Celebrating Native American Heritage Month with Local Food

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Volume 1, Issue 4, November 10, 2015

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Student transplanting seedlings
A Nay Ah Shing student transplants seedlings for the school garden

Traditional Foods in School Gardens

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month this November, we bring you this inspiring story about incorporating traditional food into school gardens and school meals.

Story from Deb Foye

I am the Nutrition Services Coordinator at Nay Ah Shing School in Onamia, Minnesota, which is a tribal school. When the gardens were established six years ago, the Mille Lacs Band’s master gardener supplied us with donated fruit plants and heirloom rhubarb from his parent's garden. The Band's Department of Natural Resources helped by providing the materials and manpower to put in the raised beds. Now we have four 20-foot beds as well as a cucumber tunnel and sunflower house. We grow several traditional foods, including a “Three Sisters Gardens,” a Native American tradition of planting corn, squash, and beans together.

Each spring, each K-5 classroom plants seeds for the garden, then tends the seedlings, transplanting as needed until it is time to plant in the gardens. When the seedlings are big enough to be planted in the gardens, each class plants their vegetables or fruit seedlings. Often, there are enough plants leftover for the students to each take one home.

During the summer, the gardens are tended by either staff or student groups. We have taste testings to incorporate the produce into the summer meals, as well as into the salad bars when school resumes. We also have started a native garden which contains sweet grass, tobacco, and sage for ceremonial purposes. This project has been a very successful adventure, with lots of support from teachers as well as administration.

Do you have a story to share? We’d love to hear from you!

Four years in review infographic

Farm to School at USDA, 2012-2015: Four Years in Review

What has the USDA Farm to School Program been up to for the past few years?! A lot!

This recently released report records our major activities from fiscal years 2012-2015 in four different areas: Staffing; Training and Technical Assistance; Research; and Grant Making. At its inception, the USDA Farm to School Program focused primarily on incorporating local foods into the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. Four years later, our portfolio is expanding to include the Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program and an emphasis on helping tribal communities incorporate traditional foods into child nutrition programs. Within USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, work under this broader purview will be conducted from a new Office of Community Food Systems.

As we settle into this new office, the timing seems appropriate to document our early accomplishments and invite feedback from our colleagues at USDA, other federal partners, and the many external stakeholders impacted by our work. We welcome your input at farmtoschool@fns.usda.gov.

2016 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference

Save the date for the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference June 2-4, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. This biennial event, hosted by the National Farm to School Network, will convene more than 1,500 people working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America. Registration will open February 15, 2015 – mark your calendars now!

Do you have expertise to share? The National Farm to School Network is seeking workshop, poster and lightning talk proposals from individuals and organizations working to improve our food system, strengthen community health, empower youth, build equity and increase opportunities for farmers. The Request for Proposals is open now through December 4, 2015.

Farm to School Census Deadline Quickly Approaching!

Here is one last reminder to schools districts to edit or submit responses to the 2015 Farm to School Census survey!! 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.

Currently, 68% of schools districts have responded, leaving us just 7 percentage points away from our goal to meet or exceed the 75% response rate record set in 2013. Help us get there!

Traditional Foods School Menu

USDA Foods Help Nourish a Culture

By Emily Doxtator, WINS Intern, USDA Office of Tribal Relations

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska.

Traditional foods are of significant value to Native American and Alaskan Natives today.  The same foods that have been used to feed our ancestors not only feed our bodies, but they feed our spirit. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes this importance and works diligently to offer program and partnership opportunities that help enhance traditional food access in Indian Country.

If your tribal community is looking to donate traditional foods to serve at food service programs at public or non-profit facilities, the Service of Traditional Foods in Public Facilities memo provides guidance for organizations and institutions operating under the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Child Nutrition Programs (CNP). The acceptance of these donations is largely possible due to changes in the 2014 Farm Bill that defines traditional foods as including wild game meat, fish, seafood, marine mammals, plants, and berries.