School Garden Fact Sheet

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 2, Issue 8, March 8, 2016

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Three children in school garden
USDA Farm to School Grantee: Mancos Conservation District, Mancos, Colorado

School Garden Fact Sheet

First page of school garden fact sheet

With more than 7,000 school gardens across the nation, many school districts are using gardens to grow healthy habits in cafeterias, classrooms, and communities.

We know that school gardens come in all shapes and sizes, and districts are finding ways to establish gardens both within and outside school grounds. Gardens can be as simple as a few containers on a windowsill or cover acres, and can thrive in all climates. Program operators find that even small gardens help children gain familiarity and comfort with the fruits and vegetables they are seeing more of at meal times.

Just in time for spring, this new fact sheet provides guidance on using school garden produce in the cafeteria, planning for food safety needs, incorporating gardens into summer meal programs and early child care settings, and successfully sustaining garden efforts.

State Administrative Expense (SAE) Funds Can Support Farm to School!

It is the time of year when state agencies can request additional SAE funds to support the administration of Child Nutrition Programs. What does that mean for farm to school programs? State agencies can use SAE funds to support state-level farm to school and/or school garden coordination and activities! This includes funding farm to school coordinators, promotional and guidance materials, trainings and conferences, and more. Requests are due March 28.

Be sure to check out this memo to learn more about the full scope of opportunities when it comes to using SAE funds for farm to school activities.

Team Nutrition Grants

What a way to celebrate National Nutrition Month and School Breakfast Week: Team Nutrition Grant funding was just announced! "The $6.8 million in grant funds USDA is offering to support school breakfast and other child nutrition programs demonstrates our commitment to providing schools and child care sites the resources and support they need to help kids start their day off right and continue strong all day long," said Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon.

USDA's Team Nutrition provides technical assistance, training, and nutrition education resources for schools and child care providers participating in USDA's child nutrition programs. Grants through this program can support farm to school! For example, in 2014 Montana was awarded a Team Nutrition Grant to build statewide support for nutrition education, school wellness policy implementation, and farm to school programs in school and child care environments. Activities included empowering food service personnel and educators to motivate students to consume Montana-grown foods through a Montana Harvest of the Month toolkit and increasing local food procurement, garden-based nutrition education activities, and farm to school initiatives through a statewide farm to school conference.

Upcoming Webinars

Don’t miss the upcoming webinars in our Planning for Farm to School Success webinar series! You can find the entire menu of topics on our website.

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. Chef Ann Cooper, Food Service Director for Boulder Valley School District in Colorado, joins us with tips and tricks for successful promotion.

Thyme flies when you are in the garden

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.

USDA Farm to School in the News

Is This Second-Grader a Better Cook Than You?

Epicurious – Janet Rausa Fuller – February 29, 2016
“We are absolutely seeing greater use of cooking classes as an educational tool in schools across the country, particularly when it comes to teaching nutrition education,” said Deborah Kane, director of the USDA's Office of Community Food Systems, which oversees the Farm to School Program.

Farm to School Conference Encourages Connection between Farms, Schools and States

News Channel Nebraska – Jay Hannah – March 2, 2016
“This event is the first of its kind for us, especially here in the Midwest. We have a four state collaboration here. Farm to School is an opportunity to engage so many different stakeholder groups. Here we have school gardens, food producers, ranchers, beef representatives, Department of Ed., Department of Ag., all these different groups coming together to share best practices and ideas. It’s just very energizing,” said Sara Smith, National Farm to School Network Nebraska State Lead.

Watch the video to catch Mountain Plains Farm to School Regional Lead, Bob Gorman, share his enthusiasm for local procurement!