Summer is the perfect time for training

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 2, Issue 20, June 28, 2016

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Staff and students eating

Summer is the Perfect Time for Training!

The sun is out, harvests are in full swing, and summer programs are booming. Take a break from the heat and check out these awesome resources:

Steve Marinelli

Team Up Thursday Webinar: Integrating local foods

Fruits and vegetables, milk and cheese, whole grain breads and pastas, beans, meats, seafood, and poultry - the opportunities for serving local foods in child nutrition programs are abundant! In the webinar Integrating Local Foods in Child Nutrition Programs, USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems will highlight the variety of ways districts across the country are incorporating local foods. In addition, districts from Vermont and Colorado will share how they started adding local foods to their meals and how seasonal cycle menus are now mainstays in their districts.


Community food systems trainings now available in the Professional Standards Database

Are you interested in learning more about farm to school while also meeting your Professional Standards requirements? Several community food systems resources such as the Boulder Valley School District's Garden as Classroom Manual and the Massachusetts Farm to School Cookbook are now available in the Professional Standards Database. Check out this one-stop-shop for farm to school trainings today.

grinding cornmeal


Learn more about farm to school in native communities

In April and May, USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems hosted a four-part webinar series focused on integrating farm to school strategies in native communities. Each webinar featured a guest speaker who shared tips, stories, and best practices for keeping local food traditions alive in child nutrition programs that serve tribal populations.Watch all four:

The Census Scoop: Regional participation by the numbers

Last week, USDA released the raw data from the 2015 Farm to School Census and like many of you, we’ve been busy pouring over the results. Since the Census website already summarizes results by respondent, state and nationally, below we’ve taken a look at the results from a regional perspective.

Regional Census Data

As of school year 2014-15:

  • The Midwest had the most number of respondents participating and planning to participate in farm to school;
  • The Northeast had the greatest percentage of respondents participating in farm to school and more than 80% of respondents were participating or planning to participate in farm to school in the future;
  • The Southwest had the lowest number of respondents participating and also had the lowest percentage of respondents participating in farm to school; and,
  • The Southeast had the greatest percentage of respondents planning to participate in the future.

The Midwest, Mountain Plains, and Southwest regions have participation rates and expected participation rates below the national average. These results help inform our training and technical assistance efforts and highlight where farm to school efforts are taking root.  

How are you using the Farm to School Census? Tell us!

Vermont Harvest of the Month - Berries

Celebrate the Season

Promote healthy choices at summer meals sites! Many state agencies and nonprofit organizations continue harvest of the month or other educational programs for local items all year round. Summer sponsors can benefit from free promotional materials like posters, stickers, sample recipes, or menu graphics, along with recommended activities and lesson plans that go along with the featured product! Check out harvest of the month programs in your state or community to find out what types of resources can complement seasonal summer meals. Visit our Farm to Summer website for more information on finding, buying, and serving local foods while school is out.

Already bringing the farm to your summer meals program? Tell us about it! Send us a photo or two and a description of your farm to summer program, and we’ll feature model programs through our E-letter to shine a national spotlight on your programming.

Grantee Spotlight

The Open Door is an FY2016 support service grantee from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Their project is a community collaboration of local nonprofits and Gloucester Public Schools to increase student access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the National School Lunch Program, summer meals, preschool, and after school suppers through salad bars, taste tests, nutrition education, school gardens, and local produce acquisition. The Open Door reflects on the work they did earlier this year:

“In the previous quarter, the leadership team held two planning meetings. At the second meeting, the prospective farm to school consultant was introduced to the District’s assistant superintendent and interviewed by the grant partners. The team has since drafted an agreement with the consultant.

The Open Door, working with Backyard Growers, identified four farms within 11 miles and a dairy within 20 miles. The farms have been contacted, and they pledged their involvement for 2016-17 as produce vendors for SFSP and CACFP sites and speakers during school events.

Congratulations on the great work!

California Thursdays wrap

Celebrating Food and Culinary Connections: Schools Serve up California-grown Food on “California Thursdays”

By Jennifer Gerard, R.D., Center for Ecoliteracy, California Food for California Kids Program Director

What’s your favorite day of the week? For many students in California — it’s Thursday.

On Thursdays, over 1.7 million students in schools that participate in the California Thursdays program know they’ll be offered a lunch freshly prepared from California ingredients. California Thursdays is a celebration of local food, the people who produce and prepare it, and the significant connections that exist between children, food, and their environment.

California Thursdays is also a powerful tool to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, stimulate local economies, and decrease the transportation required for distribution — decreasing emissions and increasing freshness.

California Thursdays is led by the Center for Ecoliteracy, a not-for-profit which provides support, inspiration, and resources for the program. Participating school districts adopt the California Thursdays program in their own brilliant and unique ways — as you’ll see in two stories below.