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NFTS_logo_colorAs many of us know, October is National Farm to School Month -- a time for lifting up Farm to School stories from around the nation, celebrating how far we've come over the past decade in linking family farms and school gardens to school classrooms and cafeterias, and looking to the future for how we'll continue to grow this movement.

We've got some great things to share from around the state and on the national level to highlight the success of Farm to School Month 2014. Check them out below!

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This week's guest post is by Aimee Retzler of Sierra Harvest (formerly Live Healthy Nevada County), a community organization in the Sierras that supports family farmers, child health, and other food systems programs in Nevada County. The organization also received a coveted USDA Farm to School Grant in 2014 to expand their farm to school program from 11 to 15 schools and establish a 2-acre educational farm, as well as ramp up nutrition education and connections with local farmers and chefs in the community. The story below is one example of that growing, inspiring work empowered by these grants.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 6.16.12 PMTasting Week is a special time here in Nevada County. The weeklong event combines the creativity of chefs with the natural curiosity of children. Children are able to expand their experience of different foods and flavors with a focus on fresh, locally-grown food. Chefs from all over the county introduced students from twenty elementary schools to delicious, fresh preparations of local ingredients. Many of these local items came from a farmer the students know through Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School program.

Sierra Harvest began Tasting Week three years ago with two chefs in four schools. This year, more than 2,500 students participated.

Sierra Harvest co-director Malaika Bishop loves Tasting Week because “it’s a great way to get kids excited about fresh food--we hear things like, ‘If my mom made kale like this, I would eat it every night!’" Given the struggles today's children face with health and nutrition, this kind of experiential nutrition education is critical in our community.

Sierra Harvest FoodCorps supervisor Malaika Bishop

Sierra Harvest co-director Malaika Bishop

This year the chefs chose to prepare a wide variety of foods. Students tried unique squash dishes, such as Liam Blackmon’s (CaCoCo and the Fix for Foodies) Sweet and Savory Delicata Squash and Carlos Trujillo’s (Farm to Table Catering) Spaghetti with Bacon and Squash. Williams Ranch students tasted “Baked Big & Little Apples” with manzanita sugar from local plants, prepared by Living Wild co-author Alicia Funk. Laura Thorne of Way Yum Sushi engaged students at Grass Valley Charter in preparing their own sushi rolls, filled with carrots, cucumbers, avocados, crab, and organic sushi rice from local producer Lundberg Family Farms.
Grass Valley Charter students chose their own ingredients for the rolls, then learned how to roll them up and compact them with sushi mats.

The kindergarteners were some of the most adventurous tasters: “It makes my tummy feel good!” stated one student. Another thought the ginger tasted “like lemonade.” Even the wasabi was popular, especially with the 5th graders. One fifth grade gourmand asserted: “I can tell that this wasabi is fresh and organic – it tastes different.” Another fifth grader, who was trying sushi for the first time, was brutally honest: “It’s not the best thing I ever tasted, but not too bad either.”

Some of the teachers were surprised at how willing the kids were to try something new. Kindergarten teacher Cherie Wood was delighted: “They are really eating these! I’m so proud of them.”

You can find a complete list of participating chefs and farms, along with the recipes that were used, on the Sierra Harvest website at sierraharvest.org.

If you would like to contribute to the next Tasting Week or other Sierra Harvest programs, reach out! You can contact co-director Aimee Retzler at aimee@sierrharvest.org.

foodcorps_7559_27055_2014_October_16_S0069793This great story was written by Ashley Marquez, the new FoodCorps service member at San Diego Unified School District. Read on to learn about her service year so far, and the impressive range of programs SDUSD offers to improve the school food environment.

“Raise your hand if you’ve never had a green grape before?,” I asked the second graders. In an instant, nearly half of them had their hands raised. Wow was the first thought that came to mind, but it was quickly washed away with an epiphany – I am in the perfect position to make a difference in my community as a FoodCorps service member at San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD).

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Daniele and Host Site supervisor Heather reviewing the HOTM kitsIn the Farm to School field, it seems like new resources are constantly whizzing by.

A new report here, a resource guide there, sample policy language abounds--it can be hard to keep up with the constant flow of information!

Today, we're highlighting 5 useful resources you may not have seen and that we think you'll enjoy. Have any others to add? Submit a comment below or send an email to us at farmtoschool@caff.org!

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Sarah with Gurmeet

Sarah Bohannon of the Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion (CNAP), a program of CSU Chico, takes us through CNAP's Farmer of the Month program, a strategy that builds on Harvest of the Month in a fun, engaging, and farmer-friendly way through communications!

Hi! I'm Sarah Bohannon. I’ve been working as materials creator for the Farmer of the Month program at CSU Chico’s Center for Nutrition & Activity Promotion (CNAP) for a year now.

My job is to put together newsletters and videos about farmers that teach kids how food travels from the farm to their fingertips. It’s a job that’s both fun and rewarding because I get to learn from the women and men at the forefront of our food supply. I also get to see first-hand the impacts that the Farmer of the Month program has made on local farmers, teachers and students.

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Guest author Shana Wright, Harvest of the Month Project Manager at UCSD

Guest author Shana Wright, Harvest of the Month Project Manager at UCSD

Harvest of the Month (HOTM) is one of the most well-known and utilized strategies in the Farm to School Movement. Read through this account from Shana Wright, HOTM Project Manager at UC San Diego, to hear how San Diego is deepening the impact of the program with an exciting pilot project!

It isn’t often there is a true connection between the cafeteria and the classroom.

However, the Harvest of the Month in the Classroom program strives to do just that. Through connecting what students learn in the classroom to what they are eating in the cafeteria, that much needed connection is formed.

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