Bringing Local Foods to Summer Meals

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 3, Issue 14, May 23, 2017

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
we grow our own food

Gearing Up for the Summer Food Service Program

With the school year coming to an end, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) ensures low-income children have access to nutritious meals when school is out. Summer is a peak growing season for many regions and the perfect time to introduce farm to school activities at summer feeding sites. Farm visits, taste test, and gardening activities are also a great way to engage children in healthy behaviors and stimulate their minds while on break from school. Check out the resources below to learn more about the benefits of farm to school and the impact of local food systems. If you need additional ideas and want to know how farm to school can work for your summer program, you may be interested in what Montana has been up to, read their story below!

Upcoming Webinars and Resources

Chef Ann the LunchBox Logo

How to Bring Farm Fresh into Schools with New USDA Meal Pattern Recipes

The Chef Ann Foundation launched fifty new, tried-and-true, farm-to-school recipes to bring farm fresh meals to your students. This webinar features new recipes and menu cycles, and discusses how they credit toward the school and child care meal patterns. Andrea Northup from USDA Office of Community Food Systems and Jerilin Nunu from USDA Farm to Summer and Child Care talked about how school districts across the nation are procuring food from local and regional farms and ranches. We also shared best practices for lunchroom-based nutrition education.

A recording of this session is available for viewing here

North American Food Systems Network Logo

Economic Impacts of Local Food Systems: Measuring Outcomes

Date: May 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm ET

The North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN) Good Food Talk Webinar Series will provide a discussion on measuring outcomes in the local food system. Listen to panelist from Michigan State University, Colorado State University, George Washington University, and North Carolina Agriculture & Technical University moderated by Jeffrey K. O'Hara from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service share innovative best practices and highlights.

Register now!

Check out archived webinars in the Good Food Talk Webinar Series.

Johns Hopkins Logo

An Introduction to the US Food System: Perspectives from Public Health

A food system encompasses the activities, people and resources involved in getting food from field to plate. Along the way, it intersects with many aspects of public health, equity and the environment. In this short course, we provide a brief introduction to the U.S. food system and how food production practices and what we eat impacts the world in which we live. We explore some key historical and political factors that have helped shape the current food system and real-world approaches to better nourishing a growing population.  

National Farm to School Network

Benefits of Farm to School Activities

Are you still trying to convince your school administrators and teachers to start a farm to school program? If so, this fact sheet produced by the National Farm to School Network, may help you with your case. Check out this fact sheet and learn how farm to school activities benefit students, schools, farmers and producers, and families and community members.  

Guide to Conducting Student Food Waste Audits: A Resource for Schools

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the USDA, and the University of Arkansas collaborated to create a guide for students and school personnel to learn about the amount of food wasted in their cafeterias. The guide outlines why and how to do a food waste audit, what to do with the data collected, and lists a number of wasted food prevention ideas.

Food Waste Audit

Montana Farm to Summer Fun

girls eating kale

School’s out for the summer--hooray! Now who is going to take care of those beautiful school gardens while kids are at home and teachers are on a well-deserved vacation? This is an often-asked question when considering starting a school garden. Gallatin Valley Farm to School (GVF2S), a non-profit organization based in Bozeman, Montana, has plenty of ideas for keeping gardens growing strong during the summer, as well as combating summer learning loss in students. With Montana’s short growing season, it is important for GVF2S to keep farm to school activities going all year.

The mission of GVF2S is to cultivate healthy kids, vibrant farms, and strong communities by connecting schools and local producers in the Gallatin Valley. Since school is out of session when farms and gardens are producing the bulk of their fresh produce, one way that GVF2S keeps kids eating delicious local food all year round is through summer camps held at some of Bozeman’s school gardens. GVF2S has hosted “Seed to Snack” summer camps since 2013 for students entering 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. The Seed to Snack camp was started by Erin Jackson, a FoodCorps service member, who now serves as the Education Director for GVF2S, and enrollment has doubled since the first summer. Another success is the addition of a “Garden Explorer” session for students entering 1st and 2nd grade.

Students who attend these camps discover where food comes from through hands-on gardening, cooking and science activities. Jackson describes the days as filled with “planting, harvesting, cooking and eating, exploring critters in the garden, doing garden crafts, playing games, and investigating pollinators and plants using science skills.” Jackson sees the camps as filling a need in the community by ensuring that the school gardens are being taken care of during the summer. Another benefit is that some campers who attend help harvest veggies that they planted during the school year with their class, which helps foster a sense of ownership and pride in their school garden. Other students may attend camp at a school that they don’t go to during the year, but they still get all the benefits of gardening and the satisfaction of preparing their snacks from the daily harvest.

We Want to Hear From You!

Our farm to school community is growing and we want to know what topics are most important to your activities and programs. Complete this short survey and tell us what you would like to read about in The Dirt!