Farm to School Makes Headlines!

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Volume 1, Issue 7, December 8, 2015

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Two smiling girls with lunch trays

Farm to School Makes Headlines!

Over the past few weeks, news outlets have been abuzz featuring the innovative work that the next class of USDA Farm to School Grantees will be doing. For some, that work means scaling up existing projects and ensuring that kids have access to local products across all components of their meal. For example, The Burlington School Food Project will work on a project that will increase the availability and affordability of local beef for Burlington and other districts in the state.

Enjoy these stories about the important projects our new grantees are embarking on!

USDA pushes link between schools, and local farmers, ranchers Agency issues nearly $5 million in grants aimed at creating healthier school meals supporting local farmers in 39 states. Farm Progress - 11/18/2015
"... early results of the Farm to School Census show that schools across the country have invested nearly $600 million in local products, offering farmers a reliable market. USDA invests nearly $5 million in farm to school program. Aim is to get more local foods onto school lunch menus. USDA Farm to School Grants fund school districts, state and local agencies, tribal nations, agricultural producers and non-profit organizations in their efforts to increase use of local foods served through child nutrition programs. These groups also teach children about food and ..." View on Web

Oxford schools get $80,000 Farm to School grant  Washington Times - 11/18/2015
"... The Oxford School District is getting help to put locally-grown agriculture products in the school cafeteria. U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran tells WTVA-TV ( ) the district is receiving $80,000 in a Farm to School Grant from the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Cochran says the district has set a good example of promoting local agriculture to provide nutritious meals to students. ..." View on Web

Farm to School grant brings in more fresh food to Ferguson-Florissant district St. Louis Public Radio - 11/17/2015
"... A big selling point for the district to receive this grant is that it offers free lunch to all students, regardless of income, Kane said. This federal program, called the Community Eligibility Provision, has also been implemented by Riverview Gardens, Normandy, Jennings and St. Louis Public Schools. ..." View on Web

Some Nashville schools to get 'farm-to-school' program The Tennessean - 11/26/2015
“…This grant opportunity will give us a greater expansion of the work we’ve been doing towards developing a farm-to-school program within the district and helping us to build relationships in the community with farmers and vendors,” said Spencer Taylor, executive director of Nutrition Services for the district, in the release. “The grant will also help us to bring more healthy, sustainable foods to our students as well as educate them on the importance of a healthy lifestyle. …”

For a complete list of 2016 Farm to School Grant award recipients, click below.

Upcoming Webinars

Wednesday, December 9th at 2:00 PM EST: Sight & Mind: Promoting Healthy Food in School Cafeterias

When in a hurry, convenience and visibility is king! Kids and adults alike tend not to consider what they want for lunch until entering a cafeteria or restaurant. Healthy Food Choices in Schools is hosting a webinar to discuss the psychology of choice and how we can use simple principles to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Thursday, December 10 at 1:00 EST: Maximize Your Procurement Dollars through Regional Purchasing: School Food and Forward Contracting

Forward contracting establishes a price to be paid for a certain quantity of product to be provided at a future date. Learn how forward contracting can help maximize your procurement budget and support local farmers at the same time. Speakers will highlight the benefits and challenges of forward contracting school food and explain how to write forward contracts.

Monday, December 14 at 1:30 PM EST: Evaluating the Economic Impacts of Local and Regional Food Systems: Best Practices Using the USDA AMS Toolkit

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems is offering an upcoming webinar to take a look at the economy of local food. Be sure to check out Evaluating the Economic Impacts of Local and Regional Food Systems: Best Practices Using the USDA AMS Toolkit. Registration is required.

Students plant kale seedlings

Calling New Farmers

Are you new to farming, or know someone who is? Good news!

USDA has a newly redesigned website to meet the needs of new farmers, women in agriculture, youth, veterans, and farms in transition. The site features advice and guidance on everything a new farm business owner needs to know, from writing a business plan, to obtaining a loan to grow their business, to filing taxes as a new small business owner. By answering a series of questions about their operation, farmers can use the site’s Discovery Tool to build a personalized set of recommendations of USDA programs and services that may meet their needs.

Go Local – Promoting Healthy Habits and Boosting Local Communities

By Providence Public Schools, Rhode Island

Providence Public School District (PPSD) is the largest school district in Rhode Island, serving 24,000 students. In the heart of New England, PPSD has had historical ties to locally grown agriculture and food for centuries. For the past few years, PPSD requires that RI-grown products compose at least 15% of all food purchases annually, helping to economically support the RI food system with local dollars, while promoting the environmental benefits of local land stewardship.

As part of an innovative “Adopt a Farm” collaboration with Pezza Farm in Johnston, R.I, Sodexo Providence, the district’s food service management company, leases farmland specifically for PPSD school food production. The past four years, PPSD acreage on Pezza Farms has grown from 15 acres to more than 25 acres, producing a variety of vegetables used throughout the District’s school food service.

The management company incorporates locally sourced food into school meals throughout the day.  For school breakfast, muffins made by a local bakery not only meet the federal nutrition guidelines but also meet the more stringent Rhode Island Nutrition Requirements (RINR). The muffins are a popular breakfast item with students and often contain locally grown zucchini and carrots as primary ingredients. Steady orders for these muffins, and the bakery’s locally produced breakfast bars, have helped revitalize the company and both breakfast items are now found in several other RI school districts statewide.