Shedding some light on farm to summer

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 4, Issue 3, February 6, 2018

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Summer meal site

Shedding some light on farm to summer

The groundhog saw his shadow on February 2, so another six weeks of winter is expected for the northeast region. Whether you follow the rules of Punxsutawney Phil or have your own way to predict the weather, it's never too early to think about summer! The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Summer's warm weather and long sunny days make it the perfect time to grow and harvest fresh, local fruits and vegetables for summer meals. For State agencies finalizing your Summer MAP addendum, don't forget to include offerings of fresh, local food and engaging agricultural activities. Check out these resources, and head to our farm to summer website, to learn more about how to bring farm to school to your summer meal site: 

  • Farm to Summer: How Regional Offices and State Agencies Support Farm to Summer Webinar - This webinar provides an overview of farm to summer activities, resources, and a snapshot of how Regional offices and State agencies have encouraged sponsors to adopt farm to summer principles. From MAP addendums to partner meetings, discover how your Regional and State colleagues support “bringing the farm” to Summer Meal Programs.
  • Farm to Summer Fact Sheet - Use this fact sheet for summer meal program tips on incorporating local foods and agriculture-based activities.
  • Local Foods and Related Activities in Summer Meal Programs (SP-07_SFSP07-2016) - This policy memo provides guidance on the incorporation of local foods and nutrition and agriculture-based activities into Summer Meal Programs.
  • Summer Meals and FoodCorps: An Introduction for State Agencies - Check out this two-pager to learn how FoodCorps can support summer meals.
  • Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs - This resource covers procurement basics, defining local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways child nutrition program operators can purchase locally in accordance with regulations.
  • USDA Farm to School Census - Locate schools that include local foods in their SFSP.
  • SFSP Toolkit - Find local foods guidance for state agencies, sponsors, and partner organizations, along with tips for starting a summer meals site at farmers markets.
  • SFSP Handbook - Sponsors can find guidance on procurement and tips on targeting local foods.
  • SFSP Webinar Series - Listen to presenters discuss incorporating local foods in summer meals, building awareness about summer programs, engaging in partnerships that help boost participation and increase access, and more.
  • Capacity Builder Map – This tool allows sponsors to visualize community data, such as the locations of farmers markets, Turnip the Beet winners, and previous Farm to School grantees, as they plan for new summer sites.  

Mill City Grows doesn't let cold weather stop their farm to school activities

adult and child cooking

In Lowell, Massachusetts, Mill City Grows (MCG) keeps the farm to school movement going during the cold New England winter through their Farm to Table Program! Piloted in 2015 with funds from a USDA Farm to School grant, MCG works with 8-10 families over the course of 5-part workshop series focused on preparing nutritious, affordable, kid-friendly meals using local produce. MCG partners with afterschool programs and Lowell Public School District’s Food and Nutrition Services to facilitate workshops in school kitchens and cafeterias across the city. The final workshop in every series is a potluck where each family brings a dish that represents their personal food traditions.

In 2017, MCG worked with over 40 families. Educators found that farm to school was doing more than teaching families about the nutritional benefits of local food. “People are so excited to create delicious, nutritious meals and then share them with each other,” reported Director of Programs, Val Snowdon. “The simple act of sharing food has created relationships between students, families, teachers, and cafeteria staff that will continue after the workshops end. This is one of the most exciting aspects of this program-- community building AND families learn that their kids actually do love kale! It doesn’t get better than that!” 

Mill City Grows’ mission is to foster food justice in Lowell by improving physical health, economic independence, and environmental sustainability through increased access to land, locally grown food, and education.

Upcoming Farm to School Webinars

Lunch tray

Beef to School Webinar

Date: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 2:00pm MST (4:00pm EST)

Join USDA's Office of Community Food Systems, Montana Beef to School Project, Montana State University, and school food service directors to learn about successful strategies for serving local beef in schools. The webinar will explore the Montana Beef to School Project’s findings and resources - including two new beef to school solicitation templates designed to help school districts purchase local beef! Participants will also hear from two school food service directors who will share their strategies and lessons learned for purchasing and serving local beef in schools.


Advancing Equity Through Farm to School

Date: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 @ 3:00pm EST

Join National Farm to School Network staff and partners to learn about the organization's equity statement and hear from farm to school practitioners about their successes and challenges with advancing equity through farm to school.

Farm to School 101 & Funding Opportunities

Date: Wednesday, February, 28, 2018 @ 5:00pm EST

This webinar will cover what USDA means by “farm to school”, the different ways to incorporate farm to school programs into your business plan, and how working with schools can impact and bring value to your operation.  Funding, including grant opportunities, will be covered.

This webinar is coordinated in partnership with the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) and is geared towards farmers and producers selling to schools as a new market.


Kids holding greens
Farmers Market

The Business of Farm to School

Date: Thursday, March 15, 2018 @ 5:00pm EST

This webinar will cover the procurement (purchasing) rules that schools follow, describe questions and talking points to discuss when selling to and building relationships with schools, identify which products schools are looking for, and highlight the different Child Nutrition Programs (CNP’s) that provide these opportunities- hint- it’s not just school lunch!

This webinar is coordinated in partnership with the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) and is geared towards farmers and producers selling to schools as a new market.