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National Farm to School Network


Honoring Black History and Leadership in Farm to School

NFSN Staff Friday, February 28, 2020

By Anna Mullen, Communications Director

February is Black History Month, a dedicated time to pay attention to the power and resilience of the Black community and to celebrate the many Black leaders on whose shoulders we stand. For the National Farm to School Network, it’s also a time to recommit ourselves to being honest about the racism and inequities that persist within our field of work, and to reaffirm our commitment to working towards a vision of equity and justice. Listening, learning and reflecting on the histories, stories and wisdom of Black leaders in the food movement is one step in this journey, and we invite you to join us. Here are a few recommendations to get you started: 

EXPLORE: Black History Month Food and Farm Justice resource lists - HEAL Alliance

READ: Black Farmers Are Embracing Climate-Resilient Farming, by Leah Penniman - Civil Eats

WATCH: Malik Yankini on Food, Race and Justice - TEDxMuskegon

LISTEN: Karen Washington on Food Justice, Land Stewardship and Legacy Work - WhyHunger

MEET: The Black farm to school pioneers, leaders and kids in the picture above!

Top row:
  • Betti Wiggins, Officer of Nutrition Services at Houston Independent School District and former NFSN Advisory Board member.
  • Students at Kimball Elementary School in Washington, D.C. growing hydroponic lettuce and tomatoes.
  • LaDonna Redmond, founder and executive director of The Campaign for Food Justice Now.
  • A young gardener picking peas at the former K Street Farm in Washington, D.C.

Middle row:
  • Students enjoying a taste test at John Adams Elementary School in Riverside, Calif.
  • Glyen Holmes, founder of the New North Florida Cooperative, and a farm to school movement trailblazer. He's been helping small farmers in Florida sell to schools since the 1990s!
  • A little gardener learning about plants in Tennessee.
  • Rodney Taylor, director of Food and Nutrition Services for Fairfax County Public Schools, pioneer of "farm to school salad bars" in the 1990s, and former NFSN Advisory Board member.

Bottom row:

These are just a few of the many Black trailblazers, innovators and movement makers who are helping power farm to school efforts nationwide. There are many more - including on our staff, Advisory Board, in our network of Core and Supporting Partners, and others - who we also celebrate this month. 

While there are just a few days left of Black History Month 2020, our commitment to listening to and lifting up Black voices and leadership in farm to school doesn't stop at the end of February. Every day is the right day for being honest about and addressing the racism and inequities in our work. (You can read more about National Farm to School Network's commitment to centering our work in equity here.) In March and April, our staff will be participating in Food Solutions New England's 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge - sign up to join us. And, we encourage you join us in continuing to honor the Black leaders who have given, and continue to give, boundless wisdom, vision, creativity and commitment to the farm to school movement.

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

NFSN launches Programs and Policy Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool

NFSN Staff Thursday, August 16, 2018

The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is pleased to share a new equity assessment tool, the Programs and Policy Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool, which aims to help NFSN staff and partner organizations assess the implications of specific programming and policy advocacy on advancing racial and social equity.

The National Farm to School Network is committed to advancing racial and social equity in all aspects of our work, and our strategic plan highlights this commitment. NFSN’s strategic plan states, “advancing racial and social equity is at the core of the farm to school movement, and serving as an equity promoting organization is a core value of NFSN.”  NFSN has taken steps to integrate racial and social equity analysis into our programs and policies, including efforts to formulate the Farm to School Act asks to include support for farm to school in Native communities, creating a farm to early care and education cultural relevancy subgroup in the summer of 2016, and translating key fact sheets and resources into Spanish. Building on these efforts, this new Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool will allow the network to make significant strides in equitable policy advocacy and programming by assessing all policy and program developments through a racial and social equity lens. We aim to maximize our impact on breaking down inequities in the food system.  

The NFSN Policy and Programs Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool has two principal goals. The first section of the tool is intended to help NFSN staff refine their racial and social equity priorities through a set of questions that assess NFSN staff and stakeholder priorities as well as stakeholder engagement in formulating policy and programmatic proposals. The second and third sections in the guide assess the implications of specific programming and policy advocacy on advancing racial and social equity, ensuring these opportunities are being maximized. Specifically, the tool contains questions that assure that policies and programs are aligned with the NFSN equity priorities, that identify and address common shortcomings in developing racially and socially equitable policies, and that assure proposals are creating meaningful long-term change and are accountable to racially and socially disadvantaged communities.  

The Assessment Tool was developed collaboratively with NFSN staff and NFSN partners.  NFSN staff led the research and analysis to produce this toolkit, with feedback from Tes Thraves (Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina Core Partner) and Wendy Peters Moschetti (LiveWell, Colorado Core Partner).  

The National Farm to School Network is confident that the comprehensive approach to policy and programmatic assessment present in its Policy and Programs Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool will allow the organization and its partners to make meaningful strides to advance racial and social equity in farm to school work across the country. Though the tool was developed primarily for use by NFSN, NFSN Core and Supporting Partners and members are encouraged to adapt it to their own organizational needs, in a movement-wide effort to advance equity. 

New to considering how your work advances equity? Check out the Racial Equity Tools Glossary, the dictionary of equity terms NFSN uses; understanding terms is essential and foundational to then considering what it looks like in your programming and policy advocacy efforts. Learn more about NFSN’s commitment to equity and find more resources for advancing racial and social equity in your farm to school work here

Local Food Sheroes

NFSN Staff Monday, March 26, 2018

By Molly Schintler, Communication Intern

March is Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, I knew that I wanted to write a blog focused on the role of women in food and agriculture. Originally, I envisioned focusing on historical, female leaders whose work laid the foundation for today’s food and agriculture systems. In retrospect, this may have been a bit ambitious. Thankfully, however, I have access to a powerful resource in the many individuals and organizations that make up the National Farm to School Network. When I reached out and asked our partners to share the names of female leaders, past and present, who have played an important role in food and agriculture in the U.S., almost all of those who responded shared the names of women who they know personally.

Many partners mentioned female colleagues, political representatives, and leaders of non-profits as women who have inspired them in their farm to school work. But inspirational women working in food systems existed long before 2018. Throughout history, women have been farmers, researchers, educators, political activists, scholars, marketers, and more in the name of advancing food systems. Who were the original lunch ladies? Who were the first women to champion agriculture education?  Which female farmers planted seeds of change, literal and figurative, in their communities a hundred years ago?

To quote Dolores Huerta, a historical food activist who is still leading change in our food system today: “That's the history of the world. His story is told, her's isn't.” Dolores co-founded the National Farm Workers Association alongside César Chávez in the 1960s. For decades, she has championed farmworkers rights, and yet many people recognize Chávez’s name and not Huerta’s. For me, it is not about recognizing a name for the sake of recognizing a name. It is about knowing a women’s name because you’ve heard her story. It is about saying a women’s name because you are teaching others about her contribution to our food system. Dolores Huerta is one of so many female food leaders who our farm to school work can and should be teaching about. 

If today’s students are taught about local food sheroes past and present, then we can start to tell a more complete, equitable history of our nation’s food system. In the garden, classroom, and cafeteria, let’s educate our students about the:

Activism of Fannie Lou Hamer, who in 1969, founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative in opposition to the inequitable and pervasive sharecropping system of agriculture. She also led early, grassroots organizing in support of Head Start programs.

Leadership of Denise O’Brien, who, when asked about her life’s work as a farmer and founder of the Women Food & Agriculture Network said, “My life has been devoted to raising women’s voices in agriculture. My dream is that the landscape of industrialized agriculture will change as women become the decision makers on their land. To that end I will devote my time on this earth to women, prairie restoration and seed saving.” 

Vision of Chef Ann Cooper, who is devoted to creating a future where being a chef working to feed children fresh, delicious, and nourishing food is no longer considered “renegade.” 

Persistence of Karen Washington, who has lived in New York City all her life, and has spent decades promoting urban farming as a way for all New Yorkers to access to fresh, locally grown food.

Initiative of Chellie Pingree, who has been an advocate in Congress for reforming federal policy to better support the diverse range of American agriculture—including sustainable, organic, and locally focused farming. 

Talent of M.F.K Fisher, who elevated food writing to poetry as a preeminent American food writer in the 20th century.

Community Organizing of Gloria Begay, a Navajo educator and founding Naat’aanii Council member of the Dine’ Food Sovereignty Alliance to restore the traditional food and culture system on the Navajo Nation. 

Trailblazing of Betti Wiggins, who has worked to feed kids healthy food for over 30 years. As the director of food service for the Detroit Public Schools, Betti reformed the school lunch program through championing school gardens and local food. Today, she is still trailblazing for school food as Houston school dictrict’s officer of nutrition services.

Promise of Haile Thomas, who at the age of seventeen, is leading her generation toward a healthier food system. As a health activist and founder/CEO of The HAPPY Organization, Haile has engaged over 15,000 kids in activism since 2010.  Haile will be a keynote speaker at the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference this April. 

Our network extends our humble thanks to the many women and non-binary identifying people whose work has built and continues our food system toward a more healthy, equitable future.  We may never know all of your names, but we certainly know that our work would never be possible without you.  Thank you for being local food heroes and sheroes! 

It's not only about race, but it's always about race

NFSN Staff Wednesday, February 28, 2018
By Molly Schintler, Communications Intern

Every month, National Farm to School Network staff gather to engaging in ongoing learning and discussion about racial and social equity in farm to school. This month, we started our conversation with each staff member sharing a story, thought, or resource relating to Black History – a timely discussion, as February is Black History Month. One staff member shared a few words that had stuck with them, offered by a NFSN Core Partner: “It’s not only about race; but, it’s always about race.” Hearing these words struck me, too. I would encourage you to re-read the quote a few times, sit for a moment, and think about this short, simple statement. These words resonated with me because they encompass how I approach my work with NFSN.  Farm to school is not only about race; but it’s always about race. 
The National Farm to School Network is committed to racial and social equity as a central tenant of farm to school. Why? Because troubling racial and ethnic disparities exist in our food system:
  • Black and Latino youths having substantially higher rates of childhood obesity as compared to their White peers.
  • Native Americans are twice as likely as White people to lack access to safe, healthy foods, ultimately leading to higher obesity and diabetes rates.
  • Many food system workers take home poverty-level wages, with women, Blacks and Latinos most likely to earn the lowest.
  • With regards to land ownership, Latinos make up 3.2 percent of today’s farm owners, American Indians or Alaska natives 1.8 percent, Black or African people 1.6 percent, and Asians constitute less that 1 percent.
We believe that farm to school programs rooted in equity can, quite literally, grow and cultivate a more fair and just food system for all Americans, Native Americans, and citizens of the U.S. Territories. 

Black history - and more specifically, black history in the US food system - is important to understand because our food system was built inequitably.  This is to say that the social and racial injustices of our current food systems exist by design. (Learn more by watching Ricardo Salvador’s keynote address at the 2016 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference here.) The racial disparities that permeate the food system are not happenstance, but rather a result of our nation’s history of exploiting people of color, particularly Native Americans and African Americans. As much as farm to school is about cute, toothless kids pulling fresh carrots from a school garden and farmers supplying local foods for school lunch, it is also about the real, true history of food in this country. This real, true history includes stolen land and slavery and Jim Crow, which, naturally, gives one less of a warm and fuzzy feeling when compared to the cute kids with carrots in a school garden.  

And that brings me back to “It’s not only about race; but, it’s always about race.” For me, this is an important reminder that our work in growing healthy kids and supporting local agriculture through farm to school activities isn’t only about addressing racial inequities. But, race must always be part of the conversation because racial inequities are a reality of the food system that we work within. Farm to school is not only about race, but it’s always about race. 

As long as I show up and hold space for a comprehensive farm to school discussion, then there will be space for it to be about cute kids, local carrots, and race. If you are wondering how you can show up for racial justice in the US food system or better integrate racial equity into farm to school, there are some great resources available that I invite you to explore:   
  • Read over the National Farm to School Network’s commitment to racial and social equity in farm to school here
  • Register to attend the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference this April 25-27 in Cincinnati, OH.  The conference program features a number of workshops focused on equity and justice in farm to cafeteria, as well as a “Re-Framing Food: Food Systems work through a Racial Equity Lens” short course. Learn more and register here
  • Check out the multicultural and non-English resources available in our Resource Library
  • Watch our recent “Advancing Equity Through Farm to School” webinar here
As our staff continues to learn about and deepen out understanding of inequity in our food system, we’ve collected a robust list of resources and readings that we’ve found helpful to deepening our understanding of this important work. You can explore our list of suggestion (and send us your recommendations!), here. As you begin to delve into learning more about racial and social justice in food systems, it’s important to remember that no single training or article holds all of the answers. Similarly, we often remind ourselves that learning about equity in the food system is a journey, not a destination. Understanding how culture and history have influenced food takes time and dedication. For me, Black History Month reminds me to reflect on the ways that I show up for racial and food justice while challenging myself to learn more.  But there isn’t anything inherently special about February for taking time to reflect, learn, and challenge each other and ourselves.  Indeed, every month is a great time to commit to making racial equity a priority in our work. 

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