Plan now for farm to school success

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Volume 2, Issue 12, April 19, 2016

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Students in garden

Setting yourself up for success

Spring into next school year with a plan in place for your farm to school efforts. Whether you’re starting a new garden, issuing solicitations or gearing up for a summer program, our Planning for Farm to School Success webinar series has something for everyone. This 11-part series guides you through the USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit. Recordings of the first eight webinars are now available and cover topics such as food safety, procurement and menu planning. These 30 minute webinars feature guest speakers and highlight best practices from across the country.

Don’t miss the last three webinars in the series!

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.

Grantee Spotlight

On April 13-14, just over 100 USDA farm to school grantees representing 56 projects from across the country gathered in Fort Worth, Texas for the annual USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering. Through peer learning workshops, networking activities and one-on-one consultations, USDA farm to school grantees heard from peers, program staff and national experts on best practices related to farm to school planning, implementation and grant project management. Thank you to all the grantees for attending. Your passion and effort to bring the farm to school is what makes this program a success!

USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering 2016

The Census Scoop

USDA Farm to School Census Top Food Categories

For many school districts, buying local foods starts with fresh fruits and vegetables. For example, 78% of school districts engaged in farm to school activities served local fruit and 75% served local vegetables. Fresh fruits are especially easy because many can be served with little to no preparation beyond washing; however, the most comprehensive local food purchasing programs incorporate many different types of local products such as local milk, baked goods and other dairy products. These are other top products purchased locally by school districts. As more and more schools use local foods in school meals, look for future growth in the following product categories including local plant-based proteins, herbs, meat or poultry, eggs and grains and flour

Upcoming Webinars

Community Food Systems in Native Communities Webinar Series

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 that 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. 

Summer Meals

Connecting Summer Meals Sponsors with Wholesome, Free Food: April 27, 2016, 2:00 PM EDT

Summer meals sponsors and sites that want to improve meal quality by incorporating fresh, nutritious, and/or local ingredients into their meals can take advantage of a new online tool that connects them with wholesome, excess free food.

The online tool is called MEANS (Matching Excess and Need) and it notifies eligible non-profits (aka summer meals sponsors) of free food in their area. Join this webinar to learn more about MEANS and how you can use this revolutionary tool to improve your meals and help reduce wasted food.  As a summer meals sponsor or site, you can also use MEANS to notify other organizations when you have excess food to donate. 

Donating and Receiving Wholesome, Excess Food in School Meals Programs: May 4, 2:00 PM EDT

USDA encourages donations of wholesome, excess food through the school meals programs, but rules regarding school food donations are regulated by local health departments and school districts.  Join this webinar to hear from schools that not only have successfully implemented food donation programs in their cafeterias to reduce wasted food and feed hungry families, but have used the program to educate their students about the impacts of wasted food. 

The webinar will also feature examples of schools receiving donations of fresh produce from local grocery stores to use in afterschool feeding programs.  Food donation in schools can be a two-way street! 

New What’s Cooking? Recipes and Cooking Videos Help School Food Service and Home Cooks Make Mouthwatering Meals

USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services just released 50 new, mouth-watering recipes for schools chefs on our What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl website.  Some are existing USDA recipes that we’ve updated, while others are brand new recipes that students will love.  These tasty, kid-approved recipes are tailored for large quantity food service operations in 25, 50, or 100 portions.  And each recipe includes a nutritional breakdown as well as crediting information on how the recipe contributes toward updated meal pattern requirements for the National School Lunch Program and other USDA child nutrition programs.

What's Cooking?