Locally Grown Food Takes the Lead!

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 4, Issue 12, June 5, 2018

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner

Farm Fresh Fridays: Challenging Summer Sponsors to Serve More Texas Grown Foods

By: Beatrice, Watson, Farm Fresh Specialist, Texas Department of Agriculture in Austin, TX

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Since 2013, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has encouraged schools to participate in its annual Farm Fresh Challenge. TDA provides resources and recognition for schools that introduce students to local foods and teach them about Texas agriculture. This year, TDA is bringing the Farm Fresh Challenge to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) June 11-22, 2018. In this challenge, participating schools, nonprofits, and community organizations will earn TDA recognition for serving local foods, providing educational opportunities, and promoting Farm Fresh Fridays through social media and other outlets. Participants will receive support materials, including “I Tried Local” stickers to give to summer meal participants, and “We Serve Local” buttons to be worn by nutrition service staff.

"The Farm Fresh Challenge is a great fit for summer, when watermelons, cucumbers and so many other fruits and vegetables reach their peak growing seasons here in Texas,” said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who launched the Farm Fresh Initiative as a way to connect Texans to agriculture and local farmers and ranchers. “Since 2013, our schools have seen great success using the challenge to introduce students to local meats, grains, produce, and dairy. Now, Summer Meal Program sponsors will use the Farm Fresh Challenge to bring that educational fun and excitement to the young Texans they serve during summer.”

I tried it stickers
Farm Fresh Challenge

The Farm Fresh Challenge is just one component in Commissioner Miller’s Farm Fresh Initiative. The Initiative also includes the Farm Fresh Network, helping farmers and ranchers find new purchasing relationships with schools, child care centers, and summer meal sites. TDA’s nutrition program partners use Farm Fresh Fridays activities to explore new menus that include local foods and make agriculture intriguing for young Texans. These are just a few of the ways the Farm Fresh Initiative supports local economies and builds a healthier future for the great state of Texas.

New Resources!

It's Time to Celebrate Pollinators!

Pollinator Week is coming up June 18-24, 2018 and the USDA National Agroforestry Center has agroforestry pollinator resources available. Request agroforestry publications now and be ready for events during Pollinator Week!

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Thirty on Thursdays

Adding Whole Grains to Your Menu (Webinar)

Date: June 21, 2018
English 2:00 - 2:30p m ET
Spanish 3:00 - 3:30 pm ET

Presented as part of USDA Team Nutrition’s FREE monthly CACFP Halftime: Thirty on Thursdays webinar series, this webinar will focus on how to offer whole grains at Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) sites. Attendees will have a chance to submit questions to the presenters and check their knowledge through interactive polling questions.

For more information, including recordings of past webinars and dates and topics of future webinars, please visit the CACFP Halftime: Thirty on Thursdays webpage.

A Collaborative Effort: Southeast Regional Jr. Chef Competition

Jr. Chef Competition Winners

By: Samantha Benjamin-Kirk, Southeast Regional Farm to School Lead, Southeast Regional Office, Food and Nutrition Service

When great minds think alike, there are no limits as to what can happen! This is the best way to describe the Southeast Regional Jr. Chef Competition held on May 9 - 10, 2018 at Sullivan University in Louisville Kentucky. Through a collaborative effort between Southeast Regional State agencies, they single-handedly exposed high school students to various aspects of American agriculture, menu planning and development, and the USDA Farm to School Program.

This culinary competition brought together 21 extraordinary high school students from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina, to demonstrate their valuable skills in recipe development, food preparation, marketing, public presentation, and local food systems. The Southeast Regional Jr. Chef Competition was very rigorous and the six teams that competed had already won their state competition. Each team created an amazing entrée, that was student-tested and compliant with the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), creating a “win-win” for students and nutrition directors across the region.

Following the event, 80 percent of students surveyed indicated the competition had a positive impact on their eating habits and 90 percent of students indicated that the competition influenced their attitudes towards local food systems. This two-day event in conjunction with individual State activities, stimulated students’ interest in local food systems and inspired them to become the next generation of foodservice professionals.

Maxwell High School of Technology from Lawrenceville, Georgia, was the winner of the 2018 Southeast Regional Jr. Chef Competition! Congratulations to all the students who participated in the competition. Their voices and actions will change how students view school meals and American agriculture!

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