State Agencies Work Together to Grow Farm to School!

Volume 5, Issue 9, May 21, 2019


Procuring Alabama Fruits and Vegetables – A Collaborative Effort

In 2015, the Alabama Farm to School Program was a long way from schools purchasing local fruits and vegetables. Child Nutrition Program Directors (CNPD) were apprehensive when talking about purchasing from a local farmer using federal funding. Both the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) and the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) recognized the need for more procurement resources and trainings and the potential for collaboration. Working together through multiple iterations, ADAI and ALSDE developed the recently released Procuring Alabama Fruits and Vegetables Handbook.

To further strengthen local procurement efforts, ALSDE and ADAI cosponsored Farm to School Procurement Workshops that informed CNPDs of changes to the Alabama Farm-to-School Procurement Act. This Act created an exemption for unprocessed agricultural products, allowing them to be purchased using federal thresholds, and introduced CNPDs to the new procurement handbook. 

This collaborative effort required coordination and dedication from ADAI and ALSDE, but it was well worth it. Since completing the last procurement workshop in February, the Agencies have received positive feedback, with CNPDS already putting the handbook to use! We know that State agency partnerships are a successful strategy and we cannot wait to see what blooms next for Alabama Farm to School.

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Office of Community Food Systems partners with the National Center for Appropriate Technology

The Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS) is excited to announce that it is collaborating with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) to develop farm to school trainings for agricultural producers, such as farmers and ranchers. Agricultural producers grow, produce, and distribute food that schools and school districts can procure for Child Nutrition Programs. With more than 30 million students participating in the National School Lunch Program each day, schools provide a large, stable, long-term market for producers. To assist producers in entering this market, NCAT will conduct a needs assessment among agricultural producers in collaboration with State agencies (SAs) and then develop curricula, and promote and execute trainings that use a tiered, train-the-trainer approach.

NCAT is headquartered in Butte, MT.  They have over 30 years of experience with providing training, education and technical assistance to agricultural producers. NCAT will partner with the National Farm to School Network and New York University to execute this project. Stay tuned for more information as the project rolls-out.

National Farm to School Executive Director, Helen Dombalis

National Farm to School Network Names New Executive Director

The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) has announced Helen Dombalis as its new Executive Director. Helen is a nationally recognized leader in cultivating equitable food systems through strategic farm to school partnerships and policy advocacy, and previously served as the Senior Director of Programs and Policy for the NFSN. As Executive Director, Helen will collaborate with stakeholders nationwide to explore and execute farm to school innovation, programming, and advocacy to advance racial and social equity and to grow and sustain the farm to school movement. Read the full announcement from the National Farm to School Network here. NFSN is an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing, school gardens and food and agriculture education into schools and early care and education settings. Learn more about NFSN and join their network at

USDA Website Gets a Refresh

USDA has refreshed its e-presence, including a redesign of the OCFS website. We are busy working to ensure that all of our valuable resources and information remain easily accessible. Can’t find something that you need? Contact your Regional Lead and let us know!

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Upcoming Webinars

Developing a Food Procurement Policy or Profile

Tuesday, May 28 // 2 PM ET    

The Chesapeake Foodshed Network is hosting a webinar on how schools, colleges, and hospitals can develop local food procurement policies that prioritize support for local farmers and producers, sustainable or regenerative agriculture practices, and women and minority-owned farms and business. Register here!


Source Tracking for Local Food in Government Statistics

Tuesday, May 28 // 3:30 PM ET    

On this webinar, Jeff O'Hara from USDA Agricultural Marketing Service will provide a snapshot of how data collection around local food has advanced in recent years at the national level. He will dive into the recently released Census of Agriculture and share how the results are improving our understanding of local food markets within the past 5 years. O'Hara will also identify trends in local food market activity that are not currently being captured by existing federal government statistics. Register here!


Farm to School Resource Roundup: Resources for Implementing State Farm to School Strategies

Wednesday, May 29 // 3 PM ET    

Join the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) and special guest State Farm to School Policy Handbook coauthors, Vermont Law School, to learn more about NFSN’s new resources and how to apply these strategies in your state. Register here! 


School Garden Support Organization Network: School and Community Farm Stands

Thursday, May 30 // 3 PM ET    

School gardens can be used to engage the community through school and community farm stands, which take on various issues centered around food access and education. Join in this virtual panel discussion to dig into some different ways in which farm stands are being implemented, and impacting students and the community. This session will follow a unique format and will give a lot of time for audience questions. If you have a question for the panelists, please share in you registration so that they can seek to address it. Register here!

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Grant Opportunities!

Community Food Projects (CFP) Competitive Grants Program

In FY 2019, the CFP intends to solicit applications and fund two types of grants. The types are entitled (1) Community Food Projects (CFP) and (2) Planning Projects (PP). Applications are due June 3, 2019. Learn more.

Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program

The Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program is intended to increase the knowledge of agriculture and improve the nutritional health of children and to bring together stakeholders from the distinct parts of the food system. The initiative is part of a broader effort to not only increase access to school meals for low-income children, but also to dramatically improve their quality. Applications are due Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Learn more.

Food Safety Outreach Program

The Food Safety Outreach Program will complement and expand the national infrastructure of the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Competitive Grants Program. Applications are due June 6, 2019. Learn more. 

Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program

USDA announced $23 million in competitive grant funding to support the development and expansion of local and regional food markets, enterprises and producer-to-consumer marketing. Applications for both the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program are due June 18, 2019. Learn more.

The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program

The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, formerly known as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, supports projects that increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by providing incentives at the point of purchase. Applications are due Monday, June 20, 2019. Learn more.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Education and Workforce Development

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Education and Workforce Development (EWD) focuses on developing the next generation of research, education, and extension professionals in the food and agricultural sciences. Applications due August 22, 2019. Learn more.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Applications to the FY 2019 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Sustainable Agricultural Systems (SAS) Request for Applications (RFA) must focus on approaches that promote transformational changes in the U.S. food and agriculture system within the next 25 years. Applications are due September 26, 2019. Learn more.