19 response bill, NOW is that time to make our voices heard. National Farm to School Network's federal policy platform calls on Congress to strengthen its support for school meal and child nutrition programs, farmers and those who feed us, Native communities, essential workers, children and families, and others who have been historically underserved and underrepresented. Please add your voice by endorsing our federal COVID-19 policy platform, and help us advocate for key food systems priorities on Capitol Hill. Sign on here.

2. COVID-19 NFSN Action Alert: Senate Must Do More For Kids, Farmers & Schools
Last week, Senate leadership released their latest set of COVID-19 relief bills, a $1 trillion bundle of legislation covering business aid, money for schools and agricultural aid funding. While National Farm to School Network is glad that Senators have recognized that our schools and farmers are in urgent need of critical funding support, this proposed legislation from the Senate falls far short of targeting the actual needs of our kids, farmers, educators and school nutrition professionals. Congress should be taking bolder action to respond to this emergency, support those most impacted and help advance us towards a more equitable future for all. Read more on our blog, and take 5 minutes to call your senators using our easy call script

3. COVID-19 "Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act" Introduced
House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott has introduced legislation to make all students eligible for free school meals during the 2020-2021 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would allow all children to access breakfast, lunch, and afterschool snack programs either in school or through “grab and go” and delivery options. National Farm to School Network has endorsed this bill. Read more here. 

4. Small Farm to Schools Act Introduced in House
Last week, Rep. Antonio Delgado (NY-19) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) introduced the Small Farm to School Act, bipartisan legislation that would create an eight state pilot program where local public schools would be reimbursed at a higher rate for sourcing school lunches from small farmers under the National School Lunch Program. Read more here. 


Job Opportunities
1. Director of Operations, The Food Conservancy (Springdale, Arkansas)
The Food Conservancy is a start-up Local Food aggregation and distribution warehouse that seeks to develop an innovative and replicable regenerative food system in Northwest Arkansas. The Director of Operations is responsible for overseeing all functions related to the Food Conservancy’s food hub operation including overseeing product procurement, warehouse operations (stocking, inventory, order fulfillment, quality control), and delivery to customers. Learn more and apply.


In The News
Op-Ed: Opening Iowa to a Just Food System
In a time when racial prejudice and widespread social inequities are finally being acknowledged as unacceptable, I want to draw attention to a kind of systemic injustice we have gotten used to in Iowa. I call it food system brutality. (The Storm Lake Times)

What It Really Means When We Talk About 'Food Justice'
There’s a big difference between charity or philanthropy and real justice that comes from eliminating the barriers to create an equitable future. The energy is different, the aim is different and the actions are different. It’s important for white folks to learn how to pour their resources into people that are already doing that work, as opposed to trying to come into it and taking over. When you give your money over to someone else, you are saying, “I trust you to solve this issue.” (Huffington Post)

What Foodservice Needs Now: Innovation in Produce Processing and Packaging
“Students and school nutrition leaders alike want more options than just baby carrots and sliced apples,” says Dayle Hayes, founder of School Meals That Rock and a Produce for Better Health Foundation Fruit and Vegetable Ambassador in Action. “There is a big opportunity for the produce industry to introduce kids to a greater variety of fruits and vegetables if products can be packaged and ready for distribution to students with no labor needed for prep.” (Produce Business)

Should the Dietary Guidelines Help Fight Systemic Racism?
The new guidelines, published every five years, don’t reflect the nation’s growing diversity, or the particular health and dietary risks that communities of color face. (Civil Eats)


Read past editions of This Week for more funding opportunities, webinars and events, jobs, and ways to take action to support farm to school growth across the country.

Advisory Board Perspectives: Miguel Villarreal

NFSN Staff Monday, August 03, 2020
This post is part of National Farm to School Network's new series of interviews with members of our Advisory Board about the impacts, challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 has brought about for the farm to school movement. 

Name: Miguel Villarreal
Title: Director of Child Nutrition
Organization: San Ramon Valley Unified School District
Location: Danville, CA
Miguel served on the National Farm to School Network Advisory Board from 2017-2019, and as the Advisory Board Chair in 2019.

Jessica Gudmundson, NFSN Senior Director of Finance and Operations, sat down with Miguel for a conversation about how the COVID-19 emergency has impacted his work as a Food Service Director, the challenges and innovations he’s seen, and what all of this means for the future of farm to school and our food system.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

“When I moved out to California [nearly 20 years ago] and started working, I still hadn’t heard of farm to school but what I realized was that the community I was working in had over 60 nearby organic farms and there wasn't any local food being brought into schools. And I thought, something’s very wrong. I didn’t know what it was but I knew that something wasn’t right and I needed to figure it out. That is what ultimately led me to farm to school.”

Jessica: Welcome Miguel. To start, briefly tell me about your professional role and your relationship to NFSN.

Miguel: I’m Miguel Villarreal, Child Nutrition and Warehouse Director, with the San Ramon Valley Unified School District where I've been spending the last year. Prior to that, I was in Novato Unified School District where I spent 17 years. I also spent 20 years in Texas as a School Food Service Director before moving out to California. And honestly, the concept of farm to school was never a thought when I was in Texas. When I moved out to California and started working, I still hadn’t heard of farm to school but what I realized was that the community I was working in had over 60 nearby organic farms and there wasn't any local food being brought into schools.

And I thought, something’s very wrong. I didn’t know what it was but I knew that something wasn’t right and I needed to figure it out. That is what ultimately led me to farm to school. Many different allied groups I met along the way influenced a lot the decisions I've made over the years in how I looked and thought about school foodservice. And it led me to the National Farm to School Network where I spent 6 years as an Advisory Board member.

It’s one of the best organizations I’ve been involved with because of the people that are involved. The way I thought and looked at things have changed over the years. I’ve said before to you Jessica, 90% of my decisions are now made with my heart and 10% with my head. When I met folks from the National Farm to School Network - not only people who work for the organization but all people involved - I realized they also made decisions the same way. We do what we do because we care.

Jessica: I couldn’t agree more. People make up this movement and people are the heart of this work. We do this work because we value everybody’s lives along the food chain. We’re going to talk about COVID-19 and farm to school. How has this emergency impacted your work as a Food Service Director?

“The one thing that Food Service Directors are and food service programs are, is accustomed to change. We adapt well to many different circumstances.” 
Miguel: My work and every other Food Service Director across the country. It’s turned our lives upside down. The one thing that Food Service Directors are and food service programs are, is accustomed to change. We adapt well to many different circumstances. In fact, I've said many times, it’s a curse in a way. We make it happen, regardless of what’s going on. We put food on the table for kids every school day and nobody has any idea how it got done. All they know is that children got fed.

COVID-19 was not any different for many Food Service Directors. We adapted literally overnight. We changed our programs. We went from full salad bars to no touch points, overnight.

Jessica: Have you implemented anything new that you’d like to see continue moving forward?

Miguel: First, I’m hoping the recognition of the importance of the work that’s being done in schools will continue moving forward. The Child Nutrition folks have stepped up to the challenge to feed America’s children during a pandemic.

We’re also seeing more education and meal connection in our programs. I was hearted to see child nutrition professionals on the cover of TIME magazine. When was the last time that happened? Never! They are really essential employees. Why is that so important? For years it was just the minimum - hours worked, salaries earned. I hope that changes. That school administrators, states and federal governments recognize the importance of the School Child Nutrition employees’ work.

Secondly, using local food and focusing not only on locally grown, but also more importantly making sure that food is being produced as organic or regenerative farming, or both. We’re not only taking care of the health of our children; we are taking care of the health of our environment and the planet in general. I’d like to see that continue moving forward.

“Moving forward, I’m hoping we have that universal meal program mentality where we are providing to anyone that needs it. Not just providing food but the best food we can - organic, food good for our children’s health, the environment’s health, and the health of animals.” 
Third, serving everybody universal free meals. This is happening right now. We’re seeing some families come by and pick up meals that may not be on the National School Lunch Program. And we’re also seeing families not participating. Is it because they don’t like our food? No, it’s because they feel like they don’t need our services right now. They haven’t lost a job. They’re not in that situation. We’re providing a service for families that need it. Moving forward, I’m hoping we have that universal meal program mentality where we are providing to anyone that needs it. Not just providing food but the best food we can - organic, food good for our children’s health, the environment’s health, and the health of animals. All that together contributes to a healthier community and society. Not just for our own personal health, but also our economic health as a society.

Jessica: We have also seen some of the exciting things you mentioned in response to COVID-19, and we want to see them continue as we move forward too. The future feels uncertain at this point in time and I know there’s a lot of speculation about what school will look like in the fall. Are kids going back to school? What will school meals look like? How do you plan for those unknowns?

Miguel: We have no idea what the future is going to bring. What we do know is this: School food service programs are super resilient. School food service employees are super resilient. The people in charge are super resilient and able to adapt and figure things out. There’s no doubt about that. We’ve proven that over and over again.

We really need to develop a roadmap of standards. We have this opportunity now. Who needs to be at the farm to school table? I think we have the people and the resources to make those decisions. We need to invest in them.

We’ve seen it in communities around the country where you invest in school food service programs by bringing in the right leadership and providing them with the right resources, whether it be finances or infrastructure. It really has a huge impact in the community. They are seeing the benefit of that. I think we have this opportunity with COVID in that we can bring these community benefits to everybody’s attention.

Jessica: Universal meals is a great platform or starting place to think about all those different components: Investing in leadership, investing in food and justice across the board, taking a look at how school meals happen and why, and how we can improve them. I know many people are concerned about the privatization of school meal programs, meaning schools will hire external companies to implement programs because of financial losses during COVID, and this will impact the quality of food provided to children. Is this something you are worried about?

Miguel: In terms of school districts considering privatizing, you have to step back and see what’s best for your program. Ultimately I think that if you manage foodservice programs correctly and you have the right leadership in your school district, you don’t privatize. The decision to manage the school foodservice program moving forward should not just rely on one economic factor. Such as, are you in the black? Does that need to be considered? Absolutely. But it's not the only economic factor that needs to be considered.

What else is contributing to the economic livelihood of that program? How much are we spending on local farmers? How much are we contributing to the local economy?

What we don’t look at is long-term health. The fact that kids are consuming more fruits and vegetables, in many instances organic, what effect does that have on long-term health consequences? Not only for the children but for the healthcare system. And also, educating the kids along the way - what kind of decisions are they making down the road because of habits they’ve established in schools and at home? So we aren’t only focusing on what's going on in schools, but we are also reaching out to homes and telling families what we are doing and getting them engaged as well. All those things need to be addressed and privatization doesn’t take all of that into consideration.

All that to tell you how important it is that we continue to focus on hiring the right people. I used to say this for years, and I still do: If you are trying to accomplish everything I just mentioned in your program and you’re not seeing results with the people you have, maybe it's time to change. Not privatize, but change the leadership. Or, more importantly, invest in people, make sure they are trained properly and have the right resources. This is what you can get for your community as well.

“The thing is, we have school food service programs and they exist in every community. They truly can be the hub for creating nutrition and wellness environments.” 
Jessica: One of the things that COVID-19 has done is shine a spotlight on schools as centers of community and places that serve communities. It truly demonstrates that the value of school meal programs is what it puts out into the community.

Miguel: Absolutely. The thing is, we have school food service programs and they exist in every community. They truly can be the hub for creating nutrition and wellness environments. I see this around the country in some localized school districts where they are reaching out and creating collaborative partnerships. They’ve invited people to the farm to school table. It’s happening across the country. The attention to our programs has really surfaced.

Jessica: Building on some of the changes we’ve discussed, what challenges are you seeing because of COVID-19? What inequities are you seeing?

Miguel: Yeah, there’s challenges from all directions. That will continue to be part of our program because of people's mindsets. And I’ll use myself as an example. Before I moved to California and was working in Texas, I really wasn’t thinking about the food system in general. My job was to feed children, provide nourishment to children, and work with distributors and manufacturers. That was it. What does a manufacturer produce and who can I get it from, and how is that going to impact the bottom line? That was my focus for the better part of 20 years until I moved out here to California and realized that the food system we work in is much broader and involves so much more than I had ever thought about. By taking that all into context I realized it's far more challenging than we think. There’s so many moving parts you have to consider. Not only the manufacturers but where did the food come from to begin with? Where was it sourced? How is it being grown? Is it organic? What impact does it have on children, environment, animals and so forth?

“I guess the way I would gauge success is when people stop talking about the food system and it’s just inherent. We eat healthy. That’s when we have success when it just becomes who we are. We don’t have to think about it.” 
Jessica: Why is farm to school and our food system so important right now? What are some critical relationships and partnerships that you’ve relied on to do this work?

Miguel: When I came to California, I started creating lots of different collaborative partnerships within our community because I knew that was missing. Starting directly with the schools. Who have I not been talking to?

For example, I had only met about 5 school teachers the entire time I worked in Texas. I had relationships with administrators of course, but I had not considered the teachers in the classroom as partners. And when I came to California, I stood back and asked who are our partners right here, in this school community? Well, it’s made up of teachers, administrators, students. It was so important to make partnerships with those teachers early on. I’m proud to say I made the effort to introduce myself and meet all the teachers in the district. And it took time to make that happen. I wanted them to know that I supported their efforts in the classroom. And in turn, teachers could support Child Nutrition efforts, but we had to work together for the benefit of the students.

I started meeting with lots of student groups as well. It happened over a period of 10 years - it didn’t happen overnight. I met teachers, students, and then the families, through PTA groups. Then I worked on building collaborations outside of the school community. Where are we buying our food from? It included our farmers and ally groups that wanted to join. The collaborative groups grew and developed over the years. Because of that, we had lots of successes. We all want to be a part of a winning team.

Start within and expand outwardly. People want to be a part of the team once they see positive impacts.

I’ll share this last thing: A farmer asked me one time ‘how do you know that you’ve been successful? How do you gauge success? That everything you've put in place is working?’ He caught me off guard but I remember thinking, I guess the way I would gauge success is when people stop talking about the food system and it’s just inherent. We eat healthy. We have success when it just becomes who we are. We don’t have to think about it.

Recent Posts


Archive


Tags

Newsletter Archives

We have lots of great info in our newsletter archive!

View the Archive

Previous   1 2