Happy Holidays from the Office of Community Food Systems!

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 1, Issue 8, December 22, 2015

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Four Years in Review Infographic

Celebrating a Productive Year:

Top Five Moments of 2015

The Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Community Systems has much to reflect on and be thankful for this season. As we look back at 2015, we see dedicated food service staff, thriving school gardens, and innovative approaches to bringing healthy, local food to child nutrition programs around the country. To celebrate, we're sharing our top five favorite moments of the year!

  1. Establishing a new home for the USDA Farm to School Program: With the creation of the Office of Community Food Systems, we’re extending our focus on local foods beyond the National School Lunch Program to include the Summer Food Service Program, Seamless Summer Option, and Child and Adult Care Food Program.
  2. Awarding 74 grant projects: This year we brought the farm to summer and preschool programs through our grant projects! We were also thrilled by the opportunity to award a grant to North Dakota, which means over the course of four years we have reached all 50 states and the Virgin Islands!
  3. Conducting the Farm to School Census: We learned that 42,173 schools are bringing the farm to school! And there is more good news to come: we’re gearing up to report out on the nation’s engagement in farm to school throughout 2016.
  4. Clarifying local meat procurement: Who knew there were so many unanswered questions on how to incorporate local meat into meal programs? You knew! To help you out, we released this resource, which outlines the food safety requirements for purchasing and serving poultry, livestock, game, and eggs in child nutrition programs.
  5. Rounding up four years of accomplishments: Rather than choose just one year to reflect upon, we documented accomplishments of our first four years! In case you missed it, be sure to check out our four years in review report.

From our community to yours, may you have a beautiful holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Farm to school team picture

We’re Hiring!

Love local food, child nutrition, and traveling in the Midwest? We have the job for you!

We're looking for a Farm to School Regional Lead for the Midwest Regional Office based in Chicago, IL.

This is a opportunity to:

  • Help implement the USDA Farm to School Program, including grants, training and technical assistance, and actively participate in driving the program’s growth and evolution;
  • Provide on the ground training, technical assistance, and support to a wide variety of farm to school stakeholders and be held accountable for increasing the availability of local foods in schools;
  • Play a key role in identifying training and technical assistance gaps in the farm to school community and fill those gaps by fine tuning existing resource materials and/or creating new program offerings; and
  • Be a resident expert on key local and regional procurement issues.

Applications are due December 30.

Back by Popular Demand: Farm to School Planning Webinars

Starting in January, we’ll be bringing you an updated farm to school webinar series titled Planning for Farm to School Success. Through this 11-part series, we’ll guide you through the USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit. Served up in bite-sized 30 minute webinars, we’ll offer questions to consider and helpful resources to reference when starting or growing a farm to school program. Our first two webinars are listed below, but you can plan ahead for the whole series by visiting our Videos and Webinars page.

Intro to Farm to School: Planning and Building a Team: January 14, 1:00 PM EST

How does a farm to school team function? Learn tips and best practices for building a farm to school team, facing struggles and surprises, and building a foundation for a successful project.

Setting Goals and Establishing an Evaluation Baseline
: January 28, 2:00 PM EST

How do you know if your activities are helping local farmers and improving student health? Learn how to integrate program planning/evaluation tools and techniques that will document outcomes and show the impacts of farm to school programs. 

Code for a Cause: #ReformtheForm

Help shape the future of digital design in government while helping students access healthy school meals! FNS launched the E.A.T. School Lunch UX Challenge to develop a prototype electronic application for the school meal programs that incorporates the best ideas and insights from UX designers, behavioral scientists, and software developers.

About 100,000 schools and institutions serve more than five billion meals through the National School Lunch Program and two billion via the School Breakfast Program to America’s children each school year. FNS’ goal is to develop an electronic application that facilitates accurate completion and processing in order to reduce improper payments and help ensure that eligible students have access to free or reduced price meals.

Through March 1, 2016, any U.S. citizen or organization can submit proposals. A panel of judges will select the winning submissions, which will be awarded a total of $50,000 in cash prizes. Spread the word to #reformtheform!