Do you know your farmer?

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 2, Issue 13, May 3, 2016

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Know Your Farmer

Every Family Needs a Farmer

By Elanor Starmer, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator

Since the beginning of April 2016, USDA has celebrated the success of small and mid-sized farmers in conjunction with local and regional food systems.  USDA officially kicked off Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) Month by not only announcing a number of new initiatives, but also highlighting the vast array of accomplishments achieved by our stakeholders, grantees, employees and more.

KYF2 Month is soon coming to a close.  However, we still have a few announcements up our sleeves.  Today we’re rolling out the revamped Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food website.  The site was redesigned to offer a more user-friendly experience that makes it easier to navigate the wealth of USDA and partner resources. Using updated web standards and visuals to optimize the user-experience, we’ve reorganized the information and gathered new content.  In short, the KYF2 website has become an even better a one-stop-shop for information on USDA’s local and regional food systems work.

local options at William Penn High

Grantee Spotlight

With four years of grant-making through USDA’s Farm to School Grant Program, it’s a great time to celebrate some success! This spotlight will shine a light on the incredible work that grantees are doing all across the country, including insights and anecdotes shared by grantees themselves.

Colonial School District (CSD) is an FY2015 USDA Farm to School grantee located in New Castle, Delaware. CSD is committed to connecting farms and school leaders to ensure that students have consistent access to healthy local foods. The goal of their project is have students and staff directly engaged in the entire process of planning, growing and processing foods, creating new menus, and placing healthy foods directly into school nutrition programs. 

CSD reflected on the progress that had been made this past school year:

“Since the last report, Colonial School District and William Penn High School were able to host a fantastic Farm‐To‐School event highlighting great local Delaware produce and the student impact throughout our district. Our guests were able to tour William Penn High school and all aspects of our operation from cafeteria serving line to the culinary Prostart students who help prepare and process food during the summer months, chicken coops behind our football stadium, and Historic Penn Farm. Lastly, everyone was able to enjoy a wonderful meal prepared by our Nutrition Services staff that was centered around local Delaware chicken and gumbo.”

picking lettuce

The Census Scoop

It’s spring! Days are getting longer, flowers are starting to bloom, and temperatures are beginning to rise. Spring is the perfect time to get in your school garden or school greenhouse and begin planting for the season. According to the latest Farm to School Census for school year 2013-2014, schools cultivated more than 7,100 edible school gardens, giving children daily access to fresh fruits and vegetables and helping them learn where their food comes from. This is a 196 percent increase over the 2,401 edible school gardens reported in the 2011-2012 school year when the first Census was conducted. Fourty-four percent of school districts with farm to school programs reported having an edible school garden. School gardens provide children with lots of positive benefits and research demonstrates their numerous positive impacts. No matter the type of fruit or vegetable, don’t be shy. Get out and start digging in!


Community Food Systems in Native Communities

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. 

Planning for Farm to School Success

Don't miss the last two webinars in this series!

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.