The Dirt: Volume 5, Issue 4, November 15, 2018

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Volume 5, Issue 4, November 15, 2018

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
NACA Student Operating Tiller; Photo Courtesy of NACA

NACA Student tilling a garden; Photo courtesey of NACA

Farm to School Celebrates Native American Culture and History


Native American Community Academy Breaks Ground on a New School Garden

November is Native American Heritage Month and a time to celebrate Native culture and traditions. That includes highlighting traditions that connect people to land and promoting the use of local foods. A school in Albuquerque, New Mexico is using its school garden to enhance both its nutritional and cultural curriculum while intersecting with history.  The Native American Community Academy (NACA) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sits on the grounds of the old Albuquerque Indian Boarding School, originally opened in 1881.  Today, these grounds are still home to a school, but it is a school that embraces and encourages exploration and celebration of Native culture and traditions. 

NACA, established in 2006, is a charter school that connected with more than 150 community partners to focus on the education and support of Native American children attending the Albuquerque School District.  Today, 94 percent of the school’s roughly 460 students are Native American, representing over 60 different tribes.

NACA’s Executive Director, Anpao Duta Flying Earth, explains that the current school garden started as a collaborative effort with another local organization, the La Plazita Institute.  Duta Flying Earth acknowledged that there was room for improvement in their school lunch program, and this needed to be addressed quickly.  “As a school, we have a mission to address the holistic wellness of our students, and when the rate of diabetes and heart disease in our community is atrocious, we have an obligation to tackle these issues.” The  experiences created for students, through this partnership with La Plazita, were aimed at developing a relationship with the healthy food being grown and instilling lasting change for the whole family unit through the student.

The school’s partnership with La Plazita started small and flourished quickly.  Using buses and shuttles to transport NACA students out to the La Plazita grounds, 11th and 12th graders participated in a curriculum that teaches nutrition education using crops that have a strong connection with the heritage and culture of their ancestors. 

The next step will be to launch a new school garden site nearby.  NACA is now in negotiations to lease land that was originally part of federal trust land held by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, then transferred to the local Pueblo tribal conglomerate.  “The students are working on the planning of the new layout," says Duta Flying Earth. "They are involved in the soil testing to determine if we can plant directly into the ground or if we need to build raised beds, everything.  They are really getting their hands dirty,” explains Flying Earth

As to where he would like to see their program in five years, Duta Flying Earth would love to see the new garden completely sustained by students and the community, in partnership with organizations like Food Corps and La Plazita, so the facility can be productive year round.  They would also like to establish a kitchen facility on campus that can handle processing fresh produce on-site and to move away from the pre-packaged meals that they currently receive for their school lunch program.  But for today, the program, with its unique blend of nutrition education and the celebration of Native heritage, continues to move forward.

The Office of Community Food Systems has two fact sheets that promote and encourage Farm to School activities in Indian Country, among many other resources. The fact sheets Bringing Tribal Foods and Traditions into Cafeterias, Classrooms, and Gardens and Gardens in Tribal Communities can be downloaded on the FNS website

NACA Students Planting

NACA Students Planting; photo courtesey of NACA

Champions for Change

Louisiana Holds Third Annual Farm to School Conference and Recognizes State Change Champion

Louisiana’s third annual Farm to School conference was held on October 9-10, 2018, at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The event is part of a multi-year collaboration between the Louisiana Department of Education and the LSU AgCenter to develop and implement a statewide Farm to School program, per the State’s statutory requirements.  The author of the legislation, State Senator Francis Thompson, was recognized during the conference as the recipient of Louisiana’s first “Champion for Change” award, which was given to him for being influential in moving farm to school forward in the State. 

The Louisiana State University Ag Center received its first Farm to School Grant in FY 2015 to hold its initial farm to school conference.  Now in its third consecutive year, the conference was attended by over 170 people, including child nutrition program directors and purchasing personnel, farmers and producers, teachers, school administrators and other stakeholders.  FNS Southwest Regional Office Administrator Bill Ludwig also attended the meeting and commended the State for their dedication to growing the Farm to School Program.

Participants chose from three tracks: Sourcing, Growing or Learning.  Sessions focused on local food procurement, serving local food in schools, growing school gardens and incorporating educational activities into the school community.  Each track featured success stories and best practices from experienced professionals, hands-on activities as well as networking opportunities.  During the mid-morning break, the Great Louisiana "Satsuma" Peel gave participants the opportunity to show unity for procuring and eating local foods by enjoying a Louisiana-grown satsuma together.  The satsuma is a variety of seedless mandarin orange grown in the southeastern United States; typically reaching peak freshness between late October and early December.

New this year was a “Meet the Buyer” reception, held the evening before the conference, which offered an opportunity for growers and producers to meet retail, wholesale and institutional buyers and learn about the types of products they were interested in purchasing.  Chef Ann Cooper, the “Renegade Lunch Lady,” was welcomed as the keynote speaker.  The accomplished author, chef and educator delivered a talk about the importance of providing better food for all children. 

In addition to the annual conference, Louisiana Farm to School engages local schools and districts by offering a comprehensive Harvest of the Month program, which provides materials and training to schools who wish to highlight locally grown produce throughout the year. The team has also expanded the MarketMaker inventory of farming operations, and worked to link child nutrition programs with farmers through the use of the online portal.  Newly developed Harvest of the Month recipes were tested during Culinary Training classes, offered in October 2018, as part of the Louisiana’s 2017 USDA Team Nutrition Training Grant project.  A school garden leadership certification program for teachers and a community foods assessment are among the future plans for the program.  For more information please visit

Farm to School Census Website Scheduled for Archiving at the End of December

By December 31, 2018, the Farm to School Census 2015 website will be archived.  However, the 2015 and 2013 Farm to School Census data files will still be available to download on the newly archived Farm to School census website beginning in January 2019.  Visitors will still be able to select a State or school district to review individual Census reports.  However, other features, such as the site’s interactive map and the ability to search for reports by inputting zip-code and geographic search radius, will be discontinued as a result of the archiving process.  OCFS looks forward to announcing its plans for the new Farm to School Census website to coincide with the launch of the 2019 Farm to School Census and will share more information in The Dirt when it is available.

Food Safety Fact Sheet: Get the Facts About Food Safety

A new resource in the Office of Community Food Systems Fact Sheet series is now available for download.  Developed in collaboration with the FNS Office of Food Safety, Get the Facts About Food Safety addresses common myths and misconceptions related to food safety when incorporating locally grown foods in school meals.


FY 2019 Farm to School Grant RFA Closes December 4

This is a reminder that complete applications for the FY2019 Farm to School RFA must be submitted on by 11:59pm ET on December 4, 2018.

Again, the RFA includes three tracks—Implementation, Planning, and Training.  These will support a variety of projects and implementation stages.  Each track provides funding for a specific range of activities:

  • Implementation grant awards range from $50,000-$100,000. An implementation grant works well for eligible entities with prior farm to school experience, helping scale up or further develop existing farm to school initiatives. Some examples of activities in implementation grants include (but are not limited to) training and technical assistance, supply-chain development, evaluation activities, curriculum development, creation of promotional materials or campaigns, and formation of networks or coalitions.
  • Planning grant awards range from $20,000-$50,000. Planning grants help eligible entities build a strong foundation for their efforts rooted in best practices, and are ideal for applicants just getting started on farm to school activities. Some activities may include collecting data, engaging stakeholders, identifying gaps in knowledge and resources, pinpointing and developing solutions for obstacles that hinder farm to school programming for a particular community, and more!
  • Training grant awards range from $20,000-$50,000 to help eligible entities conduct state, regional, and national level trainings. Training grant activities strengthen farm to school supply chains or provide technical assistance related to local procurement, food safety, school gardens, culinary education, and/or integration of agriculture-based curricula.

A wide variety of entities are eligible to compete for funding through this grant opportunity.  State and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations, individual and groups of small- and medium-sized agricultural producers or groups of small- to medium-sized agricultural producers, and non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for planning, implementation and training grants. Schools and school districts may apply for either an implementation grant or a planning grant.  Please see sections 3.0 through 3.3 of the RFA and review the Frequently Asked Questions  document for additional information regarding eligibility requirements.

The Grant RFA can be found on

Please see the OCFS resources for grant applicants and see a list of prior grantees’ project descriptions for proposal inspiration!