Which region has the most school gardens? Read to find out!

Volume 2, Issue 37, December 20, 2016

Michigan Farm to Freezer
Goodwill Industry of Northwest Michigan’s Farm to Freezer program flash freezes produce from local farm in Northern Michigan, allowing consumers to enjoy local fruits and vegetables any time of year.

This past November, the City of Muskegon Public Schools, a 2016 USDA Farm to School Planning Grantee, went on a learning journey to Traverse City, Michigan to visit Goodwill Industry’s Farm to Freezer program. As part of their Planning Grant, members of the Muskegon Farm to School Initiative, along with several youth advisors, are taking quarterly learning journeys to visit model farm to school programs throughout Michigan, while training youth and stakeholders about regional farm to school efforts and how to make change within their communities.

MI Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

According to the Muskegon County Farm to School Project Coordinator, their greatest farm to school achievement has been the countywide collaboration and success in receiving the 10 Cents a Meal grant, a pilot project that provides a 10 cent reimbursement from the State of Michigan to schools who buy locally grown produce, providing an incentive to increase the amount of Michigan-grown food served in lunchrooms throughout the state. All four of the school districts associated with Muskegon’s Planning Grant were awarded this competitive grant. The achievement, according to the Farm to School Project Coordinator, “was a direct result of the collaboration that has come out of our Muskegon County Farm to School Initiative, executive committee, advisory committee, and learning journeys. We are thrilled to be collaborating with other districts in the county and that we were able to find additional funding so our efforts can be more successful and sustainable.”

Way to go, Muskegon! Keep up the good work.

Mieka Sanderson

Welcome Mieka!

We are excited to welcome Mieka Sanderson to USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems!

Prior to joining the OCFS team, Mieka was a Child Nutrition Policy Analyst at the Food Research and Action Center. In this role, she assisted local and state level partners with expanding the reach of the School Breakfast Program among low-income youth. 

After her undergraduate studies in psychology, Mieka worked as an Analytical Lead in Google’s Large Customers Services division, advising health-focused clients on how to effectively market to their target customers online. Her desire to tackle childhood obesity in low income communities led her to pursue a Master of Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill. Mieka became a DC transplant after interning with the Let's Move initiative.

The Census Scoop: Turnip for what? Edible school gardens!

The Farm to School Census gathers information from every public school district, private school and charter school participating in the National School Lunch Program about their engagement in farm to school activities. It asks about schools purchasing local foods for school meals and also about schools cultivating edible school gardens. According to the latest Farm to School Census, there are more than 7,100 edible school gardens across the country!

Census Garden Data

Taking a closer look:

  • The western region has the greatest number of edible school gardens (1,730), while the southwest region was found to have least (433).
  • Schools in California reported the greatest number of edible school gardens (over 1,200) while schools in Nevada reported the least number (8).
  • Schools in Hawaii had the greatest percentage of respondents with an edible school garden (89%). Schools in Nebraska had the lowest (17%).
  • The start of the 2016-2017 school year is around the corner and it’s never too late (or early!) to start planning or planting a school garden!

Are you inspired to start a school garden?

Check out these resources to get started:

School Garden Fact Sheet


Request for Applications for Core Partners

Our friends at the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) recently issued a RFA seeking partners in each state and U.S. territory. Over the past ten years, NFSN has focused on developing a strong network of partnerships across sectors, building awareness about farm to school, and increasing activities at the state and regional levels through training, capacity building, and policy advocacy.

NFSN is seeking partner organizations to help in implement the next phase of growth and evolution by serving as National Farm to School Network Core Partners for 2017-2019. Organizations and agencies interested in and capable of contributing to the advancement of farm to school and early care and education are encouraged to apply.

Applications are due January 26, 2017.

Girls with swiss chard

Grants, Gardens and Green Beans: Charlottesville’s Growing Farm to School Program

By Tegan Hagy, Farm to School Regional Lead, Mid-Atlantic Regional Office, Food and Nutrition Service

In celebration of Virginia Farm to School Week, I recently visited Charlottesville Public Schools to learn about the district’s garden and Harvest of the Month efforts. Here’s a snapshot of what I observed that day.

We push a cart piled high with plates of green beans down the hallway stopping at each classroom. Noses press against the glass in the doors and teachers urge students to sit down, as the door cracks open to excited chatter. The green beans are passed off and we are on to the next classroom, getting to every class in just under 30 minutes. It’s only 9:30 in the morning on October 6 at Burnley-Moran Elementary School and the Harvest of the Month taste test is off to a great start!