USDA Farm to School Census coming in 2019

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 3, Issue 34, December 26, 2017

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

USDA Farm to School Census coming in 2019!

As 2017 comes to an end, the Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS)  is thankful for the tireless efforts schools, school districts, State/local agencies, non-profits, agricultural producers, and Indian tribal organizations have invested in their farm to school programs. According to the 2015 Farm to School Census, schools reported purchasing almost $800 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishers, food processors, and manufacturers. The interest in farm to school is rapidly growing across the country and it is time to capture that growth in the 2019 Farm to School Census!

OCFS plans to initiate data collection for the 2019 Farm to School Census in early 2019 for school year 2017 – 2018. We are halfway through the school year, so now is the time to think about how you track your farm to school activities. Need some assistance tracking your activities? Check out our Farm to School Activity Tracking Sheets or connect with your Farm to School Regional Lead for guidance. Help us prove farm to school works and enhance our existing research! This New Year’s, make a resolution to take farm to school to the next level!

Webinars, Conferences, Funding, and Resources

FRAC logo

Summer Meals Matter: Recruiting and Retaining Summer Meal Program Sites

Date: January 4, 2018 at 1:00 PM EST
Retaining experienced sponsors and sites is an important strategy for maintaining your community’s Summer Nutrition Programs year after year. State agencies and advocates can work with community partners to recruit and strengthen the number of sites serving summer meals and also give them the support they need to stay involved. Learn about best practices, training, and communication strategies to increase the number of sites and sponsors engaged and participating, as well as strategies to support and mentor new ones.

National Farm to School Network logo

Trending Topics in Farm to School: SNAP-Ed and Farm to School

Date: Thursday, January 4th from at 2:00 PM EST

SNAP-Ed offers a growing opportunity to bring food, nutrition, and agriculture-related education into schools and communities across the country. Opportunities exist in gardening, local food procurement, and other farm to school initiatives.

During this webinar, you will hear from practitioners from University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and others about the integration of farm to school in both direct education and policy, systems, and environmental change SNAP-Ed initiatives.


Once-in-a-Decade Sustainable Agriculture Event

The Our Farms, Our Future Conference, hosted by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the National Center for Appropriate Technology ATTRA program will be held on April 3-5, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri.

This national event will bring together a diverse agricultural community including farmers and ranchers, agribusiness stakeholders, students, researchers, scientists, agency representatives, and nonprofit leaders. Every decade SARE hosts a conference to look at the progress of sustainability in agriculture and to understand their trajectory for the future.

National Farm to School Network logo

Scholarship Application Open for 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference

The National Farm to School Network is now accepting applications for scholarships to the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, which will take place in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 25-27, 2018. This event is the top national training and networking event for farm to cafeteria professionals working to improve community health, build economic opportunities for farmers and producers, and ensure long-term sustainability for local food efforts nationwide. To ensure the conference reflects the full diversity of the movement, scholarships are prioritized for farmers and farm support organizations, farm to college / hospital practitioners, early care and education providers, food service professionals, persons of color, and youth (through age 22). 

The deadline to apply is February 12, 2018 at 8:00 pm ET.

America's Promise logo

Funding for Healthier School Environments

The America's Promise Healthy Schools Fund will support communities working to create healthier school environments for all children. Recognizing that school-centered health intersects with many areas outside of education—housing, employment, transportation, and food access— as well as many audiences, efforts should serve as a hub for cross-sector collaboration, youth and community engagement, and broader policy and systemic change.

America’s Promise will award three to five grants of up to $150,000 each per year for two years (for a total of up to $300,000) to collaborative efforts that display alignment with this vision and a proven ability to accelerate positive change for young people in schools and their communities.

Student Food Waste Audits

The USDA in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the University of Arkansas, released Guide to Conducting Student Food Waste Audits: A Resource for Schools. This guide will help schools audit their food waste and implement practical steps to reduce food waste by students.  Learn how to plan your audit, collect data, and discover new prevention ideas. Check out #9, implementing a Farm to School Program helps reduce food waste!

Children eating School Lunch

Western Regional Office Sheds Sunshine on Summer Meal Sponsors

Preschool girl playing in garden

It’s the holiday season, and while the summer months may seem far away, it is always a good time to shed sunshine upon sponsors bringing local foods to the national Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). In November, the Western Regional Office announced 14 winners of the Summer Sunshine Award, a regional recognition program that brings attention to SFSP best practices in the Western states. Last summer, Petersburg School District in Alaska and Del Norte Unified School District in California, amped up local foods, gardening, and nutrition education.

You may not think of Alaska as a farm-friendly climate until you remember that it is nicknamed “Land of the Midnight Sun” for the long, sunny days the State experiences in the summer months. Petersburg Borough School District, located on an island in Southeastern Alaska, brought the farm to summer meals in 2017. Not only was the garden’s produce incorporated into summer meals, Petersburg was able to utilize the school garden for enrichment activities that allowed students to “touch, learn, and embrace the garden”. The school district supported staff in tending to the school garden during the summer months, and the US Forest Service even hosted a pollinator event! School gardens are a fresh method to introduce children to agriculture and incorporate produce into summer fun! Management can help by designating staff time to tend and care for the garden. 

Preschool girl eating summer meal

Del Norte Unified School District is located in a small county in the northernmost corner of California. Last year, the school district partnered with the Del Norte and Adjacent Tribal Land community food council and added 4 new sites in the tribal lands of Yurok tribe and Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation.  The partnership has been instrumental in providing healthy, no-cost meals to children in need. Del Norte Unified School District has already begun planning for summer 2018 by soliciting program feedback, delivering thank you packages, and working with local farmers to prepare to source food for the summer. Del Norte Unified School District is an excellent example of a sponsor establishing a network of community resources by partnering with a diverse array of organizations to expand the summer meals program to children in need.

State agencies and sponsors can take small, impactful steps to add farm-fresh food and learning into their summer meals program. Don’t forget that there is always a creative solution to a problem when you leverage the resources and people around you. Challenge yourself to reach out to two new organizations or people that can help bring the farm to your summer meals program today!