It's official - Summer has started!

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 2, Issue 17, May 31, 2016

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Summer Shorts Video Still

Farm to Summer Kick-Off

Programs all across the country have sent us their summer stories with a common theme: farm to school does not take a summer vacation! As the school year draws to a close, schools and nonprofit sponsors of USDA’s Summer Meals Programs gear up to provide healthy meals and learning opportunities to keep kids active, nourished, and engaged while school is out. Extending farm to school practices in the summer months is an excellent way to do just that! To get a taste of farm to summer in action, watch the video to see how Green Mountain Farm-to-School’s The Lunchbox serves up locally sourced meals alongside fun food and nutrition related activities.

click here to watch

Girl eating watermelon

Spotlight on Summer

For the past two summers, we’ve asked you to share your story about incorporating local foods and agriculture-based activities into your summer meals programs.

What have we heard?

Marion City School District (OH) aligns school gardens with summer feeding sites and invites local Master Gardeners during meal times, which helps to keep the gardens maintained and thriving while school is out and also offers up the perfect summertime activity.

Dallas Independent School District (TX) hosts a “Meet the Farmer” event at a meals site, giving kids the opportunity to meet the farmer who grew the blueberries and peaches that they enjoy all summer long.

Kalispell Public Schools (MT) continues a purchasing relationship with a local beef producer to serve up local polish hot dogs alongside greens that are purchased in partnership with a local community college’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

North Kingstown School District (RI) enjoys an extension of their growing season, thanks to a fresh frozen pilot coordinated by partner Farm Fresh Rhode Island, and serves local corn to kick off their summer meals program.

We’d love to hear what farm to summer looks like in your community!

Send us a photo or two and a description of how you bring local foods and farm-based fun to kids and teens during the summer months, and we’ll feature the most creative practices in our E-letter and/or on our blog to shine a national spotlight on your programming!

farm to summer fact sheet

Summer Resources

Check out Team Nutrition’s Summer Food, Summer Moves resources, and a Healthy Meals Tip Sheet that helps program operators and partners support a healthy summer break.

State agencies, program sponsors, and partners can find guidance about serving local foods in USDA’s Local Foods and Related Activities in Summer Meals Programs policy memo.

USDA’s Summer Meals Toolkit features material on incorporating local foods and related activities into summer meals programs. Whether you’re a state or local agency, nonprofit partner, school district, or producer/provider, you’ll find helpful hints here on ways to continue farm to school activity while school is out.

Visit our Farm to Summer page on our website for these and more USDA and partnering organization resources.

Farm to Summer Census graphic

In our most recent USDA Farm to School Census, 22% of participating farm to school districts reported also serving local foods in their summer programming! Check out results from your state and local community.

Grantee Spotlight

REAP Food Group (REAP) is an FY2014 support service grantee from Madison, WI. REAP’s project focuses on establishing systems to increase the amount of locallygrown fruits and vegetables sold to schools. REAP's first step was to connect farmers, processors, and buyers at the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) to supply Wisconsin produce for the district’s new salad bars. REAP reflects on the work they did in the early spring:  

“This quarter we led MMSD through a Request for Information (RFI) process for farm to school produce. This was a direct result of our Action Plan following a visit to Minneapolis Public Schools in November. This RFI process is a method for gathering information from local suppliers to determine the following: farms and vendors interested in selling to the district, products available, pricing, and other information to facilitate local sales to MMSD. Through this process, we have identified a list of growers and produce vendors that can supply local produce items for the upcoming Summer Food Program and 2016-2017 school year, approximate quantities to be purchased, and a ordering schedule.

Congratulations on the awesome work, REAP!

REAP Farm to School Logo
Salad bar sign created by REAP

Students with lunch trays

Concannon: Reauthorize Child Nutrition Programs So They Benefit Children

By Kevin Concannon, Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

It may seem like common sense for child nutrition programs to benefit children, but some see it differently today.

Nationwide, schools have made the lunchroom a healthy environment. In fact, in only the second school year of full implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), over 98 percent of schools participating are already meeting the healthier meal standards.  Students are eating more fruits and vegetables during the school day and more low-income children are eating nutritious breakfasts and lunches at school. And data show obesity rates for some children are leveling off. With all the success of HHFKA, now is not the time to intentionally go backwards on nutrition standards in healthier school meals and to block access to these meals for millions of children.