1.5 million crunched during Farm to School Month in the Midwest

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 3, Issue 31, November 28, 2017

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
A Roadmap for State Farm to School Policy

A Roadmap for State Farm to School Policy

The National Farm to School Network just released A Roadmap for State Farm to School Policy. The State Farm to School Legislative Survey: 2002-2017 builds on research that was originally released in 2011, and updated in 2013, and 2014. This most recent version reflects legislation through March 31, 2017. 

Since 2002, 46 states, including Washington, D.C., have proposed 491 bills and resolutions supportive of farm to school activities. Forty states, including D.C., have enacted farm to school-related legislation. Examples of this legislation include offering schools additional funding to purchase locally grown products; establishing technical assistance programs to help farmers sell their products to schools; and, creating task forces to determine how best to coordinate and expand farm to school activities. 

This resource offers farm to school advocates a roadmap to learn about and compare existing, potentially replicable, state farm to school laws, policies, and programs in order to advance new legislation in your state.

The Crunch Heard around the Nation: Over 1.5 million people crunched local apples in the Midwest

Throughout October, schools, parents, administrators, farmers, and communities participated in events to celebrate the importance of local food and connecting communities to their local farmers, land, and culture. Although we are headed into the last few weeks of 2017, the Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS) would like to reflect on several farm to school events that took place during Farm to School Month in October. Apple Crunch Day, the most common and interactive farm to school event from coast to coast, was enjoyed by millions. In unison, schools, communities, and even local politicians, bit into local apples to support their local farmers and producers. Erin Healy, Director of the OCFS, traveled to Chicago, Boston, and Mississippi to participate in the months’ festivities and celebrate local foods. Keep reading to see how your region enjoyed Farm to School Month!

Midwest Region

Students eating apples

The Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch was a great success! According to the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, over 1.5 million people crunched apples at over three thousand “crunch sites”! Staff at the Midwest Regional Office crunched into local apples, FY 2017 Farm to School Grantees crunched together into apples at the USDA’s annual grantee gathering, and Erin Healy joined the Midwest Farm to School Regional Lead, Jenna Segal, to visit  East Aurora School District, a FY 2017 Farm to School Grantee to join students and bite into delicious Great Lakes Grown apples!

Mountain Plains Region

The Wyoming Department of Education really pulled together to make the first annual Wyoming Crunch Time a great success!  Multiple schools participate across the State crunched into local apples, carrots, and other crunchy fruits and veggies. At Douglas Elementary School, Principal Tanya Seeds got creative with several relay races for students and staff that involved fresh produce! In states over the region, students “crunched” for Farm to School Month, including Montana, Utah, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Farm fresh produce

Western Region

Students participating in farm to school event

Western Regional Office (WRO) Farm to School Lead, JuliAnna Arnet, spoke at FY 17 Farm to School Implementation Grantee Natomas Unified School District’s “Edible School Garden Ground Breaking” at Paso Verde School in Sacramento, CA. The event celebrated the establishment of their grant-supported school garden and Farm to School Month. More than 100 students, parents, school staff, and community partners attended the event. JuliAnna highlighted the school district’s achievements and spoke about farm to school as a tool supporting life-long healthy behaviors, agricultural stewardship, and connected communities.


Children eating apples

JuliAnna visited another FY 17 Farm to School Planning Grantee Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento, CA in honor of Farm to School Month. Students across the district participated in a local apple crunch. The crunch was coordinated by Community Alliance with Family Farms in celebration of Food Day (October 24) and Farm to School Month. The event resulted in a purchase of more than 17,000 local apples totaling $4,812.52 from Seely Farms in Upper Lake, CA. JuliAnna spoke to students at Smythe Academy of Arts and Sciences and Northwood Elementary about the importance of local foods.

Southwest Region

People holding green bean seeds

Arkansas Department of Human Services (ARDHS) National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a proud supporter of farm to school and encourages their providers to practice farm to school principles. Currently, ARDHS-NSLP serves 41 School Food Authorities (SFAs), including 18 Residential Child Care Institutions, 13 Private Schools, seven Juvenile Detention Centers, and three Long-Term Care Facilities.

Mansfield Juvenile Detention Center (MJDC) located in the northwest corner of Arkansas is home to approximately 30 residents who grow a variety of fruits and vegetables that are incorporated into their menus. On October 19, 2017, the NSLP team traveled to Mansfield, AR to celebrate Farm to School Month for an event titled Let’s G.R.O.W.: Growing Redefines Our Worth.

School lunch

The ARDHS-NSLP team and special guests Jenna Rhodes, Arkansas Farm to School Core Partner, Mark Speight, USDA Child Nutrition Program Specialist, and Robert Gage, local gardener from Mansfield, helped plant seeds alongside the residents of MJDC and joined them for lunch featuring green beans and a dessert made with pumpkin.

Jenna Rhodes, Rachel Spencer, USDA Farm to School Regional Lead, and the AR- DHS Health and Nutrition Unit, donated aprons, gloves, water hoses, plastic shovels, fertilizer, plants, and seeds to maintain their garden. The residents were very grateful for the garden supplies and the event was rewarding for the guest.

The team was also able to witness Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchison, sign the Farm to School Proclamation. This was the first time ARDHS-NSLP celebrated National Farm to School Month, but it definitely will not be the last!

Arkansas Farm to School Proclaimation

Southeast Region

Students eat apples in Alabama

A giant crunch was heard on October 24 when students took a big bite into a local apple grown by Scott’s Orchard in Hazel Green, Alabama. Third graders from Walnut Grove Elementary in Madison County went on a fun-filled field trip to Scott’s Orchard to learn all about apples!

Students toured the orchard which grows 18 varieties of apples, corn, soybean, and 23 varieties of peaches. Joining the students on the tour was Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries, John McMillan, who enjoyed interacting with the kids and seeing their reaction to the apple trees that supplied over 400,000 kids with apples that day.

"Mississippi Grown, Mississippi Good" is the tag-line for Mississippi's Farm to School Program. Fifteen years strong, Mississippi brings local food and farmers into their schools to educate kids about the source of their food. Erin Healy visited a school in Rankin County, MS and explained the importance of connecting children to farmers, "A lot of our farmers are aging out and a lot of that farm land is being lost. It is essential that we start motivating and encouraging young people to become farmers."

Farm to School Staff and advocates in Mississippi

Mid-Atlantic Region

Third-grade students at Macy McClaugherty School in Giles County, Virginia, participated in the "Crunch Heard Round the Commonwealth" on October 4.  Students crunched an apple donated by Doe Creek Orchard, a local farm in Pembroke VA.  They formed the shape of an apple while the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and principal formed the "stem". 

Students eating apples in Virginia
Goats, honeybees, and chicken

The OCFS national staff joined Mid-Atlantic Farm to School Regional Lead, Tegan Bernstein, on a tour of FY 2015 grantee William Penn High School in Colonial School District. William Penn High School has a 7-acre farm filled with chickens, honeybees, goats, and rows and rows of harvested ground within walking distance from the school! Students learn all about agriculture, including managing hydroponics, harvesting crops for school lunch, and even how to make soap from goat milk. Their thriving agriculture program and club is so popular there is a waiting list!

During our visit, we toured the school cafeteria and marveled at the walk-in freezer packed with frozen produce from summer harvest. We stayed for lunch and enjoyed a fresh salad and butternut squash soup made from butternut squash, kale, and lettuce grown minutes away on the farm. Their culinary students also prepared a delicious pumpkin cheesecake with fresh cranberry toppings served on bamboo plates. William Penn prepares students for future careers and college. Their phlebotomy and agriculture courses train students so they can transition straight into a career after high school.

Pumpkin cheesecake, school lunch, and frozen produce

Northeast Region

Students learning about agriculture

Erin Healy joined the Northeast Regional Office, School Nutrition Programs Branch staff at the Lincoln-Hancock Elementary School in Quincy Public Schools (FY 16 Farm to School Grantee) to celebrate Farm to School Month.

Farm educators from the Holly Hill Organic Farm provided an interactive workshop on the harvest from the school’s garden, which included sunflowers, garlic, lettuce, tomatoes and various other vegetables. Participating students also shared essays and artworks about their experiences visiting a local farm and working in the school garden.


Farm to school month celebration at Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts Farm to School held its first Awareness Day event at the grand staircase of the Massachusetts State House in celebration of Farm to School Month. Erin Healy joined the Northeast Regional staff, advocates, and community partners to share exciting farm to school activities happening in various communities and honor Joanne Lennon, Director of Food Service for Chicopee Public Schools, as she received the 2017 Kale Blazer Award. The Kale Blazer Award is given to an individual who demonstrates excellence and leadership in farm to school activity in Massachusetts.

“Farm to school benefits everyone from students, teachers, parents, and community members,” said Healy. “Connecting communi­ties to their local farmers and producers builds stronger ties to the community and culture.