The Dirt: September 2018 (Vol. 4, Issue 16)

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Volume 4, Issue 16, September 24, 2018

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Drew Farm Visit Detroit, MI

Class is in Session this September for Food Safety

Farm to School Grantees Gather in Detroit to Share Accomplishments and Best Practices

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service hosted a gathering of Fiscal Year 2018 grantees in Detroit, Michigan, on September 13th and 14th.  The meeting featured 120 registered grantees, all in varying stages of program development, discussing their experiences in establishing their own Farm to School Programs.  The grantees discussed how to measure the outcomes of their programs, techniques for marketing and promoting Farm to School programs, and planning sustainable action plans.

The meeting also featured keynote speakers from the greater Detroit area.  Grantees heard from Winona Bynum, Executive Director of the Detroit Food Policy Council, who explained to attendees the value of engaging the community through Food Policy Councils and establishing farming as a continuous presence in the cafeteria and the community.  Attendees also heard from Mark Coe, a managing partner at Michigan Farm to Freezer, who provided a producers perspective, with his story of how this impressive program  began as an employment training program, flash freezing produce at peak ripeness, and now employs 14 full and part-time employees and processes roughly half a million dollars’ worth of produce each year. 

A highlight of the meeting was a field trip for grantees to Drew Farm in Detroit, Michigan.  Drew Farm is a recipient of the USDA Farm to School Grant program and works with 82 schools in the Detroit Public School District.  The farm sits on the campus of a special school for students with cognitive disabilities, replacing what used to be two baseball fields. Today, Drew Farm grows an estimated 22,000 pounds of food and engages children in experiential learning throughout the Detroit Public School District through weekly field trips and visits in the schools themselves.  During school trips to Drew Farm, students get to see how their food is grown.

Attendees left the meeting enthusiastic about their upcoming plans for the year and excited about the announcements for the next round of grant applications for Fiscal Year 2019.

Produce Safety University Class in the Field

September is Food Safety Education Month and Produce Safety University is Accepting Nominations for the Class of 2019!

September is National Food Safety Education Month.  As schools across the country welcome students for the School Year 2018 - 19, it is important to ensure that ingredients used in the millions of breakfasts and lunches served nationwide are safe for consumption.  Fresh produce provides many nutritional benefits, but it must be handled safely to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Fresh produce that is served raw does not go through a cooking step to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present before it is served to students, and, therefore has the potential to cause a foodborne illness.

This is why the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Office of Food Safety (OFS), in collaboration with the Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS), is excited to announce that Produce Safety University (PSU) will be accepting nominations for its 2019 sessions beginning in October.

Produce Safety University is a unique, week-long, immersion course covering all aspects of the fresh produce supply chain from farm to fork.  A combination of lecture, laboratory, and field-trip instruction is used in a train-the-trainer format. Graduates receive training materials to use at regional, state, and local trainings that include lesson plans, presentations and activities related to key topics addressed during PSU classes.

Participants will walk away with new strategies on how to maximize the use of produce while reducing waste, improve student acceptance, control production costs, and engage their communities while supporting local agriculture.

Attendees will have all travel expenses paid as they participate in this in depth training at one of five regional locations in the spring of 2019.  State Directors of Child Nutrition programs nominate participants who currently have an active role in training child nutrition staff at either district or local levels.  Nominations should be submitted by December 3, 2018.  States should contact their Regional Offices with additional questions about the nomination process. 

States may also learn more about PSU and nominating potential attendees by contacting the PSU team at

Stir-Fry Pork

National Farm to School Network Announces Results of 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey

On September 11, 2018, The National Farm to School Network (NFSN), in partnership with the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS), released the results of their 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey that was conducted during the spring of 2018.  The survey was disseminated to early care and education providers across the country and garnered responses from 2,030 providers, representing 46 States, serving 255,257 young children.

Respondents completing the survey included licensed family child care providers, child care centers, private preschools and Head Start or Early Head Start programs.

Of these responses, NFSN and CRFS learned that 49 percent of respondents participate in some form of farm to ECE activity with an additional 30 percent anticipating starting their own farm to ECE activities in the upcoming years.  Among the respondents surveyed, the most frequently reported motivations for participating in farm to ECE activities were: teaching children where food comes from and how it grows (96 percent), improving children’s health (95 percent), providing children with experiential learning (95 percent) and accessing fresher, higher quality foods (94 percent).  Of the respondents, 54 percent report that they anticipate increasing local food purchase over the next 2 to 3 years.

For more information on this survey and its findings, please visit the National Farm to School Network website hereSign up for the NFSN e-newsletter to receive the full survey report when it is released later this fall.  Also make sure to check out the webinar October 11 for more information.

Trending Topics Webinar:  Results form the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey

October 11, 2-3 PM ET

The National Farm to School Network, in partnership with Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, launched the 2018 National Survey of Early Care and Education (ECE) Providers in the spring of 2018. Over 2,000 ECE providers from across the country responded and shared information about current farm to ECE initiatives, motivations for participation, challenges to starting or expanding farm to ECE, and more. Join us to hear about the survey findings and learn how you can use the results to promote farm to ECE in your state and community. Register here

2019 Local Foods, Local Places Application and Opportunity Zones Webinar

Communities are now invited to apply for technical assistance to help revitalize their economy, improve health, and protect the environment. Local Foods, Local Places helps communities revitalize neighborhoods through development of local food systems. To date, 94 communities have benefited from assistance with support from EPA, USDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Delta Regional Authority, among others. In 2018, the Northern Border Regional Commission will join as a program sponsor.

Eligibility: Eligible applicants include local governments, Indian tribal organizations (ITOs), and nonprofit institutions and organizations proposing to work in a neighborhood, town, or city of any size anywhere in the United States. Special consideration will be given to communities in the northern border region of Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, and the Delta region of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.


Deadline: 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on October 22, 2018.


How to apply: See complete application instructions at