Search our Resource Database

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

View all resources

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

pick a date

pick a date

Connect with your state

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

National Farm to School Network

News

Action Alert: Senate Must Do More For Kids, Farmers & Schools

NFSN Staff Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Late yesterday afternoon, the Senate released their latest set of COVID-19 relief bills, a $1 trillion bundle of legislation covering business aid, money for schools and agricultural aid funding. Included in the legislation is $70 billion for K-12 schools ($46 billion is reserved for costs of reopening in-person school this fall), tax credits and Payroll Protection Program Extensions, and $20 billion in agricultural aid funding with no additional guardrails to correct the shortcomings of USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (see here and here). While we’re glad that Senators have recognized that our schools and farmers are in urgent need of critical funding support, this proposed legislation from the Senate falls far short of targeting the actual needs of our kids, farmers, educators and school nutrition professionals. 

We need targeted policies that match the scale of this current crisis. Specifically, we need policies that directly support Black, Indigenous and small scale farmers, early care and education providers, and school food service operators – they all play a critical role in feeding and caring for our communities, and especially so during this pandemic. That’s why, as the Senate and House work out the details of this next round of COVID-19 relief, we’re calling on policymakers to: 
  • Fully fund universal free school meals, informed by these values, this next school year. 
  • Provide immediate funding support to early care and education centers.
  • Create a set-aside small business relief fund for farmers of color.
  • Waive the non-federal match requirement for local food and agriculture programs, including the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, for the next two years.
We are pleased to see some of these bold solutions already coming from the champions in the House and Senate. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) yesterday introduced the Small Farm to School Act, a bipartisan bill to pilot increased reimbursement for local procurement. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has included targeted support for Black, Indigenous and other farmers of color who grow vegetables and fruit, and a waiver of the non-federal match for USDA Farm to School Grants, in his Local Food Assistance and Resilient Markets Act. Bills like these should be leading this round of COVID-19 relief from Congress. 

It’s essential that your Senators hear from you about what your community needs right now to support kids, educators, farmers and school nutrition professionals. This legislation is expected to move quickly, so don’t wait - take this quick 5 minute action right now!

Call your Senators TODAY and tell them you want to see more support for kids, farmers and educators in your community included in the HEALS Act. Here’s how: Step 1: Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Step 2: Ask to be connected with your Senator's office. Not sure who your Senators are? (You have 2!) Give the Switchboard your zip code and they can connect you to the correct offices. Step 3: Leave a message for your Senators like this: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent and a ____ [parent, teacher, farmer, etc.]. I’d like to ask [your Senator’s name] to advocate for the following things to be included in next round of COVID-19 relief legislation:Fully fund universal free school meals this next school year. Provide immediate funding support to early care and education centers.Create a set-aside small business relief fund for farmers of color. Support the Local FARM Act (S. 4140). These issues matter to me because ____ [tell your story!]. Thank you!

Already made your two calls? Sign-on to endorse our COVID-19 Federal Policy Platform that includes more measures we think the Senate must include to ensure immediate relief for the people most impacted by this crisis, while building towards longer-term policies that strengthen a resilient, just food system.

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

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

The Last Mile

NFSN Staff Wednesday, July 22, 2020

By Karen Spangler, Policy Director, and Erika Rincon, Program and Policy Assistant

Whether you’re a farmer, food bank or school serving meals to-go during the COVID-19 pandemic, the last mile is frequently the hardest equation to solve. It’s one that the USDA “Farmers to Families” program has aimed to cover, with $3 billion in contracts with vendors to provide nonprofits with “truck to trunk” food distribution. But as food banks and other community organizations apply for deliveries from the approved vendors, that last mile – getting the delivered food into the hands of the hungry – is turning out to be a considerable barrier. The CEO at the Food Bank of the Rockies says that distributing food donated through the Farmers to Families program is costing $40,000 per month just for transportation. Since May 15, the San Antonio Food Bank has spent more than $83,000 to store and distribute the food they’ve received from an event company that was awarded the USDA contract for the region.

Like food banks, schools all over the country have drastically altered how they feed kids during this pandemic, pivoting to outdoor distribution, grab-and-go pre-packaged food and social distancing in their kitchens. But the last mile for students – between food distribution sites and their front doors –  can be the hardest. In the first few weeks of distribution this spring, some schools saw only a fraction of their usual free and reduced-price eligible students showing up to collect meals, sometimes attributing this to lack of transportation. So some schools mobilized their dormant fleet of school buses and drivers to deliver meals to distribution locations throughout their districts.

For low-income families who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or who have received Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) to feed their kids while school meals are unavailable, the expansion of online EBT purchases offers the potential to make purchases without risking exposure. However, in most states this expedited pilot includes only a few big retailers, leaving out local and regional producers who could serve this market. Moreover, online EBT customers do not have the option for pickup in many states, but delivery fees can’t be covered by SNAP or P-EBT funds (which must be used only for food). Immediate measures to help smaller retailers deliver during the pandemic, as well as long-term solutions to make sure all eligible retailers can accept online SNAP, have been proposed in Congress but not yet passed.  

For those who are able to stay home, delivery services spare customers exposure from going into grocery stores with long lines or tight spaces. But the increasing reliance on convenient delivery means that the last mile – from the warehouse, grocery store, or restaurant – is served by workers who are risking exposure. 

Food banks and local food pantries also face their own challenges in the last mile, the miles that patrons have to travel to access these distribution sites. A recent survey by Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks, reported that 40% of clients are getting help from a food bank for the first time. For these new customers, first identifying and then traveling to a distribution location can be challenging, especially when avoiding public transportation. Some food banks have undertaken mapping projects to link customers with resources and help them find out what’s available in their area. 

Farmers who relied on institutional sales to restaurants or schools have been left with a surplus in their fields, but for them, the last mile to the food bank is expensive and time-consuming. The cost of harvest, transportation, and navigating the patchwork of operating hours of local food pantries – often narrow windows of time, constrained by volunteers (many of whom are elderly at at high-risk) and a lack of storage capability at the distribution site – means extra difficulty in getting excess produce to its destination. New York state is trying to solve this problem through $5,000 refundable tax credits to farmers for donating crops, and $25 million in funds for food banks to buy from local and regional producers and invest in storage capacity. This approach is faster, more flexible, and more cost-effective than the federal Farmers to Families approach.

The “last mile” is often an afterthought in government programs, as evidenced by the Farmers to Families dilemma. COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to evaluate our supply chain and the security of our food system. During and after this public health crisis, public investments should increase the capacity of local and regional food systems to bridge that last mile. 

Federal Policy Update: A Big Budget Win & More Opportunities to Champion Farm to School Through COVID-19

NFSN Staff Thursday, July 16, 2020



By Karen Spangler, Policy Director


On July 9, the House Appropriations Committee advanced its agricultural spending bill for Fiscal Year 2021. The package provides $12 million in funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, a discretionary bump of $7 million above the annual mandatory $5 million level. In addition, it allocates discretionary funding for school kitchen equipment grants, outreach to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), and the Food Safety Outreach Program. This is a huge win for farm to school, and follows USDA’s recent announcement of a record 159 Farm to School Grant awards, made possible by the additional funding secured by our Congressional champions through appropriations bills for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The Senate is currently working on its own set of FY2021 spending priorities, which it must negotiate with the House before passing a final spending bill for the President’s signature. After those steps, this increased funding for farm to school will be official. 
 
Of course, farm to school activities can’t take place without the strong foundations of a viable local and regional food system, school meal programs and CACFP sites that actually have the resources to invest in farm to school, and educators who are supported in using farm to school activities with kids. We’re pleased to have such strong champions in House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, including Chair Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who help make possible this important additional support. But to make the most of this future funding, we must address the immediate needs of stakeholders across the farm to school community that need relief now, and that will need support to rebuild in the years to come.
 
That’s why National Farm to School Network was pleased to endorse the Local FARMS Act, introduced July 2 by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). This bill would waive the non-federal match required for USDA Farm to School Grants, covering 100% of project costs instead of the current 75%. As state and local budgets are squeezed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding scarce matching funds will no longer be a barrier to accessing these grants. The Local FARMs Act would also support local food systems as producers rebuild, in particular directing 50% of bonus Specialty Crop Block Grants to purchase crops from women, veterans, and people of color.
 
School meal programs and early care and education providers who participate in CACFP have borne the responsibility of transforming their operations to continue feeding kids, even as reduced reimbursements from federal programs put programs in the red at a median level of $200,000. The HEROES Act, passed by the House in May, contains two provisions that would help somewhat, offering funding to cover some operational costs and make up for declining reimbursements. But as the uncertainty and burdens of the COVID-19 crisis drag on, more groups are looking to universal free meals in the 2020-2021 school year, including the School Nutrition Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a new joint campaign, School Lunch for All, led by Urban School Food Alliance and Student Voice. Universal free meals would not only help ensure health and educational equity for low-income children, but would also allow school nutrition staff to focus on nourishing kids rather than worry about reimbursement paperwork in the midst of a crisis. National Farm to School Network is supportive of these calls for universal free meals, and urges that any new policies to emerge be rooted in racial equity and justice. 
 
What’s next? Senate leaders face growing pressure to take action and pass more COVID relief legislation as the costs and uncertainty of this pandemic drag on. The good news is that there’s still time to shape what’s in this package - including many of the policy needs cited here in this post. 


You can take action by:
1) Signing NFSN’s COVID-19 platform on federal policy response.

2) Urging your Senators to support the Local FARMS Act.

3) Telling your Senators that relief for school meal programs and CACFP sites must be part of any new legislation. (Need support reaching out to your Senator? Just let us know!)

4) Joining forces with groups pushing for immediate universal free school meals in the 2020-2021 school year.

USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and Local Food

NFSN Staff Monday, April 27, 2020

On Friday, April 17, USDA announced the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. While there is still much unknown about how the program will be implemented, it may be an opportunity for local product to make its way to emergency feeding programs, addressing a vital need for market opportunities for local producers and food access needs in communities. The program aims to support producers and consumers with two approaches:

  • Direct Support for Farmers and Ranchers
  • USDA Purchase and Distribution 
What You Need to Know 
  • Direct Support for Farmers and Ranchers - USDA is in the process of developing rules for how support will be distributed and who will be eligible. NFSN and partners are working to ensure all farmers are able to access this program by pushing USDA to target local and regional producers and to outline the measures it will take to equitably include producers of color. What you can do: We anticipate a brief rulemaking process to direct how this money will be distributed. We encourage partners to be prepared to submit comments. We also encourage partners to work with their state departments of agriculture to put pressure on USDA to commit to the measures the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition outlines.
  • USDA Purchase and Distribution - On Friday, April 24, USDA opened solicitations (view RFP here) for regional and local distributors who can coordinate purchase of agricultural products, the assembly of commodity boxes and delivery to identified non-profit organizations that can receive, store and distribute food items. Included in the application is a request for applicants to describe how they intend to support small farmers and those serving local and regional markets. Applicants are also responsible for identifying non-profit organizations for distribution, and this could potentially include schools and early care sites. What you can do: Share relevant information (see links below) with local food hubs, intermediaries, producers, and relevant food businesses. Awardees are expected to capitalize on exisiting networks and relationships, so this is a vital opportunity for local and regional food networks to activitate local distribution chains.  
Additional Resources and Information

NFSN Statement on Newest USDA Proposed Changes to School Nutrition Standards

NFSN Staff Thursday, January 23, 2020

On Jan. 17, USDA announced new proposed rules to further modify nutrition standards established by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. These proposals—which follow other highly contested changes that have rolled back nutrition standards— would loosen restrictions for school meal requirements that could result in less fruit available at breakfast, reduce vegetables at lunch, and make it even more difficult for students to make healthy choices in the cafeteria.

National Farm to School Network advocates that any proposed changes be informed by both the needs of children and the capacity and expertise of the staff feeding our children. Program flexibility and efficiency that does not sacrifice quality and nutrition should be the primary goal of any proposed rules. Ultimately, these programs exist to serve our children and to support their wellbeing. Many of the 20 million children receiving free and reduced-price meals rely on school meals for the majority of their daily calories and nutrition, and for some children, these are the only meals they eat. These children are the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of malnutrition, so the nutritional quality of these meals is of utmost importance in ensuring a lifetime of health and wellbeing.

For these reasons, the National Farm to School Network firmly opposes any of USDA’s proposed changes that would reduce the nutritional quality of school meals. USDA’s own School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study found that the stronger standards are having positive impacts, and numerous studies have shown that they’re working to get students eating more fruits and vegetables, maintaining NSLP participation, and not increasing plate waste.

We recognize that the nutrition standard changes from 2010 can be challenging to implement because children need time to adjust to new and unfamiliar foods and child nutrition staff need time, training, and support to adapt to new guidelines. Farm to school practices are a solution to many of the challenges that schools are facing as they continue to transition. Farm to school activities like taste tests, school gardens, farm visits and cooking demonstrations are part of the equation that’s helping students get excited about trying and liking these new, healthier foods. As our kids continue to grow accustomed to the healthier nutrition standards and our country remains plagued by childhood obesity, it’s a disservice to them and their future to turn back on nutritional quality.

USDA’s new proposals were entered in the Federal Register on Jan. 23, and will be open for public comment for 60 days. In the coming days, we will share additional information and materials about how you can join us in submitting comments on these proposed changes. Contact Chloe Marshall, NFSN Policy Specialist, at chloe@farmtoschool.org with questions.

The First 10 Months of 2019: A Farm to School Policy Perspective

NFSN Staff Wednesday, November 06, 2019

By Chloe Marshall, Policy Specialist

Ten months in, 2019 has been full of exciting farm to school policy wins, challenges, and opportunities. Now that we’ve gone through another successful National Farm to School Month and have begun to look towards 2020, I want to pause, reflect and celebrate what we’ve accomplished so far this year, together.

In early 2019, while catching our breath from the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, we were jolted back into action by Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) February announcement of his desire to write a child nutrition reauthorization (CNR). Advocates around the country, including us at the National Farm to School Network, quickly became ready to gear up for another journey towards a new CNR. Child nutrition bills have not been reauthorized (government speak for rewriting a package of bills) since 2010, when sweeping changes were made to school meals, including new comprehensive nutrition standards, adoption of the Community Eligibility Provision, and - a gold star on our list - the beginning of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program

Since February, we’ve made major strides and had some big wins in advocating for strong farm to school priorities in the next CNR: 

  • We hosted a series of listening sessions to hear from farm to school advocates about how CNR can better support their efforts. 
  • In partnership with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, we championed the introduction of two signature bills - the Farm to School Act of 2019 and the Kids Eat Local Act - that directly address the feedback and needs we’ve heard from farm to school stakeholders. As of today, the Farm to School Act has 17 cosponsors and the Kids Eat Local Act has 22 cosponsors. Both bills have strong bipartisan support, a beautiful example of how our advocacy can push Congress to work together for good.
  • In September, we hosted three farm to school advocates on Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers from Arkansas and Kansas about the importance of farm to school. Our fly-in was made possible with the generous support of the Johnson Family Foundation - thank you! 
  • We have deepened relationships with national partners including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Food Corps, both of whom have led advocacy efforts alongside us and offered tremendous support. Additional thanks goes out to original endorsers of our farm to school bills, including American Heart Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Food Corps, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Education Association, and the National Farmers Union.
  • Our online petitions in support of our two bills have gathered more than 800 signatures from individuals and organizations. You can still sign on!
  • And, the US Senate passed a resolution declaring October 2019 National Farm to School Month! The US House did this in 2010, and we love bicameral support for a great cause! 
Can you believe we accomplished all that in less than ten months? If you haven’t thanked yourself for the hard work you’ve done, do it right now. Then turn to your neighbor (or your social media friends) and repeat after me: “Thank you for moving the movement.” Farm to school has worked because of YOUR work, and we thank you. 

Will you help us take it even further? The future of farm to school is in our hands, and everyday is an opportunity to transform our food system. While we wait to see a draft CNR bill, there’s work that can still be done: 

  • Add your name and/or your organization to our letters to Congress, then share with a friend (or many friends). 
  • Share your farm to school work on social media and tag us - @farmtoschool / #farmtoschool - and your members of Congress. Ask them to support the Farm to School Act and Kids Eat Local Act. 
  • Reach out to your members of Congress to urge their support for our bills (lobbying) or simply educate them on the state of farm to school in your community (not lobbying). 
Beyond CNR, there are many other opportunities to advocate for policy that advances farm to school that we’ve been working on at the National Farm to School Network. In 2019, we’ve been: centering equity in our policy advocacy; establishing an official policy platform; supporting the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill; building new federal agency relationships; sharing our new State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018 (co-authored by the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School); digging deeper into state and local policy opportunities; and, working to become a more active voice in organizing for food justice. 

The heart of our work at the National Farm to School Network is not policy or programs, it’s people - kids, farmers, communities, and everyone in between. What policy matters matter to you, and how can the National Farm to School Network support your interests? I want to know! Connect with me anytime at chloe@farmtoschool.org. The power of our network is in partners like you who are working for change. As we continue to organize and advocate for strong policy, let’s remember that we’re ultimately advocating for ourselves, for each other, for our children, and for our futures. Onward and upward, together! 

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.

Farm to School Advocates kick off Farm to School Month in DC

NFSN Staff Friday, October 18, 2019

This blog was written by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and can be read in-full on their website here

In September, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) brought three farm to school advocates to Capitol Hill to share the amazing farm to school work they’ve been doing with lawmakers in Congress. Much of the work that these advocates have been engaged in to source more local, healthy food into schools across Arkansas and Kansas is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program.

During their visit to the nation’s capital, Allyson Mrachek and Maegan Brown from Arkansas, and Rachael McGinnis Millsap from Kansas visited eight congressional offices across their home states and had the opportunity to share both the successes they’ve seen, as well as the ongoing challenges, within their own communities. A central goal of their visit was telling decision makers in Congress why healthy food, family farm, and anti-hunger advocates want the next Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR) to include the Farm to School Act of 2019.

The Farm to School Act of 2019, for which NFSN and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) have aggressively advocated, would provide an additional $10 million in annual funding for the Farm to School Grant program. The bill would also make policy changes that would improve access to the program for Native American communities, and prioritize projects that engage beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers. 

Read Allyson, Maegan and Rachael’s farm to school stories and learn about impacts of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog.  

Continue Reading

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.

Recent Posts


Archive


Tags

Newsletter Archives

We have lots of great info in our newsletter archive!

View the Archive

  1 2 3 4 5 .. 9   Next