Farm to School Networks Take Root

Volume 5, Issue 7, March 19, 2019

Partners pose for a picture at the 2018 Washington Farm to School Network Launch Summit

Washington Farm to School Network Increases Coordination and Collaboration Statewide

Farm to school in Washington State was growing for over 20 years; however, people working at the local level, in their kitchens, gardens, farms, and classrooms, were looking for a way to collaborate and flourish within their region and across the state. They wanted to connect with other farm to school practitioners to learn and share resources. They wanted to amplify their successes and impacts, and coordinate around common goals. Washington State was ready for Farm to School 2.0.

Recognizing this need, partners encouraged the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to apply for a USDA Farm to School grant. With this funding, eight organizations, including state agencies, non-profits, a health foundation, a commodity commission, and Washington State University Extension developed a framework for a statewide farm to school network. A formation committee held listening sessions with 60 key stakeholders from various sectors of farm to school to get input on network design. At the launch summit, participants incorporated stakeholder feedback to create the Washington State Farm to School Network, set Strategic Priorities using a “Collective Impact” model, plan functions, and establish the Network’s structure.

Building on years of momentum by local schools, gardens, farms, non-profit organizations, and government agencies, the Washington State Farm to School Network took root. Today, the Network has grown to include more than 220 diverse stakeholders who have been busy advancing farm to school programs across the state. Members created statewide Communities of Practice, discussing relevant farm to school topics through conference calls and email; launched an online Regional Hub directory of “who’s doing what” with farm to school; coordinated work on statewide farm to school metrics and advancing equity in farm to school; and helped update the WSDA Farm to School toolkit. As a robust and strategic partnership, the Washington State Farm to School Network will ensure sustainable programs continue to thrive across the Evergreen State.

Grantee Spotlight

Renaissance Charter School, 2018 Planning Grant Recipient

Renaissance Charter School, located in Western Queens, New York is a PreK-12th grade school that serves a diverse student population. Noticing a decline in meal participation and increased competition from nearby fast food establishments, Renaissance decided to take ownership over their nutrition program. The school formed a Student Food Committee that meets monthly with their food service manager and chef to discuss how they can serve nutritious meals the students enjoy. The partnership identifies items students would like to see on the menu, such as more vegetarian and halal options, conducts taste tests of new food choices, and discusses school food regulations and operations.

Renaissance received a Planning Grant in 2018 to help organize and structure their farm to school efforts for maximum impact. Since starting a farm to school program, Renaissance has employed a variety of resources to increase experiential learning opportunities for students. Partners such as the Edible Schoolyard and George Edwards from the Department of Education’s Farm to Café program have supported food tastings in the cafeteria. The school has also implemented Family Cook Productions’ Teen Battle Chef, a culinary-based leadership program for high school students. Additionally, their Food, Education, Access, Support, Together (FEAST) Program offers adults weekly food and nutrition education, including hands-on cooking demonstrations. Participants are encouraged to set a goal, such as trying new foods, choosing healthier food options, or exercising more. Students then have an opportunity to share their successes or challenges, while receiving support from fellow students. Participants receive a gift card to a local supermarket, making it easier for them to access that week's recipe. Finally, having just received additional grants to renovate and expand their rooftop garden, Renaissance is looking forward to incorporating even more student-grown fresh foods into their meal programs!

Two girls stand side-by-side as they show off their healthy snacks

The cover of the Grow It, Try It, Like It resource for family childcare homes.

Resource Alert!

"Grow It, Try It, Like It!" Fun with Fruits and Vegetables at Family Child Care

Team Nutrition’s popular “Grow It, Try It, Like It!” nutrition education materials have been updated and customized for use by family child care homes!  This resource is filled with garden-themed activities for children ages three through five, with tips on how to include older children in the learning as well. This version of “Grow It, Try It, Like It!” also includes new posters, fruit and vegetable cards, and recipes. Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) operators will be able to request printed copies this spring.

Native American Woman Holding Seeds

Reclaiming Indigenous Food Relationships

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, in collaboration with the American Indian Cancer Foundation, recently hosted a webinar titled Navigating the Reclaiming Indigenous Food Relationships Framework. The Reclaiming Indigenous Food Relationships: Improving Health with Culture resource recognizes and honors cultural food ways as being central to life and serves as a valuable tool for integrating culture into efforts to restore health for American Indian people. A recording of the webinar is available here.

Technical Assistance Opportunity!

REDI Initiative Applications Due

The USDA Rural Development Rural Economic Development Innovation (REDI) Initiative recently released their application for rural communities and regions to receive technical assistance and capacity building support to create economic development plans. Applications are due April 5, 2019.