Andrea Northup + Rachel Spencer join USDA

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 2, Issue 24, August 23, 2016

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

USDA Farm to School Grants Reach Over 10 Million Students

Three girls with chef hats at Chicago Public Schools

As kids across the country prepare to go back to school, we're putting the finishing touches on the fiscal year 2017 Request for Applications for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program (coming in September!). To prepare, we're looking back at the first four years of the program to understand the impact and trends. The Fiscal Year 2013-2016 Summary of Grant Awards synthesizes data from the 300 projects funded by the Farm to School Grant Program. 

Here's a summary of FY 2013–2016 grants by the numbers:

  • 1,338 applicants requested a total of $98 million.
  • 300 projects were awarded a total of $20.4 million.
  • 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands received at least one award.
  • 51 percent of awards were made to schools and school districts.
  • 80 percent of all awards support schools or school districts with free or reduced price meal eligibility rates greater than 50 percent.
  • 18,136 schools and 10.2 million students have been reached by the grants.

Welcome Andrea Northup and Rachel Spencer!

We are excited to welcome Rachel and Andrea to USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems as the Farm to School Regional Leads in the Southwest and Mountain Plains!

Andrea Northup

Andrea was drawn to farm to school because it makes sense for our farmers, kids, environment and communities. She has been working in the farm to school realm since 2008, when she founded the DC Farm to School Network in Washington, DC. After four years in the nonprofit sector there, Andrea moved to the Midwest to become the Farm to School Coordinator for Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS). Andrea and the MPS team built a national model for how farm to school can work in a large, urban district.

Moving farther west still, Andrea is now the Farm to School Regional Lead in USDA's Mountain Plains Region, based in Denver, CO.  She looks forward to exploring the area and supporting its farm to school stakeholders!

Rachel Spencer

Rachel Spencer recently joined the Office of Community Food Systems as the Farm to School Regional Lead in the Southwest Regional Office. With a background in public health and agricultural economics, Rachel firmly believes that the two are inextricably linked and loves drawing connections between supporting local communities and building healthy futures for our kids. FoodCorps originally brought Rachel to Arkansas, where she spent the past five years serving both on the ground as a garden educator and at the state level building coalitions in support of farm to school activities. Rachel’s work with nonprofits and state agencies in Arkansas and beyond has enabled her to grow deep roots and form relationships with farm to school champions across the south.

As a proud Georgia peach and adopted native of the Natural State, Rachel is thrilled to continue working in the region she already considers home. She cannot wait to help advance farm to school in the southwest!

The Census Scoop: Three Cheers for the Mountain Plains & Southwest Regions

According to the 2015 Farm to School Census, there are 1,090 public school districts, private schools, and charter schools engaged in farm to school throughout the Mountain Plains and Southwest regions. These schools and districts are cultivating more than 1,750 edible schools gardens and contributing over $130 million to the local economy by purchasing local foods for school meals. There are also almost 600 schools and districts that want to start a farm to school program in these two regions. That’s why we’re so excited to have both Andrea and Rachel join the USDA Team. These two farm to school superstars can’t wait to help expand farm to school in these regions by strengthening existing programs and starting new ones.

To dig into the rest of the Farm to School Census numbers, click here.

summer squash taste test

Spotlight on Summer: Greeley-Evans, Colorado

Our friends at Greeley-Evans School District 6 would like to share their recipe for farm to summer success – literally!

All summer, they’ve been sourcing tomatoes locally from Rocky Mountain Fresh in nearby Longmont, CO, and featuring them daily alongside local lettuce on the salad bar at their Summer Food Service Program meal sites, as well as on sandwiches on their food truck, El Fuego, which uses 75 pounds/week of the fresh in season tomatoes!

In addition to sourcing from local farms, this program also features school garden produce in summer meals. Alongside these fresh, seasonal plates, they’ve been doing quick cooking demonstrations and taste tests of radish greens and roots, cucumbers, and summer squash sautéed with garlic. The squash with garlic was a hit with elementary students this summer- most asked for seconds and even thirds! Here’s the recipe that kept kids coming back for more:

Local Summer Squash Sautéed with Garlic

                                Serves 4-6

  • 1-2 summer squash, any variety (yellow, zucchini, patty pan)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Vegetable oil (we use sunflower)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

To Prepare: Slice summer squash into small pieces, mince garlic. Heat pan over medium-high heat and add a small amount of oil, about ½ tablespoon. When oil is hot, add garlic, stir and cook for about 30 seconds, then add summer squash; stir well. Cook over medium to medium-high heat until squash becomes tender, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

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

Two girls at summer site in GA

Farmers Markets Bring Farm-Fresh Foods & Fun to Summer Meals

By Danielle Fleury, USDA Farm to School Regional Lead

This National Farmers Market Week, we celebrate a growing national trend that exemplifies the power of partnership in achieving common goals. Across the country, sponsors of USDA’s Summer Meals Programs are joining forces with their local farmers markets, realizing a multitude of shared benefits.  These partnerships increase access to the local seasonal bounty the summer months have to offer and help keep kids and their families nourished and active while school is out. Check out how three communities are taking full advantage of all that farmers markets during the summer months!