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Harvesting the Benefits of Hydroponics: Highlights from the Gro More Good Hydroponics Pilot Project

NFSN Staff Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Preschoolers getting ready to taste their hydroponically-grown lettuce. Source: San Pedro Elementary, San Rafael, California, March 2020 Final Survey
By Jenileigh Harris, Program Associate

National Farm to School Network in partnership with Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation and collaboration with KidsGardening is excited to release Exploring Hydroponics: A Classroom Lesson Guide. This lesson guide is the product of the Gro More Good Hydroponics Pilot Project and includes basic how-to information for growing plants hydroponically in the classroom, lesson plans to help students learn through hands-on investigations, construction plans for simple hydroponic setups, and additional reference materials to support educators. The lessons are designed to align with third through fifth grade Next Generation Science Standards but can be adapted for both younger and older students and those with different abilities. The lessons are sequenced so that each topic builds upon the previous topics but the activities can also be used independently, in any order.

The Gro More Good Hydroponics Pilot Project, launched in the fall of 2019, was aimed at integrating indoor hydroponics growing systems into systemically under resourced schools across the country. National Farm to School Network supported hydroponics experts, KidsGardening, in developing the curriculum guide, Exploring Hydroponics: A Classroom Lesson Guide. During the 2019-2020 school year, the curriculum was used in conjunction with Scotts Miracle-Gro’s AeroGarden hydroponic kits in 15 schools across California, New York and Washington D.C. In addition to introducing hydroponics into their science, technology engineering and math (STEM) classrooms, pilot schools participated in peer learning and networking calls to share successes and challenges with each other.

“The grow station is the shining light in an amazing space. It draws visitors to it and opens up conversation about what we do at FoodPrints and Kimball. The students love to talk about it. Thank you for letting us participate!” -Kimball Elementary School, Washington, D.C.
Between the 2018-2019 and the 2019-2020 school year, there was an overall increase in both engagement of students in garden-based activities as well as the total number of students reached by gardening or farm to school activities that align with Next Generation Standards as a direct result of the hydroponics system and curriculum.

By March 2020, a total of 2204 students were reached through the pilot project with gardening or farm to school activities that align with Next Generation Science Standards across New York, Washington D.C., and California, and 1954 students were directly engaged in lessons or activities using the hydroponics growing system. Additionally, between September 2019 and March 2020, there was a perceived 20% increase in student interest and a 15% increase in adult interest (teachers, administration, teaching aides, community members) in gardening as a direct result of the hydroponics system and Exploring Hydroponics curriculum.

“The Exploring Hydroponics guide has really been a huge asset to our science curriculum.” -Amidon-Bowen Elementary, Washington, D.C.

Pilot schools cited many observed benefits and positive outcomes due to the hydroponics curriculum and growing systems for students, families and adults in their respective school communities. These include:

Benefits for Students  Benefits for Students, Families, Educators and Community Members
  • Interest and knowledge of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts
  • Increased demonstration of social-emotional development (e.g., cooperation, empathy, self-regulation)
  • Access to fresh fruits and vegetables 
  • Increased engagement
  • Improved attitudes, knowledge and behaviors
  • Improved knowledge about gardening, agriculture and food systems 


Teacher, Helene, leads students in exploring the hydroponics garden and learning about how far away their food comes from. Source: P.S. 32 The Belmont School, New York, January 2020 Site Visit
When schools began closing in March, some pilot schools were able to pivot and continue hydroponics and gardening learning at home. At Kimball Elementary, the FoodPrints teacher has encouraged kids to find bean or vegetable seeds, wrap them in damp paper towels, insert into a plastic bag, tape to a window with lots of sunlight and observe daily for germination. At other schools, teachers were able to take the hydroponics units home and update students remotely through online meetings and photos. The Exploring Hydroponics guide offers many remote-adaptable lessons and at-home opportunities including how to build an aeration system at home, map your meals explorations, exploring land use worksheets, discussion questions and digging deeper videos.

“I documented the plants before we left school, transplanted them with students into soil and we are studying how they are growing at home now via live meetings and pictures. Students have been engaged in a "regrow" vegetables from scratch lesson, and have shared amazing results of starting vegetables in water with scraps they normally would've thrown out.” –P.S. 32, The Belmont School, Bronx, NY
National Farm to School Network and Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation learned a lot from the schools as they piloted and adapted the Exploring Hydroponics curriculum, troubleshooted the AeroGarden grow kit, and brought the hydroponics learning experience to life for their students. By all measures, the Gro More Good Hydroponics Pilot Project has been a success: there was an overall increase in student and family engagement in gardening and farm to school activities as a direct result of the hydroponics growing system and curriculum. While the benefits and positive outcomes are substantial, opportunities for growth have also emerged:

Strategies for better curriculum integration of opportunities to encourage at-home hydroponics and gardening
  • Adapting curriculum for younger ages
  • More opportunities to support sustained implementation (e.g., to purchase pods and other necessary resources)
  • Incorporating more multimedia tools or approaches within curriculum (e.g., instructional video)
  • Collecting and disaggregating data based on race and income (e.g., which students are more likely to have access to gardening at home?)
  • More opportunities to engage families

Students giving presentations to their classmates about hydroponics. Source: P.S. 214, Bronx, New York, March 2020 Final Survey
National Farm to School Network and Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation are excited to see how schools continue to use their hydroponic curriculum and systems in the upcoming school year, whatever that may look like, and beyond. We know students increased their understanding of where their food comes from, the environmental impacts of growing food in soil versus water, their access to fresh produce, and we can’t wait to see these benefits grow. 

Advisory Board Perspectives: Anneliese Tanner

NFSN Staff Thursday, June 25, 2020
This post is part of National Farm to School Network's new series of interviews with members of our Advisory Board about the impacts, challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 has brought about for the farm to school movement. 

Name: Anneliese Tanner
Title: Executive Director, Food Service and Warehouse Operations at Austin Independent School District
Organization: Austin Independent School District
Location: Austin, Texas
First-year on the National Farm to School Network Advisory Board

Scott Bunn, NFSN Development Director, sat down with Anneliese for a conversation about how the COVID-19 emergency has impacted her work, the challenges and innovations she’s seen, and what all of this means for the future of farm to school and our food system.

“My biggest hope as a silver lining to emerge from this is universal meals for all students. We have really seen as a nation that school food service is incredibly important for feeding all students, not just those most in need. We’ve seen economic conditions quickly take hold in parts of town that you wouldn’t have guessed before.” – Anneliese Tanner
Listen to the full podcast here:

NFSN Grants $45,000 to Nine Projects in First Round of COVID-19 Relief Fund

NFSN Staff Friday, June 12, 2020

Photo credit, left to right: Guåhan Sustainable Culture, CentroNía, Linden Tree Photography (courtesy Georgia Organics).
National Farm to School Network is pleased to announce the first round of grants awarded from our COVID-19 Relief Fund. Nine organizations will receive a $5,000 grant to support their efforts helping kids and families continue eating, growing and learning about just and sustainable food – and farmers continuing to produce and supply it – during this global pandemic. 

As an organization rooted in a vision of a just food system, National Farm to School Network is committed to ensuring that the resources of our COVID-19 Relief Fund reach and impact communities that have been systematically underserved and disproportionately affected by this pandemic. This specifically includes and prioritizes Black, Indigenous, Latinx, immigrant and other communities of color. Our current food system is a legacy of exploitation and racism, and the pandemic – as well as current protests in support of Black Americans – have only further magnified the injustices that persist in the ways our country approaches food. As a grantmaker, we have a responsibility to use our resources in ways that will correct these injustices and serve those who have been underserved for too long. We are proud to be able to support the efforts of these nine organizations in meeting the urgent needs of their communities: 

Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
Brooklyn, New York
To support Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s local food distribution efforts, which includes purchasing food directly from regional distributors, New York Black farmers, and Central Brooklyn growers, and utilizing existing infrastructure to aggregate and pack farm share bags offered to families free of charge. 

CentroNía
Washington, DC
To fund three weeks of CentroNía’s food assistance efforts, including local produce and nonperishable items, for 165 families in Washington, DC, and Takoma Park, Mayland experiencing food insecurity.

Fairfax County Public Schools, Food and Nutrition Services 
Springfield, Virginia
To support Fairfax County Public Schools in purchasing local fruits and vegetables from Mid-Atlantic growers and distribute fresh produce to children and families throughout the summer; and, to help fund the expansion of a farm to school focused, home learning initiative—FCPS Grow at Home—to reach students across its 63 emergency meal sites. 

Fond du Lac Ojibwe Schools - Farm to School
Nagaajiwanaang - Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Minnesota)
To purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, meats and other locally produced and traditional food products for the Ojibwe School’s Food Program, and to support the ongoing procurement and educational activities of its farm to school efforts. 

Georgia Organics
Atlanta, Georgia
To support Georgia Organics in providing fresh, local produce and educational materials to families in need while supporting local small, minority and disadvantaged farmers in Clayton County and Hall County.   

Guåhan Sustainable Culture
Barrigada, Guam
To expand the “Supporting Farmers, Sustaining Families” initiative from 100 families to 200 families per week for the next two months, which includes purchasing fresh produce from local producers and supplies like coolers and packaging materials to safely transport and distribute food. 

Sprout City Farms
Denver, Colorado 
To support Sprout City Farms in launching a mobile farm stand and food pantry in order to continue feeding Denver Green School students and their families, especially those that are sheltering in place and/or experiencing transportation barriers to fresh food access. 

Steam Onward Inc
Accokeek, Maryland
To support Steam Onward’s FARMMACY Project, which works with youth to provide seeds, tilling services, and gardening consultation and resources free of charge to families and seniors as a way to supplement their diet with fresh vegetables and improve food security. 

YouthWorks
Santa Fe, New Mexico
To support YouthWorks’ ongoing emergency food distribution throughout northern New Mexico, its Culinary Training Program, and its support of young people growing food for the community. 

The urgent need to support hunger relief efforts and local food systems goes far beyond what we have been able to support in this first round of funding. We received over $1 million in requests for support from 119 organizations during the first request period. We need your help to meet this demand. 

Our COVID-19 Relief Fund is made possible by the generous support of small donors like you who share our vision of farm to school and farm to ECE programs supporting strong and just local and regional food systems that strengthen the health of all children, farms, environment, economy and communities across the country. If you’re able, please give today to help us grow our Relief Fund and support our COVID-19 response efforts. Thank you to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the many individual donors in our network for your financial support of this first round of grants. 

Donate Now

Round two of our COVID-19 Relief Fund application is now open. Organizations that seek financial support of their efforts to connect kids and their families to just food through the support of local farmers and food systems are welcome to apply. In our commitment to standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and Native communities, where the coronavirus has had devastating impacts, organizations that directly serve and are led by Black people and Indigenous people will be prioritized in application review.

Our 2020 National Partner of the Year: FoodCorps

NFSN Staff Thursday, May 14, 2020

Though 2020 is anticipated to be a year of uncertainty and significant challenges, the National Farm to School Network continues to look forward. As always, we’re a national organization that is uniquely situated at the intersection of numerous sectors and communities. Networking and partnership building have always been at the core of our efforts, and they will continue to be so long after this crisis ends.
 
We understand that working together is integral to our success, and is essential to the growth and long-term sustainability of our vision for a just food system. That’s why, in 2017, we launched a “National Partner of the Year” program to strategically align and partner with other national organizations that share our goals of ensuring a nation of healthy kids, thriving family farms, and resilient communities. (Learn more about our 2017, 2018, and 2019 partners.) We know that in order to redesign our food, education, health, and economic systems with justice at the core, we must build a big tent of organizations working multi-sectorally as we do. And in light of the COVID-19 health crisis, we believe partnerships like these are more important than ever. Coordination, collaboration, and working together is key to meeting urgent needs and accelerating our work to ensure a just food system for kids, farmers, families, and communities.  

In 2020, we're pleased to be partnering with FoodCorps as our National Partner of the Year. FoodCorps is a national nonprofit that connects kids to healthy food in school. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced school closures, FoodCorps service members are helping with emergency meal services, remote food, and nutrition lessons that reinforce academic priorities, and garden cultivation for community building and local nourishment. FoodCorps is also mobilizing its nationwide network of partners and allies to advocate for policies that will help schools keep kids nourished through this crisis and beyond. 

National Farm to School Network and FoodCorps already have a long history of collaboration. In 2010, National Farm to School Network was a founding partner of FoodCorps. NFSN had been founded several years earlier in 2007 to serve as a movement building, systems change, and advocacy organization, and recognized that it was also important to invest in direct service of farm to school efforts in communities through FoodCorps. Over the past 10 years, both organizations have naturally evolved and adapted to pressing needs and strategies towards our long-term visions: for National Farm to School Network, a just food system, and for FoodCorps, healthy food for all kids. What’s remained constant is partnership on many activities and projects - from advocacy days on Capitol Hill to story sharing during National Farm to School Month. So why focus on more intentional and coordinated partnership in 2020? Because we know that the visions of our organizations are urgent: we must act immediately and strategically to ensure that all kids - across all races, places, and classes - are connected to a just food system. 

We are joining forces to bolster our advocacy and programming so that we can better serve our communities, especially those most impacted by an unjust food system. And while we didn’t start 2020 anticipating it, our work now is also focusing on how to meet the urgent needs of the school food community in the face of a global pandemic. Read here a post we’ve co-authored about how the COVID-19 pandemic has shown school nutrition to be essential to kids’ health and well-being, and why USDA must uphold strong nutrition standards and build on the progress schools across the country have made to serve healthy school meals. 

National Farm to School Network and FoodCorps share a goal for the future where every child is able to be nourished by healthy food because their community food systems are thriving. We recognize that our collaboration at both the community and systems change levels towards this goal is what will accelerate our collective vision. It’s what the National Partner of the Year program is all about: leveraging our unique ideas, strategies, and resources towards a more just food system for all. 

Learn more about FoodCorps on their website and social media channels: 
And, stay tuned for opportunities to dig into this partnership with us throughout the rest of 2020!

FoodCorps and National Farm to School Network friends at the White House Vegetable Garden in 2016. From Left to Right: Cecily Upton (FoodCorps Co-Founder and Chief Strategist), Michelle Markesteyn (Rootopia and former NFSN Advisor), Curt Ellis (FoodCorps Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer), Linda Jo Doctor (W.K. Kellogg Foundation), Ricardo Salvador (Union of Concerned Scientists and NFSN Advisor), Anupama Joshi (National Farm to School Network Co-Founder and former Executive Director), and Jerusha Klemperer (FoodCorps Co-Founder).

Reflections from our Executive Director: Farm to School & COVID-19

NFSN Staff Thursday, April 16, 2020
 
"There's beautiful resiliency in the community food systems that have been built... and we also know that there's a lot of work left to be done. I'm committed to responding to this moment in ways that are going to set us up for a more just food system tomorrow." - Helen Dombalis, Executive Director of the National Farm to School Network

Our Top Tips from 12+ Years of Remote Working

NFSN Staff Monday, March 23, 2020

By National Farm to School Network Staff

National Farm to School Network staff are experts in many things… including remote work! Since launching in 2007, NFSN has been a remote-based organization, with the majority of our staff working in home offices from coast to coast and many places in between. At this time, when we know many people with the ability to be able to work from home are being asked to do so, we’d like to offer up some of the tried and tested strategies we use to do our work as a remote team every day. It’s a small gesture in this unprecedented situation, but we hope that these tips might be helpful to those of you who are joining us for the first time in the “work from home” world these coming days and weeks. 

Get dressed (really). For some of you, my advice may be laughably obvious. Whereas others (including some of my co-workers) may feel that I am dead wrong: don’t spend all day working in your pajamas. Take a shower. Shave (if that applies). Put on regular clothes. Regular clothes can mean something as simple as shorts and a t-shirt, but don’t work all day in pajamas or a bathrobe. This basic level of preparedness will help focus you on the work day ahead. -Scott Bunn, Development Director (North Carolina)

Create a dedicated work space. Working in your living space can present some challenges, perhaps most commonly the uncomfortable blurring of lines between the two. I’ve found it helpful to have a dedicated work space that I stick to. I’m lucky to have a specific room for my home office. But, this could also be a desk in a bedroom or your dining room table. I’ve never had success working from the couch, but that might work for you, too! Wherever you set up shop, create a space that will put you in a work mindset. When you sit down in the spot, you’re working. And when you walk away from it, you’re not. If you’re like me, you’ll want to avoid working in the kitchen - it prompts too many snack attacks! -Anna Mullen, Communications Director (Iowa)

Pick up the phone. Email, G-chat, and Slack are all great ways to stay connected and share information with your team. But it’s easy to get stuck in a virtual world and many decisions and conversations are just made easier by talking it out. One five minute phone call can save many back and forth emails and there is the bonus of actual human interaction. A quick work or social chat can brighten your day and remind you that you are not in this alone. -Lacy Stephens, Senior Program Manager (Missouri)

Schedule time for movement. When I first started working remotely I had this fantasy that I would take multiple mini-exercise breaks throughout the day and I pictured myself in peak physical form. That might work great for some but I believe you still have to schedule it in! I find it's way too easy to push off those mini-breaks if you're engaged in a project, so now I try to exercise first thing in the morning before starting my work day. If I can get extra time for breaks throughout the day that's even better but at least I've already done something active. Also a standing desk setup is super easy to fashion out of all kinds of props you probably have laying around your home, or I have this super affordable and convertible option that helps me quickly switch setups so that I am not just sitting all day. -Tracey Starkovich, Operations and Events Manager (Illinois)

Get outside! The best part of working from home is being able to step outside as time permits, such as walking during a phone call or tending your garden while mulling over a major decision. I personally recommend pulling weeds to work out frustration or resolve a problem! You may not be able to connect with co-workers face-to-face, but connecting with the land is an excellent way to feel whole. -Jessica Gudmundson, Senior Director of Finance and Operations (Georgia)

Make yourself lunch – and eat it away from your work area. If you're working on the couch, eat at a table. If you're working at a table, eat on your couch. I often eat my lunch standing up in the kitchen or followed by a short walk around the block. Taking mandatory breaks to enjoy food and giving your body and mind a change of scenery is key to maintaining focus during critical work hours - and feeling motivated to get up and do it all again the next day! -Jenileigh Harris, Program Associate (Colorado)

Feedback is critical. Working in an office provides for multiple opportunities for feedback including both verbal and non verbal cues that are necessary for moving projects along. When you are home working alone, you may find yourself wondering if you’ve completed a task as expected or if your work overall is up to par. Supervisors should take more care to give employees feedback on their work, and employees need to feel empowered to speak up about their questions and needs. -Jessica Gudmundson, Senior Director of Finance and Operations (Georgia)

Set boundaries, and stick to them. When you work from home, it’s easy to let work creep into your home life. A good way to mitigate the constant feeling of being on (and not letting that actually happen) is to set boundaries and stick to them. Don’t just map out your work time, calls, and projects. Also map out when you’re going to exercise, eat lunch, take breaks, and end your workday. Build in time to take care of yourself. Turn off notifications during your off hours. And remember that if you don’t stick to this, it has a ripple effect on your colleagues. Ultimately, we cannot show up as our best selves at work if we do not take care of ourselves as whole people, where work is but one part of who we are. -Helen Dombalis, Executive Director (Colorado)

Monitor morale. In general, and especially while we are feeling the impacts of COVID-19, it’s important to keep a pulse on staff morale. Working remotely can create new and exacerbate existing morale issues. Make dedicated space to address staff concerns on an ongoing basis, whether it be through group video meetings, HR services or one-on-one check ins. -Jessica Gudmundson, Senior Director of Finance and Operations (Georgia)

Working from home has its benefits too! #1 - flexibility! Don’t hold yourself to unnecessary rules and take advantage of your new work environment. Enjoy having your dog, cat or other pet keep you company during the day. Enjoy more casual office attire. Enjoy moving and stretching throughout the day without feeling self conscious, because no one is watching. Enjoy taking some of your calls al fresco. We find that the more flexible we are with our time and resources, the better we perform.

We know that there are millions of American who are not able to transition their work to the dining room table - including many who work in the food and school systems. This health crisis has put a spotlight on the many inequities in our current economic system that have shown these members of our communities to be disproportionately impacted. Here are some ways you can support them, too

Need more ideas for successful remote working? Drop us a note! We’re happy to help in whatever ways we can. 

Supporting Our Community: Farm to School and COVID-19

NFSN Staff Thursday, March 19, 2020

By Helen Dombalis, Executive Director, and Anna Mullen, Communications Director

At its core, farm to school is all about community: when schools, farms, children, families, organizations and businesses come together in mutual support for mutual wellbeing, there’s inherent strength and resilience. That’s the power of community and the power of farm to school. And during this challenging and unexpected moment, it’s the energy of collective community that’s keeping us going. While many public spaces have been closed and our daily routines altered, we know that many of National Farm to School Network’s Partners, Advisors and members across the country are working harder than ever to care for those most impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. Your efforts haven’t gone unnoticed - thank you for all you’re doing. You are the people that make our communities strong. 

As a national organization partnering with communities across the country, NFSN is adapting internally as a staff and externally in the work we do day-in and day-out to keep supporting you, the farm to school and farm to early care and education (ECE) community, in this rapidly changing and challenging environment. 

How we’re approaching our work

NFSN is committed to centering our work in racial and social equity, and that need is especially urgent now. This means shifting our energy to focus on advocacy efforts that can help address inequities that directly intersect with farm to school and ECE and are made more glaring in this current health crisis. It also means adjusting some of our other planned work, like postponing the 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, a decision made through a health equity lens; reprioritizing projects to give Partners more time and space to take care of themselves, their families and communities; and supporting our staff - who already work from home - with additional flexibilities to do what they need to take care of themselves and those closest to them.

We’ve also been listening to our state and national Partners about what support they need during this time. The situation has been fast moving and the needs, strategies and concerns of the farm to school and ECE community are fluid and still evolving. We’ve received questions about resources for helping school meal and child nutrition programs and other feeding efforts respond to the most urgent needs - see our compiled list of resources here. We’re also receiving questions about what the rapid changes to meal programs means for farmers, food producers, food hubs and others who rely on school markets as part of their business plans. Like many small businesses, this is an incredibly difficult situation for them. Our team is working right now to identify helpful information, strategies and tools that can address this sudden change in farm to school practices. If you have ideas or recommendations for this, please contact Lacy Stephens, Senior Program Manager, at lacy@farmtoschool.org. More coming soon. 

Advocacy opportunities for action now

In the meantime, there are actions we can take right now to keep supporting our community in the coming days and weeks. In particular, we know that this health crisis is exposing numerous inequities that intersect with farm to school and ECE – including millions of children living with the daily reality of not knowing where their next meal will come from, if not from school or early care. As a systems change anchor and advocacy organization, here are some relevant action opportunities we want to share that prioritize supporting those most vulnerable in our farm to school and ECE community: 

  • Support Hungry Kids and Families: Encourage legislators to take action to support families that rely on breakfast and lunch from school and early care settings. See six recommendations from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) here
  • Support Child Nutrition Programs and Staff: School nutrition professionals are doing extraordinary work to ensure ongoing access to child nutrition programs during school closures. Community partners can help support these efforts in numerous ways, including amplifying the message about sites that they are operating. FRAC has more information here
  • Support Early Care and Education Providers: Child care is essential and this crisis has shown that early childhood educators are a crucial part of our nation's fabric. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has 10 steps that states and districts should take to support child care here, and you can ask lawmakers to take federal action here.
  • Support Local and Regional Food Systems: Farmers and food producers are under strain. There are actions that Congress and USDA can take now to unlock already-appropriated funding to support them. Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition have an overview of these actions here. Additional information about mitigating immediate harmful impacts on those selling through local and regional food markets is available here
  • Support Family Farmers: In addition to school and institutional markets, many family farmers rely on direct-to-consumer sales for their livelihood. Most farmers’ markets are still open and they are taking extra precautions to help family farmers keep providing fresh, local food to their communities. Be sure to support them! See more from the Farmers Market Coalition here. Additionally, National Young Farmers Coalition has a "Call to Action" to urge your Members of Congress to keep young farmers and ranchers at the forefront of their relief efforts here.
  • Support Native Communities: Native communities and economies are in serious danger under this current health crisis, and ensuring food access in tribal communities is a top concern. The Native American Agriculture Fund, Seeds of Native Health, Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, and the Intertribal Agriculture Council are partners actively working on these issues. We are in touch with them, and will share actions that can be taken to support Native and tribal communities in the coming days and weeks..
  • Support Your Local Community: Get in touch with your NFSN State Partners to see how you can support local efforts with donations, volunteering or other efforts.  

Onward

In the immediacy of COVID-19, NFSN is here to support any and all efforts to ensure food reaches all children, families and communities. Please reach out to our team if there are ways we can support you. And, join our network to stay informed on our activities and actions in the weeks ahead.

Despite the extreme difficulties and pain that our global community is facing, we remain hopeful that this is an opportunity to unite in strengthening a just and equitable food system. We’re seeing in real time just how important this work is. While we may be physically distanced, we can spend this time virtually connected and planning and preparing to leverage farm to school and ECE to rebuild community food security and reinforce community connection. Community is at the heart of farm to school. And it’s community that will carry us forward through this time. 

In health, solidarity and community, 
Helen, Anna and the NFSN team 

National Farm to School Network Announces New Equity Learning Lab

NFSN Staff Monday, December 16, 2019

Thanks to the generous support of National Co+op Grocers and Newman’s Own Foundation, National Farm to School Network is excited to launch a new initiative aimed at advancing racial and social equity and addressing injustices in farm to school and the wider food movement. Our Equity Learning Lab, launching in 2020, will train farm to school leaders from across the country in equity principles and strategies that will maximize impact towards creating a more equitable and just food system. 

Advancing equity has been a core value of the National Farm to School Network since our founding, and we are committed to centering equity in all of our work. During our 2017-2019 Strategic Plan, we focused on developing resources and tools to help farm to school practitioners put equity into action. We created the Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool for Farm to School Programs and Policy, hosted numerous webinars on equity topics, invested in farm to school in Native communities, and more. We’ve heard resounding feedback from our partners and members that they look to the National Farm to School Network as a leader for advancing equity in farm to school, and they’re eager for more tools and support to further this important work in their organizations and communities. We hear your feedback, and meeting this need is our vision for the Equity Learning Lab.

Our concept for the Equity Learning Lab is to take a collaborative and innovative approach, where project stakeholders will co-construct the programmatic content and curriculum alongside National Farm to School Network staff. Given this dynamic structure, the first Equity Learning Lab will be open to twelve NFSN Core and Supporting Partners. We believe serving a smaller group of stakeholders as an intimate group will provide the ideal environment for learning. Session topics will include identifying inequities in the food system and related history and policies; why farm to school is an approach to addressing inequities and why farm to school cannot be successful without addressing inequities; NFSN’s approach to advancing equity and how we implement it through programs and policy; equity in action; and more. It’s also our goal that this model be replicable. We’ll be using a “train the trainer” approach so that the impact of the Equity Learning Lab can extend beyond the participants, giving them tools, resources, and knowledge to share what they’ve learned back in their communities. 

The launch of our Equity Learning Lab has been made possible through generous support from National Co+op Grocers and partners within the natural/organic foods industry, who raised funds for the Equity Learning Lab during NCG's annual grocery and wellness conference and tradeshow earlier this year, and support from Newman’s Own Foundation, the independent foundation created by the late actor and philanthropist, Paul Newman. 

We will be sharing more details about the initiative and its outcomes in the upcoming months. Be sure you’re signed up for our e-newsletter to receive the latest updates and opportunities to get involved. Have questions? Contact Krystal Oriadha, Senior Director of Programs and Policy, at krystal@farmtoschool.org

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