Celebrating Farm to School Month Success!

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Volume 1, Issue 3, October 27, 2015

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Teachers discussing a game plan
Teachers discussing a game plan. Photo courtesy of Matthew Melore.

As Farm to School Month Wraps Up, Celebrating (and Training) Teachers

Everyone can agree that teachers have a lot their plates. In addition to preparing daily lessons for sometimes large classrooms of students, they are often asked to participate in a host of other committees, initiatives, and programs. Adding food and garden education to the mix can sometimes be overwhelming, which is why we treasure stories about districts taking the time and finding the resources to bring teachers fully into the fold on farm to school efforts. This Farm to School Month, the New York City Department of Education celebrated with a teacher-based event organized through its Garden to Café Program. The Program connects school and community gardens with school meals through seasonal harvest events and educational activities.

To prepare for the fall harvest season, teachers were invited to participate in an intensive workshop. A full day of talking, tasting, and harvesting under sunny skies on a urban farm on Governor’s Island in the New York Harbor left teachers educated, inspired, and ready to teach their students about food systems. And we know that when messages about food and nutrition are reinforced by teachers in the classroom and garden, children are more likely to try and enjoy healthier items offered in the cafeteria.

As October comes to an end, we want to thank everyone who makes farm to school possible—teachers, students, food service staff members, school administrators, non-profit partners, state agency staff members, parents, and others, and recognize their tireless dedication to enriching their communities and nourishing children’s bodies and minds.

So, thank you, and (for the last time this year) Happy Farm to School Month!

Call for Stories: Serving Local Traditional Foods

In preparation for Native American Heritage Month in November, we are collecting success stories about incorporating local traditional foods into the child nutrition programs. Do you have a story to share? Use the link below to fill out a quick form, and be sure to include any photos!

Share Your Story

Cows grazing

New Policy Memo Clarifies Local Meat Purchasing

Fruits and vegetables are often gateway products to farm to school programs, but many districts are filling out their meals with local meat products too! From buffalo in Montana, chicken in California, to beef in Nebraska, schools are finding a place for locally raised protein products in the cafeteria. While many districts have already jumped in, we’ve received a variety of questions related to purchasing local meat products and a recently released memo outlines the food safety requirements for purchasing and serving poultry, livestock, game and eggs in child nutrition programs. Here are a few highlights:

  • Livestock must be slaughtered a state or USDA inspected facility to be served in child nutrition programs (CNPs).
  • FNS recommends that poultry be slaughtered at a state or USDA inspected facility to be served in CNPs, though there are a few exemptions from inspection and schools could purchase from producers operating under an exemption.
  • Wild and domesticated game must be voluntarily inspected at state or USDA inspected facility to be served in CNPs.
  • Egg products (liquid, frozen, dried) must be USDA inspected. Shell eggs do not need to be pasteurized.

Time to review Census results!

2015 Farm to School Census Reminder

Have you heard? USDA recently released early results from the second Farm to School Census!

We are accepting submissions of new data and encouraging districts to correct existing records as necessary through November 20, 2015. Just follow the three easy steps outlined on the site to find your district, check your record, and either update your data or make a new entry. After the submission period has closed, we will re-tabulate the numbers and begin releasing final results in early 2016.

A National Survey of Local Procurement, Gardens and Food and Farm Education in Early Care Settings

The National Farm to School Network is currently conducting a survey of early care and education staff and providers to gain a better understanding of current farm to preschool practices as well as barriers and challenges to implementing farm to preschool/early care initiatives.

If you are an early care and education provider, please complete the survey below by Friday, November 20. By completing the survey, you will qualify for a drawing to win one of 5 framed prints of artwork created collaboratively by attendees of the 2012 National Farm to Cafeteria conference and designed by Vermont artist Bonnie Acker.

Please share this survey with early care and education staff and providers in your networks. Thank you for your time and assistance in capturing this important information!

A Student’s Perspective: How Fuel Up to Play 60 Supports Farm to School

This post was written by Andrew, a Wisconsin seventh-grader and Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador.

Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council and NFL, in collaboration with USDA, to help encourage young people to lead healthier lives.

I am a student ambassador (for Fuel Up to Play 60) at my middle school in Wisconsin. I live in a dairy state. We have a lot of farms. In the short six mile drive from my house to school, I go by seven farms! There are also some green thumb farmers in our school. That is why we have our very own school garden. Our gardens have 22 garden beds that are planted with different fruits and vegetables in them. With those fruits and vegetables, we can harvest them for our schools so we can eat them!

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of fueling up every day! The Fuel Up to Play 60 Ambassadors at my school participate by helping out with the gardens. We have pulled weeds, made garden beds, shoveled the soil, planted the seeds, watered the plants, and most importantly, ate the fruits of our labor! With these students helping out in the garden, we also learned more about gardening. Farm to School has been a great addition to our Fuel Up to Play 60 program.