Keep local food safe to eat

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 3, Issue 23, September 13, 2017

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Boy playing in garden

Harvesting Safe Food to Eat

Now that the kids are back in school, it is time to put those little hands to work and harvest fall produce. This month, celebrate food safety and local foods by incorporating produce from your school garden into your school meals. Although school gardens are an excellent tool to teach children about where their food comes from, it is important to practice safe food handling from garden to cafeteria. Check out these resources to ensure students and staff are prepared to keep food safe:

National Farm to School Network logo

National Farm to School Network Releases New Resource!

Growing Head Start Success with Farm to Early Care and Education aims to promote Head Start stakeholders' understanding of how farm to ECE can support achievement of Head Start Program Performance Standards and actively contributes to learning and development benchmarks as outlined in the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework. This resource aims to highlight how farm to ECE elements, implemented individually or in combination, may address multiple domains and standards, and provide significant benefits for children, families and communities.

Growing Head Start Success is designed to directly align Program Performance Standards and the Early Learning Outcomes Framework with specific farm to ECE activities from each of the three core elements of local procurement, gardening, and food, agriculture and nutrition education. The resource also offers three profiles of Head Start programs leading the way in addressing performance and learning standards with farm to ECE and their tips for integrating farm to ECE in Head Start.

Growing Opportunities: Farm to School Benefits to Farmers and Producers

Date: Wednesday, September 20, 2-3 PM ET

Catch a sneak peak of the National Farm to School Network’s forthcoming case studies on the economic impacts of farm to school, and hear firsthand experiences and tips from farmers in the movement. This webinar is generously sponsored by CoBank.

apples in crates

Regional Food Systems: Driving Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development

Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017

Session Times: Hawaii: 9:00 a.m.; Alaska: 11:00 a.m.; Pacific: 12:00 p.m.; Mountain: 1:00 p.m.; Central: 2:00 p.m.; Eastern: 3:00 p.m.

Join this free Connecting Communities® webinar to explore using regional food system investments to drive entrepreneurial activity and small business development.

Speakers will discuss technical support that can be provided to entrepreneurs, as well as creative tools for financing regional food enterprises. The webinar will draw on research in a new book, Harvesting Opportunity. The speakers are all contributors to the publication; they will highlight how organizations are working to ensure that the opportunities created through regional food investments are available to all, including traditionally marginalized populations.

Presenters include:
         Lisa Benson, Director, Rural Development, American Farm Bureau Federation
         Donna Leuchten Nuccio, Director, Healthy Food Access, Reinvestment Fund
         Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability, The George Washington University

Participation is free, but preregistration is required.

Lowe's Toolbox for Education logo

Lowe’s Toolbox for Education® Grants

Each year, the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grants program contributes more than $5 million to fund improvements at public schools in the United States. Projects should fall into one of the following categories: technology upgrades, tools for STEM programs, facility renovations and safety improvements. Toolbox grant requests can range from $2,000 to $100,000. The Fall Grant Cycle is open through September 29, 2017. Learn more here.

RSU #18 Garden Programs are flourishing

Regional School Unit #18, the China and Messalonskee School District in Central Maine, is taking farm to school to a new level. Check out how a few of their schools are making farm to school matter! 

Eric Brooks receives award

Belgrade Central School - Eric Brooks's Contribution - Garden Leader 

Belgrade Central School is planning a new Literacy Garden with funding from the Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant. Plans include a new outdoor classroom space with a gazebo area and benches surrounded by garden boxes.   

This past June, Eric Brooks, traveled to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Kansas City, MO to represent Maine as the 2017 Agriculture Teacher of the Year and the National White-Rheinhardt Award Winner for Agricultural Literacy and to present a workshop focusing on integrating literacy, agriculture, and technology. The workshop highlighted the school’s pilot project: Maine Ag in the Classroom Book Barn. The Book Barn is a traveling library of agriculture books and teacher resource guides to increase agricultural awareness in schools and provide access to accurate information around farming.   

For the coming school year, Mr. Brooks plans to integrate more math concepts into agriculture and will also incorporate Maine Wild Blueberries into the curriculum in order to raise more awareness about Maine's "superfruit." Students will create persuasive writing pieces and artwork to promote the health benefits of eating Maine Wild Blueberries and learn about how wild blueberries impact the local economies in Maine and across the country.  

In June 2018, Maine will host the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Portland. The conference theme is "Agriculture for ME on Land and Sea!" and it will be the first National Ag Conference held in Maine. 

Girl holding large zucchini

Messalonskee High School - Beth Prelgovisk - Garden Coach

The greenhouse is busier than ever! They have added Hydroponics to the greenhouse and introduced a dual credit course with Kennebec Valley Community College in Plant Biology this past year, adding another plant based course to the school class schedule. Messalonskee High School will add aeroponic Tower Gardens to the Classroom through the support of the Oak Grove Foundation grant. Garden Club won a 1st place Blue Ribbon for their basil and a third place for their herb collection at the Skowhegan State Fair. 


Messalonskee Middle School - Amanda Ripa - Garden Coach

Gardens are thriving both in the raised beds and the hoophouse. Students who participate in the Garden Club will grow onions that will be cooked in recipes in the school cafeteria for lunch. A new garden shed has been installed with the help of the Lowe's toolbox for education grant. 


Ralph Atwood Primary School - Tammy Pullen - Garden Leader

Garden Leader, Tammy Pullen at Ralph Atwood Primary School was awarded a Maine Ag in the Classroom Grant to add aeroponic Tower Gardens to their school classrooms. Teachers have attended a workshop to guide them on how to install and maintain Tower Gardens. The school hosted a carnival where students were able to interact with farm animals at the end of the school year.