New Year’s Resolution: Plan for Farm to School Success!

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Volume 2, Issue 1, January 5, 2016

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Milton Town School District Local Food
Local Food at Milton Town School District, Vermont

Webinar Series: Planning for Farm to School Success in 2016

Have you resolved to incorporate more local food into your school meal program in 2016? You are not alone! Preliminary results of the 2015 Farm to School Census tell us that more than 1,700 school districts don’t yet have farm to school programs, but are interested in starting one.

We’re here to help! We’re hosting a 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. Guest speakers will join the webinars to share their hands on farm to school experiences. Our entire series is outlined below, and you can plan ahead for the series by visiting our Videos and Webinars page.

Steve Merinelli Food Service Director from Milton Town, Vermont

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 creating a farm to school team, facing struggles and surprises, and building a foundation for a successful project.

Steve Merinelli, Food Service Director from Milton Town School District in Vermont, joins us to share his first-hand experiences.


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. 

Finding and Buying Local Foods: February 4, 2:00 PM EST

USDA Farm to School local food procurement guru, Christina Conell, breaks down the how to’s of finding and buying local food. We’ll cover a few procurement basics and then focus on where the opportunities are to target local products in the purchasing process. Join to gain insights on how to start making change in your process, big or small.

Farm to School Menu Planning: February 18, 2:00 PM EST

Let’s bring local products to life on your school lunch and breakfast menus! This presentation will take you through the menu planning cycle and show you the variety of ways to incorporate local products into your school recipes, salad bars, and cycle menus so they become permanent items in your kitchen inventory.

Food Safety: March 3, 2:00 PM EST

How can we ensure the safety of farm fresh food? We’ll share local food safety best practices, including identifying safety measures for school gardens and school salad bars.

Promoting Your Farm to School Program: March 17, 2:00 PM EDT

You’ve put in so much hard work! Now, how do you promote your farm to school program to ensure student, school, and community engagement? Hear about programs that have successfully promoted farm to school programs while managing a tight budget.

School Gardening: March 31, 2:00 PM EDT

Hear about the different ways to incorporate school gardens into your farm to school program as well as hear how schools are successfully procuring school garden produce for their meal programs.

Curriculum Integration: April 7, 2:00 PM EDT

Experiential education is an important component of successful farm to school programs. This webinar will help you plan for your farm to school educational efforts and brainstorm food, agriculture, and nutrition-related educational activities with which you can engage students.

Program Sustainability: April 28, 2:00 PM EDT

Your farm to school project is blooming! But what will happen if funding levels decrease or community interest lags? With this webinar, plan ahead for these potential scenarios and learn about program sustainability best practices.  

Evaluating Your Program: May 12, 2:00 PM EDT

We all know that farm to school programs create positive economic impacts for local and regional farmers and improve the health and well-being of our nation’s children. But how can we measure these changes to document these positive impacts? Hear from seasoned farm to school evaluators to learn best practices for evaluating your farm to school efforts.

Tying it All Together and Digging In: May 26, 2:00 PM EDT

Join us for a healthy dose of motivation! Deborah Kane, Director of USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems, will hit the highlights by showing how local procurement fits into the larger farm to school picture and share several resources to help you meet your local purchasing goals.

Garden gloves