Is your district One in a Melon?

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 2, Issue 11, April 4, 2016

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Nominate a district for a one in a melon award

Is your district One in a Melon?

Now through April 15, USDA is running a contest for school districts to win a “One in a Melon” award. Parents, teachers, community stakeholders and even students can visit the Census website and nominate their favorite farm to school program to receive this award. One school district from each state with the most nominations will win. “One in a Melon” award winners will be announced before school lets out this year.

Integrating local foods into all CNPs Fact Sheet

New Fact Sheet: Integrating local foods in ALL child nutrition programs

The opportunities for serving local foods in child nutrition programs are abundant. Not only can local foods span the plate, operators can serve local foods in all types of programs. From childcare to afterschool settings, through the school-year and during summer months, the steps outlined in this new fact sheet will help program operators find, buy, and incorporate local foods into any child nutrition program.

Upcoming Webinars

There's something for everyone in the coming weeks and months. Mark your calendars, and don't miss out on these great farm to school resources!

Cherokee girl with radish

Keeping the Tradition (traditional foods that is!) Alive: Community Food Systems in Native Communities

Starting this Thursday, USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems will host a four-part webinar series focused on integrating farm to school strategies in native communities. Each webinar will feature a guest speaker who will share tips, stories and best practices for keeping local food traditions alive in child nutrition programs that serve tribal populations.

What Does Farm to School Look Like in Native American Communities? April 6, 3:00 PM EDT

The first in a series of four webinars, this webinar will offer an overview of what community food systems may look like in tribal communities. Farm to school efforts help children make informed food choices and can support local agricultural producers. Pam Kingfisher will provide an overview about the work the National Farm to School Network has been doing in native communities and Mark Sorensen, co-founder of the Star School located in Arizona, will share tips, best practices, and innovative ideas for starting a farm to school program.

Incorporating Traditional Foods in Child Nutrition Program Menus: April 20, 3:00 PM EDT

Where do traditional foods fit?! In this webinar we'll discuss best practices for incorporating traditional foods into child nutrition programs. Alaska's Department of Natural Resources will share how Alaskan communities are integrating local foods and Jenny Montague, a nutritionist with FNS, will share some real life examples of districts that are substituting local foods into CNP meals.

Engaging Students: May 4, 3:00 PM EDT

Incorporating nutrition education related to traditional food items into cultural activities such as ceremonial songs and storytelling helps students to identify food as part of Native American heritage. This webinar will help you plan for farm to school educational efforts which engage students throughout the year. Gloria Begay, a Navajo Educator, will highlight school garden efforts and local foods activities in summer meals.

Partnering for Success in Tribal Communities: May 20, 3:00 PM EDT

Everything is better together, right?! In the final webinar in a series of four, we’ll hear from two practitioners who illustrate that partnerships make the difference in keeping food traditions alive in child nutrition programs. This webinar will identify strategies to engage local producers and community leaders in your farm to school efforts. 

Planning for Farm to School Success

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. 

Chop Chop culinary videos

Chop! Chop! Culinary Skills for Locally-Grown Produce in School Meals

Funded through a Wisconsin Specialty Crop Block Grant and a USDA Team Nutrition grant, the Chop! Chop! Wisconsin-Grown Produce Culinary Videos focus on root vegetables, dark leafy greens, brassicas, tomatoes and peppers, winter squash, and whole wheat flour and grains. Each training covers culinary preparation techniques and offers ideas for incorporating local produce into school salad bars and menus. In addition, each of the six videos feature discussions with Wisconsin farmers and their school partners on the farm and in the school kitchen. These training videos are a joint project of CESA Purchasing Nutrition Program, the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and Team Nutrition at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Farm to Cafeteria Conference

National Farm to Cafeteria Conference Coming this June

Don’t miss the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison, Wis., June 2-4, 2016. This event is the only national gathering of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement, making it a crucial leadership development opportunity to advance community health, build economic opportunities for farmers and producers, and ensure long-term sustainability for local food efforts nationwide.

Farm to School Census

Farm to School: An $800 Million Investment in Local Foods, Local Economies

We’ve talked quite a bit in the past about the major benefits we’re seeing in schools and districts that have established a farm to school program.  Their efforts are giving students a deep understanding and appreciation for where their food comes from and drastically shifting kids’ opinions of fruits and veggies.

The final results of the USDA Farm to School Census 2015 shed light on another huge benefit of farm to school – we’re talking $789 million huge.  That’s the total amount schools report investing in their communities in school year 2013 – 2014 by purchasing local food from farmers, ranchers, fisherman, food processors, and manufacturers.  This represents a 105 percent increase over school year 2011 – 2012, when the first USDA Farm to School Census was conducted.  In addition, nearly half (47 percent) of districts engaged in farm to school report that they plan to purchase more local foods in the coming years.