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Leadership (in a) Crisis

NFSN Staff Monday, August 17, 2020
By Tracey Starkovich, NFSN Operations & Events Manager, and Simone Washington, Lawyers for Children and NFSN Advisory Board Member
The current state of the country, in the midst of the COVID-19 public health crisis and blatant racial inequities and police brutality, highlights the critical need for real leadership. While illness, stress and racial justice movements rise, the opportunity is ripe for developing and supporting authentic leaders who are focused on the values that will move our country, and our food system, forward. These values include: 
  • Abolishing racism, 
  • Environmentally regenerative, sustainable, and just local agriculture,
  • Equitable food production, distribution and service at all levels,
  • Just pay and healthy working conditions for farmworkers, and 
  • Safe and justice-based school systems.
There is a lot of work to be done and we need to examine our leadership development methods to move us beyond the status quo.
 
As the farm to school movement joins others who have already been doing this work, and we organize and mobilize action, what approaches to leadership and leadership development will make the most impact? What can we learn from other movements and our nation’s history about raising up effective leaders?
 
One path towards leadership development throughout the farm to school movement and broader food system is to examine six leadership approaches and how they can impact change and move us towards justice, building a stronger and more equitable society for us all. Each approach has its own set of benefits and goals, but share strong similarities rooted in a set of core values - collaboration, cooperation, and shared accountability -  that will help us create a new way forward together.  
 
The heart of National Farm to School Network is the Collective Impact approach - we continuously aim to build a system where all of us are stronger together than any one of us can be apart. This approach is more likely to solve complex problems than if a single entity or stakeholder were to approach the same problem(s) on its own. The diversity of the stakeholders allows for multiple perspectives to be explored and for resources shared to address the issue. This approach really creates accountability and mutuality, and therefore stakeholders must depend on the strengths of one another and the commitment to achieving a goal to be successful. This is the epitome of the “there is no ‘I’ in Team’” mantra. We must band together to make the necessary impact if we want to make real sustainable change in our communities. 

Farm to school work also lends itself to a Diffused Leadership (or Distributed Leadership) approach, which holds every stakeholder as a valued co-producer and change agent. Farm to school work requires partnerships and collaboration, and there are benefits to not having a single leader - it is a shift from a traditional “power over” dynamic to a “power with” paradigm. 

This type of leadership empowers people to own and act on issues rather than simply be followers and allows for emerging leaders to develop their skills. Many of the state networks and alliances that have been formed around the country ascribe to this leadership style, one example would be the New Mexico Farm to School Alliance. The New Mexico Alliance shares leadership across many BIPOC individuals and organizations, working to elevate significant involvement from the communities most impacted by the local food system and its inequities. 
 
If farm to school seeks to be a truly justice focused movement, we need to implement Nontraditional Inclusive Leadership, which uplifts the voices of those with lived experience, with a focus on the unheard voice. It is equity in practice - creating space for people who historically not been included in high-stake decision-making processes. This approach moves away from assumptive solutions towards those that are rooted in reality, while also increases cultural competency beyond just the theoretical. The centering of whose voice is heard and who is seen as a leader shifts away from the expected and toward the experienced. This leadership style can be seen in work of the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance, which is led by and created for Tribal youth. In addition to their own Alliance they have also created this partnership alongside Intertribal Agriculture Council and in conjunction with a youth voice. They show us that youth participation should not be an afterthought or an accommodation to be made, but stands front and center as its own leadership power - when we allow that power to be shifted to others. 
 
For the past year, the National Farm to School Network has been engaged in a strategic planning process for the future of the movement that follows Adaptive Leadership, recognizing that there are many levers of change at all levels - with an emphasis on non-linear. This style generates innovation and fosters learning while allowing for creative problem solving and testing out ideas. It highlights everyone’s strengths and champions diversity while viewing challenges as an opportunity for evolution and sometimes revolution. The key to this approach is buy-in from various stakeholders as it’s an ongoing process and requires various lift points to keep the work moving forward. Vermont Farm to School has implemented this leadership style through its strategic mapping project – you can learn more about that here.

The work of the Native American Agriculture Fund, led by Janie Hipp, NFSN Advisory Board Member, shows us Ecosystem Leadership, keeping the focus on a larger purpose and motivation to achieve a common goal, working across communities and breaking down silos. This approach is not transactional, it’s transformational in that it's not just focused on addressing a problem, but it’s focused on creating a positive environment to support lasting change. It recognizes the intersectional nature of complex problems and seeks to find solutions that are generative. It also disrupts ineffective and/or structural biased systems. NAAF works across Tribal communities, Tribal needs, and Tribal support organizations to assist existing and aspiring Native farmers and ranchers. Its focus is not limited, it’s intentionally broad to create an entirely different environment for success. 

Glyen Holmes, founder of the New North Florida Cooperative, farmer hero and a true father of farm to school has been a shining example of Asset-Based Leadership for decades. Glyen, and this leadership style, sees the potential for change, looking carefully at what is currently working and what could work. It includes the ability to reframe challenges as opportunities for evolution and progress. If people can see a light at the end of the tunnel they will remain engaged in the process of pursuing change. When you decrease your focus on what is wrong (deficit-based thinking) and increase your focus on what is right (Asset-Based Thinking), you build enthusiasm and energy, strengthen relationships, and move people and productivity to the next level. 

The current state of our country is giving us the opportunity to pause and really reassess our leadership styles and development approaches – what is working and what is possible? What ways can you shift your approach to build a more equitable and inclusive system? Who are the potential leaders in your community whose voices have been muffled? If 2020 is teaching us anything, it’s that our old ways of thinking and doing haven’t been advancing justice and health for all communities, so what will we do now to create the future we all dream of? Now is the time to shift the power to create a new equitable reality – let’s get working.
 
If you’re interested in digging in deeper on any of these leadership approaches we suggest the following resources:

Collective Impact:
Collective Impact (Stanford Social Innovation Review-SSIR)
The Dawn of Systems Leadership (SSIR)
The Collective Impact Forum
What is Collective Impact (Community Resource Toolbox)

Diffused/Distributed Leadership:
Diffused Leadership (Positive Mindful Leader)
Distributed Leadership in a Nutshell (Youtube video)

Nontraditional Leadership:
Nontraditional Approaches to Developing Nontraditional Leadership (Leadership Learning Community)
Investing in Community Leaders (Youtube Video)
Inclusive Leadership Matters (Youtube Video)

Adaptive Leadership:
Adaptive Leadership- Introduction (YouTube Video)
Adaptive Leadership (toolshero)
Adaptive Leadership Resource Page (Tamarack Institute)

Ecosystem Leadership:
What is Ecosystem Leadership? (Medium)
Ecosystem Leader (Learning as Leadership)

Asset-Based Leadership:
Asset-Based Leadership (LinkedIn SlideShare)
Leading from the Bottom-Up: Lessons Learnt in Asset-Based Leadership (Church Urban Fund)

New Ways to Farm to School: Georgia-Feeding Families with Hand, Heart, + Soul

NFSN Staff Friday, August 14, 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 Little Ones Learning Center
Story submitted by: Stacie McQuagge, Farm to ECE Educator at Little Ones Learning Center located in Forest Park, Georgia.

Little Ones Learning Center’s Executive Director is Wande Okunoren-Meadows who is serving her first year on the National Farm to School Network Advisory Board. 
Little Ones Learning Center in Forest Park, Georgia is working hard to adapt their programs and services to meet the needs of the children and families they serve. To continue to provide fresh, local foods to children the Center’s chef is onsite preparing meals using fresh ingredients sourced locally, including from the center’s own garden. When children aren’t on site, the Center features Tasty Tuesdays via Zoom with the Garden Educator. The ingredients are sent home with families the week before so that the participating children can sample the foods at home during the Zoom call. Some of the foods sampled have been berry & yogurt parfaits, blueberry bark, Texas Caviar, and blueberry juice. In addition to Tuesday taste tests, the Center hosts Funtastic Fridays where the Wellness Educator, Stacie McQuagge, hosts a weekly activity for students based on the Harvest of the Month. 


Photo courtesy of Little Ones Learning Center
To extend the Center’s farm to ECE educational program for children at home, Little Ones Learning Center is partnering with the Small Bites Adventure Club for a pilot program which will involve distributing Taste Test kits to the preschool age children who are at home and cannot visit the Center.

Photo courtesy of Little Ones Learning Center 
 For the families at the Center, as well as families with young children in the community, Little Ones has been distributing farm fresh produce through the Hand, Heart + Soul Project's Farmers to Families Food Box. This program involves partnership with farmers, ranchers, specialty crop producers, food processors and distributors, and non-profit organizations to ensure that all Americans have access to the fresh and wholesome food they need during the COVID-19 national emergency. Through this partnership, Little Ones is providing families in the community farm fresh produce every Thursday in July, for 6 weeks. They anticipate distributing about 300 boxes per week.
To hear more about the experience of Little Ones Learning Center staff amidst the COVID-19 crisis and how we can all learn and grow from the lessons learned during the pandemic, check out NFSN’s Advisory Board Perspectives interview series with Wande Okunoren-Meadows and the Little Ones Learning Center team. 

New Ways to Farm to School: Vermont-A Community Collaboration to Address Hunger

NFSN Staff Thursday, August 13, 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.


Sheila Humphreys (left) of Food Connects and Ali West (right), WSESD Food Service Director and Fresh Picks Cafe, unload food for the first week of the weekend foodbox program. Photo courtesy of Conor Floyd
Story submitted by: Conor Floyd, Farm to School Program Manager at Food Connects in Brattleboro, Vermont.
In Brattleboro, Vermont, there is a strong network of anti-hunger organizations that provides relief to families both before the COVID-19 pandemic and especially now. Organized through the Hunger Council, the network collaborates to best meet the growing food security needs of its community.  

"Many people are needing help for the first time,” noted Christine Colascione, of Foodworks. “Navigating the charitable food system can be difficult for many—either knowing who to call or the stigma associated with accessing help.”

On a Hunger Council call, Sheila Humphreys of Food Connects wondered about the needs that families were communicating with Ali West, Brattleboro Town Food Service Director,  and whether families were being served by Foodworks or if they were falling through the cracks. Out of those questions, an idea began to take shape. Could Foodworks and the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union (WSESU) meal program work together to determine which families were not already receiving regular food deliveries from Foodworks, and launch a new, collaborative program to deliver food to these families through the school meal program delivery system?


Members of the Food Team pose for a physically distant photo. The team consists of staff from Food Connects, the VT Foodbank, Foodworks, and Fresh Picks Cafe. Photo courtesy of Conor Floyd
Within a week, a new “Food Team” was formed with staff from WSESU Food Service, Foodworks, Food Connects, and the Vermont Foodbank, and they quickly came up with a plan. Using Foodworks’ existing account with the Foodbank, and with additional grant funding supplied by the Foodbank, Christine launched a new delivery program to families, managed and distributed by Ali West via the Academy School meal site. 

"Through our existing relationships with area schools and local charitable food organizations, Food Connects was able to build upon existing systems and cover a nutritional gap in our community. This was only possible with the help of our amazing partners and we're proud of how quickly our community jumped into action." - Conor Floyd, Food Connects
The Food Team was able to reflect on the systems and steps that were in place that supported the rapid deployment of folks and resources to meet the needs of over 130 families. Their reflection includes the following recommendations:
  • Start with existing connections
  • Identify key action teams
  • Leverage existing resources
  • Think about sustainability 

Read more about this initiative from Food Connects.

New Ways to Farm to School: Virginia-Virtual Taste Tests

NFSN Staff Wednesday, August 12, 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 Project GROWS

Story Submitted by: Nichole Barrows, Director of Education at Project GROWS in Staunton, Virginia
Project GROWS is an educational, nonprofit organization with a mission to improve the health of children and youth in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County, Virginia through garden-based education and access to healthy food. With a 10 acre farm producing 12,000+ pounds of food each year, Project GROWS impacts children and families throughout Virginia.

Kids eat their produce at the farm during field trips and summer camps, in school cafeterias year-round, and for special Farm to School Tastings. Individuals and families can find Project GROWS’ produce at the Staunton-Augusta Health Department Farmer’s Market, the Youth-Run Farm Stand at the Boys & Girls Club, or at partner organizations like the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Over 20 families each year are a part of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share program, where members pick up seasonal, fresh Project GROWS produce. So, when the pandemic forced schools to close, field trips to be stopped, and summer camps to be canceled there was a need to continue to provide healthy, local food options for children and families. 

Project GROWS Food Access Manager, Megan Marshall, assists Staunton City Schools School Nutrition Program in handing out hundreds of meals at Shelburne Middle School. 
Photo courtesy of Project GROWS Facebook
Project GROWS provided on-the-ground logistical support to the Staunton City School Nutrition Program’s meal delivery service to ensure a seamless delivery system to children and families during COVID-19 school closures. Additionally, Project GROWS provided freshly harvested and packaged local produce (spring mix and Hakurei turnips!) from the farm to families through the school’s meal delivery service. To support families in eating local, Project GROWS provided a one pager of nutrition information and weekly recipes for that week’s ingredients. 

A photo of the meal kits created and distributed, courtesy of Project GROWS
To continue to support students remotely, Project GROWS established a virtual Harvest of the Month vegetable tasting. Included on the recipe handouts that accompanied the school meals, was a QR code that families used to access an informational video and resources about the vegetable of that month. These resources were available online to download in both English and Spanish. 

Megan Marshall, Director of Food Access, shows how to prepare Project GROWS' Turnip Stir-Fry recipe.
Photo courtesy of Project GROWS
By bringing this program into a virtual format for students to view in their homes, Project GROWS hopes to creatively continue their  Farm to School mission of connecting kids to fresh produce and educating them about the farm where it was grown!

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.


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