Help Make Every School Count

Volume 6, Issue 3, November, 2019

Students and teacher



Help Make Every School Count!

The 2019 Farm to School Census is reaching the home stretch, with the window for submitting surveys closing December 6! USDA is encouraging all school food authorities (SFAs) to complete their Census surveys as soon as possible to ensure that their important work is reflected in this updated report.

The Farm to School Census is the only nationwide survey measuring the extent of Farm to School activity in schools and the utilization of local food products in school feeding programs. In this year’s Farm to School Census, USDA is collecting information from all schools participating in Federal School Meal Programs; including public and private schools, charter schools, and residential facilities.

Dr. Becca Jablonski, Assistant Professor at Colorado State University, has worked extensively on agribusiness and food systems. When asked about the importance of the Farm to School Census, she explains that, "without the Farm to School Census, evaluating the student, economic, community, and farm profitability impacts of these programs would be virtually impossible.” She also understands the amount of work that goes into completing the surveys required to gather this information, “Thanks to [the SFAs] work filling out the survey, we have made great strides in understanding how, when, and where farm to school activities, policies, and programs can have positive impacts."

Please make sure that we can share the most accurate resource possible, for your programs and for others who want to plan Farm to School activities in the future. Complete your survey today!

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator, Pam Miller, Visits Massachusetts School for National School Lunch Week

National School Lunch Week was October 13 – October 19, 2019, and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Administrator, Pam Miller, visited the students in Wrentham, Massachusetts and learned about the innovative customer focused culture taking root in Wrentham Public Schools.

Wrentham’s Food Service Director, Judy White, set up a committee comprised of 13 5th grade students who serve in an advisory role and meet with Ms. White on a regular basis. In these meetings, the students routinely share what they want to see on the menu and react to what has been on the school lunch tray.

Not only has the school put a priority on the customer experience in the school lunch room, the school has also put an emphasis on serving high quality local foods that are enjoyed by the students. With more than 42,000 schools across the country engaging in Farm to School activities, Administrator Miller shared how USDA actively supports Farm to School initiatives across the country.

For more on the administrator’s visit and the Wrentham program, visit the story originally posted in the Farming News “Morning Ag Clips” here:

USDA officials with staff at the Roderick School in Massachusetts

The Southeast Regional Office of FNS Celebrated National School Lunch Week and Farm to School Month

This piece is from Dr. Lilly Bouie, SERO SNP Division Director on SERO’s site visits during National School Lunch Week

Auburn, Alabama; Gainesville, Florida; Suwanee, GA; and Tupelo, MS were the towns embarked upon by the SERO staff to celebrate National School Lunch Week and Farm to School Month with many students, educators and farmers.  To recognize the National School Lunch Program, serving 30 million children each day, the Southeast Regional Office “Hit the Ground Running” to share in the excitement of the National School Lunch program and its purpose, along with celebrating Farm to School Month.  SERO worked with State Agencies to spotlight programs that were willing to show how today’s school cafeterias are serving up healthy menus that kids want to eat with increased choice and customization.  Many of the products being used came directly from school gardens or Farm to School Initiatives which began in schools by using products grown locally in farms.

Throughout the numerous locations visited, we all were excited to be a part of each stop.  The school districts teams and administration were welcoming, especially the students and farmers.  In some instances, the mayor, school superintendent, school board members and media outlets were present.  We witnessed children who sang special songs, like “Don’t Feed Me No Junk”.

The National School Lunch Program and ALL of our programs are important because they ensure that nutritious foods are available to program participants.  School lunches offer students fruits and vegetables, whole grains and milk, that meet federal nutrition standards limiting saturated fat, calories and sodium. Nationals School Lunch Week helps School Food Authorities educate parents and students about all the benefits of our lunch program and the appealing variety of choices in the cafeteria.  Farm to School Month highlights new program offerings, product availability and builds connections and resources for farmers.  For us as FNS employees, our participation reinforces the purpose of what, and why, we do what we do.

Less Than a Month Left to Submit 2020 Farm to School Grant Applications

The window for the 2020 Farm to School Grants Request for Applications closes December 13, 2019, at 11:59pm. With less than a month to go for new Farm to School Grant Applications, the Office of Community Food Systems has posted additional materials.

The Farm to School Grant Program Frequently Asked Questions have been updated and are now online here (

The Office of Community Food Systems has also produced a follow up webinar; “Farm to School Grant Program: Tips for Developing Farm to School Grant Applications” and that webinar can be found here

How Are We Doing? We Want to Hear from You!

We are hard at work pulling together a new slate of topics for the upcoming volume of The Dirt. In order to make this publication relevant and useful to you , we want your feedback on the Dirt, and your input on what Farm to School topics you would like to learn more about.

If you have a few minutes, please share what you think via this short online feedback form:

We look forward to hearing from you!


Green beans