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Supporting Farmers & Vibrant Rural Communities: CoBank and National Farm to School Network

NFSN Staff Friday, October 30, 2020

Farm to school is all about relationships and partnerships. We often hear about the relationships between farmers and schools – a literal farm to school kind of relationship. But there are many other types of partnerships, collaborations and support networks in the background that make the farm to school movement thrive. One of those important partnerships is between National Farm to School Network and CoBank, which have a shared goal of growing farm to school to support farmers and vibrant rural communities. CoBank, one of the nation’s largest providers of credit to the U.S. rural economy, has been a financial supporter of the National Farm to School Network for more than six years, making important farm to school projects – like data research and evaluation, national networking events, National Farm to School Month celebrations, and so much more – possible.

Since 2014, CoBank has been a sponsor of National Farm to School Network’s biannual National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, which has brought together thousands of stakeholders from across the country to network, learn, and collaborate on advancing farm to school and wider cafeteria efforts, including expanding new market opportunities for farmers and agricultural producers and strengthening rural economies.

In 2017, CoBank and fellow Farm Credit bank AgriBank sponsored the development of National Farm to School Network’s “Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools” report, which quantified the financial benefits to farmers when schools source food locally. The report found that not only were surveyed farmers satisfied or very satisfied with most aspects of farm to school sales, but farms participating in farm to school tend to purchase more inputs from the local economy, which results in positive overall local economic impact. 



CoBank has also been a significant supporter of National Farm to School Network’s National Farm to School Month celebration campaigns in October. This year’s theme of It Takes a Community to Feed a Community honors all of those who contribute to feeding our kids and communities – including farmers, harvesters and food hub distributors, school nutrition professionals, educators, garden coordinators, bus drivers and more. Among this year’s campaign activities has been the nomination and selection of 30 Community Food Champions from across the country for special recognition of their important efforts to keep kids and their families fed, especially during this difficult year. CoBank’s sponsorship has allowed National Farm to School Network to specifically recognize the exceptional efforts of five farmers, producers and agricultural community leaders:
  • Rena and Mark Guttridge - Ollin Farms, Longmont, CO - Kena and Mark grow high quality produce for schools and early care and education centers across Boulder County. They also offer farm trips and educational classes to teach and excite students about where their food comes from.
  • Lenny Xiong - Farmer, Cannon Falls, MN - Lenny grows and delivers strawberries, rhubarb, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, eggplant, sugar snap peas, and more to Minnesota schools and early care and education centers. Just this month, he grew loads of colorful carrots for schools in Roseville, MN - a great way to celebrate National Farm to School Month!
  • Mateo Carrasco - Food Justice Organizer, Albuquerque, NM - This summer, through his work with the Southwest Organizing Project, Mateo partnered with Cornelio Candelaria Organics to harvest and distribute more than 1,000 pounds of fresh, local produce to families from Whittier Elementary School in Albuquerque.
  • Josefina Lara Chavez - Farmer Advocate, Davis, CA - Josefina works with Latinx growers on the California Central Coast to coordinate and aggregate their agricultural products for sales, including to school districts, and during the pandemic, to emergency meal programs and food banks. She has helped facilitate thousands of dollars of fair price sales for Latinx growers, who sometimes have otherwise faced language, financial, and other barriers in selling their products.
  • Lauren Jones - Urban Farmer, Shreveport, LA - Lauren, through a partnership with Shreveport Green and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is leading the establishment of a multi-acre urban farm in the heart of downtown Shreveport that will feed 150 families, teach gardening and nutrition education, and foster leadership development opportunity for youth.
Looking forward, National Farm to School Network and CoBank’s partnership is continuing in the coming months with the launch of a new quantitative and qualitative analysis of the producer and supply chain impacts of Washington, D.C.'s Healthy Tots Act, which includes a local procurement incentive program for child care programs purchasing from local farmers and producers. This evaluation will provide valuable data on the impacts of procurement incentive programs and will inform new policy advocacy tools to help elected officials and decision-makers explore and implement policies that support new economic opportunities for farms and increased access to healthy, nutritious food for kids. Stay tuned for more on this new project coming in 2021!

“CoBank’s partnership with National Farm to School Network supports creating new markets for local farmers,” said Sarah Tyree, Vice President, Policy and Public Affairs of CoBank.

“National Farm to School Network is grateful for CoBank’s partnership and investment in our efforts to strengthen farm to school across the country, which is providing new opportunities for farmers, strengthening rural economies, and fostering vibrant and healthy communities,” said Helen Dombalis, Executive Director of National Farm to School Network. “CoBank’s commitment to supporting our mission has been instrumental in allowing us to expand our reach, deepen our impact, and move closer to turning our vision of a just food system that corrects inequities and benefits everyone into reality.”

Meet Our 30 Community Food Champions

NFSN Staff Friday, October 30, 2020

(Top Left to Right) Serena Padilla, Joëll Edwards, Corey Banks, April Smith
(Bottom Left to Right) Gale Livingston, Kadeesha Williams, Disha Patel, David Gardner
As National Farm to School Month comes to a close, we are thrilled to share with you the second round of our 2020 Community Food Champions! This year’s National Farm to School Month theme of It Takes a Community to Feed a Community has been all about recognizing the individuals who make farm to school work - day in and day out - and who have gone above and beyond this year, especially, to keep our kids and their families connected to community food systems.

We called on people like you to nominate your Community Food Champions - the people whose efforts may often go unnoticed, but whose work is absolutely essential to keeping our communities fed - for recognition and a $500 honorarium from the National Farm to School Network as a small token of appreciation. We received more than 200 nominations from across the country, representing nearly every role in the school food and farm to school ecosystem. After announcing our first round of 13 selected Community Food Champions early this month, we’re excited to share with you 17 more Community Food Champions, to round out our 30 awardees for National Farm to School Month 2020. They are:

Amber Woitalla - Community Food Advocate, Cheyenne River Indian Reservation - “Amber harvested 1043 pounds of produce and 169 cups of herbs to share with community members this summer. She recruited numerous youth to help plant and nurture the produce and taught lessons about the health benefits, Lakota and Dakota languages, and Dakota perspectives of the historical value of this food. Knowing that many families have been isolated due to a variety of restrictions, Amber packed up and took the harvest around the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation to many families.”

April Smith - SNAP-Ed Nutrition Coordinator, Minnesota - “Since COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd, April has been a leader in food distribution at four encampments within Minneapolis which impacted over 150 families. April has also partnered with Master Gardeners and a local food hub, the Good Acre, to distribute food from BIPOC farmers to 55 native elders and families. April exemplifies what it means to be a community food hero and has demonstrated unwavering commitment to her community.”

Chester Williams - Founder, A Better Chance A Better Community, North Carolina - “Chester Williams is doing exciting work to uplift the youth and communities in Halifax County and the Roanoke Valley in Northeastern North Carolina, creating opportunities for the youth to shape a healthier world in their own communities and beyond. Before and since COVID, Chester works beside young people to respond to urgent needs of the whole community, foster food sovereignty in his area, and nurture leaders and collaborations that move us toward the world we want for all our people.”

Corey Banks - Operations Associate, The Common Market Southeast, Georgia - “For the past 3+ years, Corey has been a pivotal, behind-the-scenes player in ensuring our fresh, nutritious food reaches our food service teams, students and partners alike safely and smoothly. His contagious positive attitude, resilient spirit, and direct action ensures safe, clean, beautiful food gets picked up from our farms, gets inspected for safety and quality, and ultimately reaches our region's schools and beyond.”

David Gardner - School Nutrition Professional, Cambridge Public Schools, Massachusetts - “David has always been an integral part of our school food services team. However, once the pandemic hit he had to adapt nearly every aspect of our meal service. His responsibilities of managing inventory, coordinating drivers, collaborating with vendors for orders which had been historically stable interactions were now impacted by so many forces out of anyone's control. As district staff was cut in half, use of 13 kitchens was consolidated to 2, on site meal preparation transitioned to contactless delivery to 8 different sites through the city, David was always a beacon of calm.”

Disha Patel - Food Justice Educator, Common Ground, Connecticut - “Disha is a pioneer for food justice, land sovereignty, youth opportunity, farm and labor rights, and so much more. She started a mutual aid fund with other social justice organizations like during the pandemic, hand delivering food boxes grown on her school farms to families. She also works with students as an educator implementing the most culturally aware lesson plans that I've seen, including the Black Panther Smoothie lesson, and Common Grounds infamous cooking club that is vegan, allergen free, delicious, and each month they visit a new culture and tradition!”

Gale Livingston - Farmer, Deep Roots Farm, Maryland - “Gale's dedication to building a healthier and more just food system are unparalleled. She is a hands-on farmer, maintaining 500 acres of land, with a mission for her farm space to become a place where there is equitable access to quality organic produce. She also works with local schools like Kimball Elementary to provide produce through weekly farm shares, which are used to teach family cooking classes. Her hands may be dirty from being immersed in soil all day but her heart is golden.”

Jay Holly - Afterschool Educator & Community Food Advocate, Virginia - “In addition to being an inspiring and tireless afterschool educator for local youth, Jay is also an excellent chef and has consistently supported and championed efforts to provide students with summer field trips to our farm, "Young Chefs" cooking classes, veggie tastings, take-home snack packs for students using local produce, and a Youth-Run Farm Stand in the Boys and Girls Club parking lot. Most recently, Jay supported an online video series called "Super Summer Chefs" we launched to connect with students during the pandemic.”

Joëll Edwards - Farm to School Hui Project Manager, Mālama Kaua’i, Hawai’i - “Joëll is a true unsung hero in the local Kauaʻi food community. When COVID began to shutdown our island, Joëll sprung into action. She began managing all of the intake calls for families and kupuna (elders) who were most in need of food through Malama Kauaʻiʻs CSA bag program so that local produce was delivered to their homes. She coordinated various avenues of food distribution for the USDA Farm-to-Families program through 10 sites across the entire island, which allowed over 15,000 local produce bags to be given out to families for free. Through her personal connections and ability to navigate through adverse situations, Joëll has shown us how much our community can accomplish together with a shared vision.”

Kadeesha Williams - Community Horticulturist and Urban Agriculturist, NYBG’s Bronx Green-Up, New York - “I have learned so much from Kadeesha about providing nutritious food to my community. She has even opened doors for me to gain employment in this field that I grew to love and want to be part of. She is self-taught and very knowledgeable about urban farming and how to help people become sustainable and teach others.”

Kena and Mark Guttridge - Farmers, Ollin Farms, Colorado - "Kena and Mark demonstrate a passion for and commitment to growing nutrient dense, high quality produce for children across Boulder County. When the pandemic hit, we asked if they would be willing to double the number of CSA shares they had initially agreed to provide for our child care programs and they agreed without giving it a second thought. They also helped us strategize safer models for the in-person farm trips and nutrition education classes they provide Farm to ECE participants."

Lenny Xiong - Farmer, Cannon Falls, Minnesota - “Lenny grows strawberries, rhubarb, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, eggplant, sugar snap peas, and more to Minnesota schools and early care and education centers. In the spring, Lenny via the Good Acre supplied schools in Robbinsdale, MN with local strawberries and rhubarb for a strawberry-rhubarb sauce kit that contained a recipe and video tutorial for children in the Robbinsdale Area district. Just this month, he grew loads of colorful carrots for schools in Roseville, MN - a great way to celebrate National Farm to School Month! We are so grateful for local partners such as Lenny who go the extra mile to provide delicious produce for students.”

Malcolm Snead - Food Service Director, Creede Consolidated Schools, Colorado - “Chef Malcolm is committed to making his school lunch program the best rural meal program in the state! He is constantly exposing his students to new cuisines and exciting flavors; things that are not very common in their tiny mountain town. It's common to find Colorado-grown produce on his menu - he has even managed to incorporate Colorado Quinoa into a burrito! He is a leader in this space when it comes to making the procurement of local foods look normal. On top of his amazing meals, he also started a culinary program for 8th and 9th graders. He is doing whatever he can to ensure that the children in his community are well-fed and truly nourished.”

Patricia Cain - Second Grade Teacher, New Mexico - “Mrs. Cain is a second grade dual language teacher at James Elementary and leader of the school/community garden, which has 224 raised beds. Despite COVIE-19, Mrs. Cain still made sure the garden was planted, maintained, and watered so the students would have fruits and vegetables when they returned to school. Unfortunately, the students haven't returned yet, so the produce has been donated to community partners and frozen so the students will be able to do cooking and nutrition activities when they return. She is truly our garden angel.”

Samantha Oster - Farm to Preschool Coordinator, New York - “Samantha adapted Grow it, Try it, Like it food lessons, recorded, edited and uploaded those lessons to Youtube so the pandemic didn't stop nutrition education in our daycare center. She also helped coordinate fresh food boxes to be sent home with families, and recorded recipie demonstrations for how families could use this food. I believe that by implementing Farm to Preschool remotely, she helped continue to provide safe nutrition lessons to children and parents without compromising the safety of our staff nor the families we work with.”

Sarah Nesky - School Nutrition Professional, Suttons Bay Schools, Michigan - "Sarah has been working tirelessly since the pandemic started, providing 200 breakfast and lunch bags for our students 5 days a week that were delivered from March 16th until school started this September. Plus we also had the summer GSRP group and the other student programs on site at the school including driver's education training. She even worked during the spring break to make sure the students didn't go hungry. Sarah really cares for the children of our area, and works long hours to make sure they are taken care of and get the freshest produce we can purchase."

Serena Padilla - Newburgh Program Manager & Garden Educator, Land to Learn, New York - “Serena leads an empowered learning community of students who explore their school garden, discovering its diverse habitat, observing how plants work, understanding where food comes from, creating artwork, practicing literacy skills, and harvesting veggies to make healthy snacks. This gardening season, as schools are closed due to the pandemic, Serena contributed to the 200 pounds of produce that Land to Learn donated to food relief efforts and also participated in the formation of networks that are helping people feed themselves. She has stayed engaged with her students by offering them garden-at-home kits, producing educational videos, and hosting virtual lessons. Serena is a dedicated champion of food education and food system justice!”


(Top Left to Right) Lenny Xiong, Samantha Oster, Amber Woitalla, Chester Williams
(Bottom Left to Right) Sarah Nesky, Jay Holly, a Malcolm Snead school lunch, Patricia Cain
In addition to these Champions, meet the first 13 Champions we announced here. We are so inspired by and grateful for all 30 of these individuals who make strong, resilient food systems work and keep their communities nourished. THANK YOU for all you do!

Special thanks to CoBank and Carton2Garden for sponsoring our National Farm to School Month campaign and making our 2020 Community Food Champion recognitions possible!

Meet Our First 13 Community Food Champions

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 22, 2020

Meet our first 13 Community Food Champions! These pictures are ordered to follow the stories below, starting top row left to right, followed by middle row left to right, etc.

October is National Farm to School Month. And this year, we're approaching our celebrations of National Farm to School Month with a theme of "It Takes a Community to Feed a Community." We've always known that farmers, farmworkers, harvesters, food distributors, school nutrition professionals, teachers, garden coordinators, bus drivers, school volunteers, and many others are the people who make farm to school work – day in and day out – and they've had to go above and beyond this year, especially, to keep our kids and communities connected to community food systems. 
 
So throughout October, we're honoring them with activities that express appreciation, amplify underrepresented voices, and shift power – all in an effort towards creating a more equitable and just food system.
 
One of the cornerstones of our campaign is recognizing the individuals who go above and beyond to keep their communities fed. So we've been asking folks like you to nominate your Community Food Champions for recognition and a $500 honorarium as a small token of appreciation for their efforts. 

Last week at our 2020 Movement Meeting, we were excited to announce the first 13 selected Community Food Champions. Let us introduce you to them!
 
Debra WadeECE Food Service Manager in Michigan - “Debra is the Child Development Center Cook at Baxter Community Center - we call her Grandma Dee. Everyday 70+ children are fed FROM SCRATCH nutritious hearty meals. Whether it is pizza or collard greens from our garden, Grandma Dee is picking, cleaning and making the dough. Even our infants are eating homemade baby food! Not only does Grandma Dee help grow vegetables in our greenhouse and garden, she nurtures the staff and students and serves with so much love. Her heart is huge and her love is contagious.”

Imelda RodriguezCommunity Food Advocate in California - “Imelda is an incredible force in our community. She founded Cosecha A Mesa, which is dedicated to empowering students to use gardening, food, and plants as a form of healing. She is always trying to tackle systemic problems with food education and food justice, and her work has directly addressed the systemic issues that have been highlighted recently to give students tools to help their families during times of need. Imelda is creating a space for students to feel empowered.” 

Curt CanadaGarden & Food Literacy Teacher in Washington, DC - “Curt is the Garden and Food Literacy Teacher at Stoddert Elementary School, where students spend at least 12 hours throughout the year in the garden learning how to dig, plant, see, taste, smell, harvest, question and more. During the pandemic, Curt has continued teaching by filming instructional videos for the students so they could see their harvest, the garden and continue learning. He has also posted weekly to his Facebook for students, families and the greater community to visit the garden and pick up seedlings to start their own gardens.”

Kim LeungFood Service Director in California - “Kim has a strong dedication to making sure children are fed well during this pandemic. As Food Service Director at Goleta Union School District, she has led her team in continuing to provide scratch-cooked homemade meals – like pozole, pineapple kahlua pork bowls, homemade mac and cheese (made with carrots), teriyaki bowls, and more – to children throughout the school year and summer.  She has also worked with organizations to obtain local produce that may otherwise go into the trash to feed children and families in her community.”

Lauren JonesUrban Farm Educator in Louisiana - “Lauren has worked tirelessly to make environmental changes throughout our city since she started with Shreveport Green nearly 5 years ago. In that time, I have witnessed her establish solid foundations to increase food security by providing gardening and nutrition education to students at over 20 schools and recreation centers in the parish. She has also managed and trained 80 AmeriCorps members, who teach and assist with this work. Recently, she has started a new project to establish a multi-acre urban farm in the heart of our downtown that will feed 150 families, teach gardening & nutrition education, and incorporate the involvement of youth in our community.”

Mateo CarrasacoFood Justice Organizer in New Mexico - “This summer, with the help of a team of volunteers and youth interns at Cornelio Candelaria Organics, Mateo and farmer Lorenzo Candelaria distributed almost 1,000 pounds of fresh produce to families in the International District Neighborhood through a partnership with Albuquerque Public Schools’ Whittier Elementary and their community school team. Every week, Mateo and his team assembled fresh food boxes for families to pick up through grab-and-go food distribution pick up at the school.”

Dawn BauerElementary School Secretary & Food Pantry Supervisor in Montana - “Dawn is our elementary secretary and supervises our school pantry. Since March 16th, Dawn has coordinated the donation of over 10,000 lbs of pantry food items, 100s of personal hygiene products, over 2,000 weekend backpack meals, and thousands of coats, shoes, socks, hats, gloves, jeans, shirts, socks, underwear, and backpacks for students and their families. Dawn also created a Crockpot Club for elementary students, where kids were given crockpots and then taught how to assemble meals in them as part of an afterschool program. Dawn's spirit and creativity are indefatigable!” 

Lachelle CunninghamCulinary Education Manager in Minnesota - “Lachelle is a local foods rockstar! This year, Lachelle championed a new culinary program that will teach culinary skills, school nutrition guidelines and kitchen safety. After 8 weeks of classroom and lab work, our school district will be hosting these students as interns in our school kitchens, with the hopes of hiring them. Lachelle has also been committed to equity by partnering with local nonprofits who serve refugees, immigrants and women to prepare them for the application with this program. She brings excitement to the kitchen, enthusiasm for good food, and a commitment to teaching. Lachelle is helping to shape the future of school foods in Minnesota.”

Maggie NowakFarm to School Manager in Massachusetts - “Maggie has been working on the front lines throughout the pandemic, alongside the Lowell Public Schools cafeteria staff, to provide food for the community. She has also consistently pushed forward new programming to distribute food to people in need. She managed a program this summer to produce food in four of our school gardens and distribute that food for free to community members. She has also been running a bi-weekly food bank at school food distribution sites. Maggie has diligently served our community without hesitation in the face of a very high infection rate and constantly shifting planning.” 

Jesse PadronSchool Food Service Director in Oneida Nation - “Jesse is an amazing food service champion, providing meals and food education in Oneida. Not only does he do great farm to school work in the school meal programs, but he has also created great programs (gardens, farms, etc) to engage students in growing food and learning about food sovereignty.”

Lauren LittleCommunity Food Advocate in Connecticut - “Lauren's commitment to Hartford's youth is both impressive and inspiring to me. She is someone who doesn't only talk - she acts! Which is empowering for not only the students she teaches, but for the educators she works with. She is always showing up to do the work of connecting kids to healthy local food in a new and innovative way, but she's committed to something greater too - to growing a sense of self-worth and interconnectedness in her students. Her energy is a reminder of why I got into any of this farm to school stuff in the first place - because food is representative of something much larger and deeper. It's a force of connection.”

Josefina Lara ChavezFarmer Advocate in California - “Josefina has been working with Latinx growers on the California Central Coast to coordinate product volumes and aggregate, connect them with emergency meal programs, and sell to school districts, food banks, and other emergency routes during COVID. She has helped facilitate thousands of dollars of sales for Latinx growers at fair prices. These Latinx growers often face language barriers, financial barriers, and face additional barriers if they are undocumented. Josefina has been a voice for these farmers and has been passionate about representing these growers.”

Ángeles MartínezSchool Garden Coordinator in Oregon - “Angeles started a parent volunteer at her children's school, Powell Butte Elementary, in the Portland area. Now, she runs the school garden with Growing Gardens and cultivates a large plot of the adjacent community garden to donate fresh produce to school families. She also teaches cooking demos in the classroom at several schools, like teaching students how to use a tortilla press or making fresh salsa verde. During Covid, she has helped pass out garden kits so that students can continue hands-on learning at home, as well as grown many pots of strawberry starts and big sunflowers to share with families who came to the school's food distribution. Angeles’s big smile, friendliness and enthusiasm create bridges between communities.”
 
We are so inspired by and grateful for all of these individuals who make strong, resilient food systems work and keep their communities nourished. THANK YOU for all you do!

We also have one more round of Community Food Champions Nominations still open - submit your champions by Oct. 22 at 11:59pm ET

Special thanks to CoBank and Carton2Garden for sponsoring our National Farm to School Month campaign and making our 2020 Community Food Champion recognitions possible!

Farm to School Month 2020: It Takes A Community to Feed A Community

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 01, 2020
October is National Farm to School Month, an annual 31-day campaign to recognize, appreciate and celebrate the connections happening across the country between kids, families and their community food systems. National Farm to School Month was designated by Congress in 2010, making this year’s campaign the 10th anniversary of National Farm to School Month celebrations. However, this October is looking very different than the previous nine years.

It Takes a Community to Feed a Community, and that’s been especially true this year. As our schools and early care and education sites, communities and food system continue to be impacted by the pandemic, we are approaching this October as an opportunity to honor all those who contribute to feeding our kids and communities – from farmers, harvesters and food hub distributors, to school nutrition professionals, educators, garden coordinators, bus drivers and more. This year, it’s been made very clear that the workers who keep our kids fed – many of whom are Black, Latino, Indigenous and other people of color – are often unseen, underpaid and undervalued for the contributions they make in our communities. Yet they’ve always been essential, and we know farm to school wouldn’t exist without them.

That’s why this October, we’re focusing on expressing appreciation and amplifying underrepresented voices in order to shift power to these essential workers and create a more just food system.

Here's are 5 easy ways you can join us this October:

(1) Nominate a Community Food Champion: Who are your community members – farmers, cafeteria workers, teachers, gardeners, bus drivers, volunteers, advocates, and others – that are feeding children and families, supporting local food systems, and going above and beyond in 2020? Nominate them to receive a $500 honorarium and be named a National Farm to School Network Community Food Champion! Learn more and submit your nominations here.

(2) Participate in our Virtual Movement Meeting, October 14: Join National Farm to School Network for a virtual Movement Meeting on Wednesday, Oct.14 from 1-3pm ET, featuring Karen Washington, food justice activist, for deep conversation and action-oriented reflection on shifting power and racial justice in the farm to school movement and wider food system. Register here.

(3) Take Action for Change: Throughout October, we'll be sharing ideas, opportunities and resources for engaging in advocacy to amplify underrepresented voices and shift power to create a more just food system. Save the date for a Twitter Chat we’re co-hosting with FoodCorps on Oct. 21 about these topics, and check-in for more updates throughout the month.

(4) Get Involved Locally: Explore our national calendar of Farm to School Month events to see how you can celebrate locally.

(5) Spread the Word: Shout out about farm to school and share what you’re doing for National Farm to School Month with the hashtags #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool on social media. Follow the National Farm to School Network on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Download our Sharing Toolkit for sample messages and graphics to share with your community.

Find more action ideas, resources and printable National Farm to School Month materials here.

Lastly, special thanks to CoBank and Carton2Garden for sponsoring our 2020 National Farm to School Month campaign!

Happy National Farm to School Month!

Senate Adopts National Farm to School Month Resolution

NFSN Staff Friday, November 01, 2019
 
On October 31, the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution (S. Res 403) – sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and David Perdue (R-GA) – designating October 2019 as “National Farm to School Month.” The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and National Farm to School Network (NFSN) jointly praised the effort to highlight the important relationship between farmers, schools, and our nation’s children. The organizations, which work closely together to advance federal policies that further farm to school connections and the socioeconomic benefits that those relationships confer, also underscored the opportunity for Senators to further support these efforts by including the Farm to School Act of 2019 (S. 2026) and the Kids Eat Local Act (S. 1817) in the next Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR).

“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition welcomes this strong showing of support from the Senate for national farm to school efforts,” said Wes King, Senior Policy Specialist at NSAC. “Farm to school partnerships are important opportunities for our youth to learn about food, agriculture, and how to respect and care for the land. That’s not where the benefits stop, however. Farm to school programs also allow our nation’s family farmers – many of whom are struggling due to lagging markets and unstable trade partnerships – to form lucrative business relationships with schools and school districts. These relationships are a win-win-win, providing crucial business opportunities to family farmers, fresh foods to public schools, and healthy meals and hands-on educational opportunities for students. We hope that this resolution signals that Senators are also ready and willing to support the Kids Eat Local Act in the upcoming CNR. The Act was introduced with bipartisan support earlier this year, and would help make it easier for schools to source healthy food from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen.”

“Farm to school activities - including kids eating, growing, and learning about local and just food - happen 365 days a year across more than 42,000 schools. “National Farm to School Month” is a well-deserved time to celebrate the successes of these efforts and to raise awareness of the opportunity and need for more,” said Chloe Marshall, Policy Specialist at the National Farm to School Network. “We applaud the Senate for recognizing the positive impacts that farm to school has in improving child nutrition, supporting family farmers and local economies, and building vibrant, more equitable communities. We urge the Senate to continue to invest in the well being of our nation’s kids, farmers, and communities in the next CNR by strengthening the USDA Farm to School Grant Program with the Farm to School Act of 2019, which was introduced with bipartisan support earlier this year. In addition, we also urge support for child nutrition programs that ensure every child has sufficient access to nutritious meals, including expansion of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and maintaining strong nutrition standards within these programs.”

Learn more about our farm to school priorities for the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization here.

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

Local Lunches, Apple Crunches & Proclamations: How We Celebrated National Farm to School Month 2019

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 31, 2019


By Anna Mullen, Communications Manager 

For 31 days every October, millions of students, farmers, educators, and communities across the country celebrate the movement that’s connecting kids to local and just food and supporting family farmers and local economies. Over 42,000 schools and early care and education sites across the country put farm to school into action every day, and National Farm to School Month is a time to recognize those efforts, the people who make them happen, and to energize more people in our communities to join in!

Everyone can be part of National Farm to School Month, and this year we saw lots of inspiring celebrations - from state-wide crunch events and local food days, to legislators in the lunchroom and proclamations. Here are some of the ways our farm to school friends like you celebrated this October:

Apple Crunches: Did you hear that CRUNCH? Millions of students across the country participated in state and region-wide crunch events this October. Many places crunched with locally sourced apples, including Alabama, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia. The Mountain Plaines region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming) held its first regional Apple Crunch Off. The Great Lakes Region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin) continued its annual Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch with more than 1.8 million (wow!) crunchers. Louisiana had the Great Louisiana Satsuma Peel. And in states like California, Florida and Hawai’i, schools picked from a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to crunch and munch on local food.

Proclamations: While the federal government first recognized National Farm to School Month in 2010 (House Resolution 1655), numerous state governments recognize this annual celebration with proclamations and declarations of their own. This year, governors including Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made proclamations related to Farm to School Month and kids eating local food in schools.

Local Food Days & Weeks: Statewide local food days and weeks encourage schools and communities to be part of their local food systems. Here are few states that had campaigns to put local on kids plates: Iowa Local Food Day, the Mississippi Farm to School Challenge, New Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week, Pennsylvania Preferred Day, New Mexico Grown Week, Make Your Plate South Carolina Grown Week, the Texas Farm Fresh Challenge, and Virginia Farm to School Week.


Legislators in the Lunch Room: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue kicked off National Farm to School Month at Sugar Creek Elementary School in Wisconsin. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy visited St. Albans Town Education Center. Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry crunched into local apples with students at Clinton Elementary School. Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney took a tour of school gardens and cafeterias at Groton public School. California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross visited several farm to school sites. Idaho First Lady Teresa Little and Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam ate with kids in school cafeterias. And Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring visited Lynchburg City Schools to see their bulk milk machines carrying single-source, local milk.

And more! Georgia schools planted, tasted, cooked with and learned about squash with the “Oh My Squash” celebration. Indiana Grown and the Indiana State Department of Health unveiled their new local food buyer's guide. Massachusetts had a farm to school awareness day and awarded its 2019 Kale Blazer Award. And in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new funding to support schools purchasing locally grown food.

At the National Farm to School Network, we’ve been leading National Farm to School Month celebrations by sharing farm to school inspiration and stories from partner organizations including Farm to Cafeteria Canada, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, CoBank, Hawthorne Gardening Company, and Farm Credit. And on social media, we celebrated by encouraging people to share their ideas and help spread awareness for the farm to school movement using #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool. Over 6,500 social media posts celebrated farm to school this month, showcasing hundreds of activities and events. We were so inspired by the excitement for farm to school that we saw!

Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you who are working every day to ensure the health of our nation's children and to support local farmers in our communities. There are 334 days to continue growing and strengthening the movement before the 10th annual National Farm to School Month in October 2020! Help us keep the momentum going by joining our network and stay up-to-date on the latest stories, new resources, policy actions, learning opportunities – like the upcoming 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, April 21-23, 2020 in Albuquerque, NM. Healthy kids, thriving farms and vibrant communities are worth taking action for every day!

Thank you to this year’s National Farm to School Month sponsors - CoBank and the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council - as well as Outreach Partner organizations that helped us spread the word about farm to school far and wide throughout October. And, thanks to YOU for being a farm to school champion in your community!

Hydroponic garden extends growing season & nutrition opportunities at San Pedro Elementary

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Photo Credit: Sanzuma
With a goal of connecting more students across the country to indoor gardening opportunities, Hawthorne Gardening Company and National Farm to School Network have launched a pilot project to integrate hydroponic growing systems into classrooms and science curricula this school year. This is the story of how one partner school–San Pedro Elementary in San Rafael, CA–is using the hydroponic garden to give students a year-round learning experience of bringing food seed-to-table.

Guest blog written by Lori Davis, Executive Director, Sanzuma

San Pedro Elementary School, located in San Rafael, California, has 572 students. Approximately 97 percent of our student population is Latino, with cultural groups predominantly originating from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. Sanzuma is San Pedro’s nonprofit partner that focuses on improving wellness in Marin County’s low-income schools by helping turn school gardens into productive farms that produce organic food for school meal programs. 

On behalf of Sanzuma (where I serve as Executive Director) and San Pedro Elementary School, we are thrilled to be a part of National Farm to School Network and Hawthorne Gardening Company’s hydroponic pilot project and to bring the benefits of indoor gardens to our students. The hydroponic garden is an exciting addition to the educational learning environment at San Pedro, where staff are dedicated to meeting the needs of the school's many English language learners and helping all students achieve high academic goals. We believe that understanding nutrition and where food comes from are important parts of every student’s education. We’ve selected one classroom that Sanzuma will work with to care for the new hydroponic garden. The newly developed curriculum that was designed for this pilot project will be used with students to incorporate their garden experiences into science and STEM lessons. 

One of the most exciting aspects of the new hydroponic growing system is that it will allow students to grow food that ordinarily would be out of season. Normally, we can grow tomatoes only during the summer months when the majority of students are on summer break. With the season extension offered by the indoor hydroponic system, we can grow nutrient-rich food throughout the school year–allowing students to be part of that growing process and giving more students access to this food in the cafeteria.

With the new ability to extend our growing season, we’ll also gain ample time to introduce new vegetables to students before they stop by the salad bar at lunch. We will do this by including the crops we grow hydroponically in taste tests. 

Through this project, we hope students will develop a deep understanding of the value and importance of growing food, the importance of eating healthy, and how hydroponics can be an alternative growing method to traditional gardening. This pilot program will give our students a hands-on, project-based opportunity to understand the full circle of growing food from seed to table. 

More About Sanzuma 
Founded in 2012, Sanzuma calls our program “farm to student” because we emphasize nutrition education, taste tests, healthy cooking, and enhancing the lunchroom atmosphere with nutritional messaging. We also focus on school wellness policy work at the state and local level and staff wellness at the schools where our garden programs are run. The food we grow on our school farm is purchased by the San Rafael City School District and included in their salad bars. We have taught thousands of taste tests, nutrition classes, farm to table cooking classes and staff wellness workshops. We teach students (and families) from a very young age how and why to eat healthy, maintain a healthy lifestyle and always have access to healthy food. Learn more about Saunzum and our work at www.sanzuma.org


This blog is part of a series that focuses on National Farm to School Network and Hawthorne Gardening Company’s work to bring more indoor gardens to more schools. Learn more about the Gro More Good Hydroponics Pilot Project and read more blogs in this series here

National Farmers Union is Celebrating National Farm to School Month

NFSN Staff Monday, October 28, 2019
Guest blog by the National Farmers Union - Aaron Shier, NFU Government Relations Representative and Josie Krogh, NFU Intern


John Peterson, Owner and General Manager of Ferndale Market, raises pastured turkeys in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Ferndale turkey is featured on school food menus throughout Minnesota.

This blog is cross-posted on the National Farmers Union website - read it here.

October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate connections happening all over the country between schools, food, and local farmers, ranchers, and fishers!

Over the past decade, the farm to school movement has boomed across the United States, reaching millions of students in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories. Farm to school – which includes kids eating, growing, and learning about local foods in schools – is an important tool in the fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity. In addition to improving student health, farm to school presents an important financial opportunity for farmers by connecting them to a profitable institutional market. According to the USDA Farm to School Census, schools reported spending $789 million on food from local farmers, ranchers, fishers and food processors during the 2013-14 school year. 

Many National Farmers Union members are involved in farm to school efforts. And National Farm to School Month seemed like the perfect time to highlight some of their great work. 

Minnesota Farmers Union member John Peterson is a third-generation turkey farmer who has been selling his free-range, antibiotic-free turkey to local school districts for over a decade. Their family farm Ferndale Market started off selling turkey to a few school districts that were able to handle and cook raw turkey, but when Minneapolis Public Schools decided to bring locally produced foods into all their cafeterias, the school district became a major buyer of Ferndale turkey.

Peterson said there has been a lot to learn about what products schools are able to work with. “Some districts handle raw protein, but certainly not all. Many schools don’t have traditional cooking facilities. So working with processors has been crucial.” Most of what Ferndale Market sells to schools are value-added, ready to cook products like turkey hotdogs and fully-cooked burgers.

Working with Minneapolis Public Schools has benefited their business by allowing them to utilize all parts of the turkey and by stabilizing demand. “The world of turkey suffers from a seasonality problem, especially because of Thanksgiving through retail outlets,” said John. “So, farm to school programs provide good year-round stability for us by helping smooth out demand.” 

Aside from being good for business, Peterson said he takes pride in knowing they’re providing clean, healthy products to nourish students in their community. Ferndale often does events at schools where their turkey is served, which helps students get a better understanding of where and how their food is raised. “It’s common sense on so many levels,” he said. “It’s one of those things where everyone involved benefits. Farmers, students, the local economy. A win-win-win.


Anthony Wagner (far right) pictured during a farm to school group tour on his farm and orchard in Corrales, New Mexico.

Another farm to school success story can be found in New Mexico, where dedicated farmers such as Danny Farrar of Rancho La Jolla Farm and Orchard and Anthony Wagner of Wagner Farms (who are also Farmers Union members), have been major champions of farm to school efforts in the state. Danny and Anthony, in addition to growing fruits and vegetables for schools, have participated in legislative hearings, advocated for a statewide farm to school program, and have provided numerous farm tour opportunities for school food service directors.

Danny and Anthony are also board members of the organization Farm to Table in New Mexico, a Core Partner of the National Farm to School Network (NFSN). Farm to Table has focused on farm to school issues for more than twenty years and in partnership with Farmers Union and other national, regional, and local organizations, has been pivotal in advancing policy and capacity building around farm to school. For example, Farm to Table and its partners helped pave the way for the establishment of the USDA Farm to School Grant program. And subsequently, in part thanks to USDA grants and the leadership of the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, they were able to establish a state farm to school program as well.

Pam Roy is the Executive Director and Co-founder of Farm to Table and the Government Relations Director in New Mexico for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (which covers the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming). Pam explained that “Farm to Table and its partners recently helped establish the New Mexico Farm to School Program in the Public Education Department and secured permanent funding of $510,000 per year for the program.” This program helps schools purchase New Mexico-grown produce. “We are so glad to report that the program helped generate more than $879,000 in locally grown fruit and vegetable purchases by New Mexico Public Schools during the 2017-18 school year, not including grant funding,” said Pam.

Farm to school enriches the connections communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing education and food purchasing practices at schools. By encouraging school districts to purchase food from within their local community, farm to school increases farmer incomes and strengthens rural economies.

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