New rules, new fact sheets, and a Census webinar

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 2, Issue 22, July 26, 2016

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Girls chop vegetables in New Orleans

Four major rules announced

Last week, USDA announced four final rules that will ensure that children have access to healthy snacks and that nutrition standards for the foods marketed and served in schools are consistent. Here's a summary of the rules and what they mean for farm to school efforts:

1. The Local School Wellness Policy final rule empowers communities to take an active role in the health of their children. These policies guide a school district's efforts to establish school environments that support healthy eating and physical activity.

  • As noted in the rule, local school wellness policies offer a prime opportunity to showcase farm to school efforts and gain buy in from the community.These examples showcase how other districts have incorporated farm to school elements in their wellness policies.

2. The Smart Snacks in School final rule aligns the nutritional quality of snacks sold to children during the school day with the science-based improvements made to school lunches and breakfasts over the last five years.

  • Think about selling local items a la carte or doing a FarmRaiser!

3. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) final rule allows schools and local educational agencies with high poverty rates to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students to promote access to healthy food and reduce administrative burdens on schools and families.

4. The Administrative Review final rule updates the administrative review process used by state agencies to monitor federally-funded school meal programs. It safeguards the integrity of the programs, ensures taxpayer dollars are being spent as intended, and increases accountability and transparency by publicly posting how well school food authorities are complying with various requirements.

  • State agencies can provide onsite technical assistance during these reviews, and answer questions about local foods, school gardens, and nutrition education.

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Reminder: Farm to School Census Webinar

Join USDA, along with co-host National Farm to School Network, for a webinar on Thursday, August 11 at 3:00 pm ET for an in-depth review of the Farm to School Census. Presenters will provide an overview of the Farm to School Census website including the recently posted raw data files and soon to be released data explorer tool. Presenters will also describe ways in which Census data can be used at the local, state, and national levels in support of farm to school.

What's your summer story?

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.

boy eating peach at SFSP site in GA

New Fact sheets

Now available: New and revised fact sheets

We created a fact sheet outlining all of the different resources that the Office of Community Food Systems has created. It outlines the Farm to School Census, the Farm to School Grant Program and all of the training and technical assistance materials we've created over the past several years. This overview is the perfect piece to take with you on Administrative Reviews or any time you want to start the conversation about how to dive into farm to school.

in addition, every year we comb through our fact sheets to make sure everything is up-to-date and we recently updated all of our fact sheets. Be sure to download these updated versions before printing!

Grantee Spotlight

Lowell Public Schools is an FY15 USDA Farm to School grantee located in Lowell, Massachusetts. LPS is focused on promoting both local products into the cafeteria as well as integrating farm to school education in the classrooms with a special focus on teacher engagement and professional development.

Lowell Public Schools noted the progress made this past winter with support from core partner Mill City Grows:

“During this reporting period 15 teachers and 5 parents participated in our Garden Coordinator Institute where they learned how to build support for school gardens throughout the school community. We worked closely with the School Garden Leadership Teams who will be building the remaining two USDA-funded gardens; Farm to School Curriculum toolkits for both elementary and middle schools are complete and the first ever 2-part professional development for LPS teachers was hosted in partnership with Mill City Grows, over 20 teachers received the training and we hope this training inspires teachers to use school gardens as an interdisciplinary curricular tool."

Kids eating healthy lunch

Promoting Healthy Choices Throughout the School Day

By Dr. Katie Wilson, Deputy Under Secretary, Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Service

Schools across the country are working hard to ensure students experience a healthy school environment from the moment they walk in the door until the final bell rings.  Imagine for a second that you are back in sixth grade.  In health class, you’re learning about the food groups and how to eat a balanced diet.  During P.E. class, your teacher stresses the importance of exercise and leading a healthy lifestyle.  School breakfast and lunch included colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.  In between periods you are hungry for an afternoon snack from the school’s vending machine. Your eye catches a glimpse of a flashy picture of a bottle of water with a logo down the side of the vending machine, and you think to yourself that water would be a great thirst quencher. Still, you scan the vending machine and see that your options are bottles of water, 100 percent juices, and unsweetened tea—all healthy options! You are thrilled that the school is supporting your resolve to maintain a healthy lifestyle by making healthy choices so readily available. Feeling good about the choices you’ve made so far that day, you are able to choose a healthy snack to compliment the healthy meals you have eaten throughout the day.