Farm to School Month! A California roundup

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!

National Farm to School Network

The National Farm to School Network (NFSN), which is the official sponsor of National Farm to School Month, wowed us all month long with in-depth blogs that highlighted programs and projects in dozens of states. Blogs were written by NFSN staff as well as a wide range of guest authors, so that readers can enjoy the views and insights of practitioners across the country.

Additionally, NFSN encouraged the use of the #F2SMonth hashtag, which resulted in some fantastic tweets! Here’s a sampling:

Finally, NFSN celebrated Farm to School month by unveiling a brand new Farm to Preschool landing page for organizations, parents, and advocates working to bring healthy, locally-produced meals and snacks to preschools and childcare centers. The new landing page acts as a hub of resources at the national level, and contains new tools, including:

  • An online food safety training program specific to farm to preschool
  • A Farm to preschool toolkit highlighting best practices and lessons learned from Washington state
  • An activity kit for teaching a fun, engaging lesson for preschool-aged children about locally-grown beans

Be sure to check out all these resources, send out a few tweets with the #F2SMonth hashtag before month’s end, and let us know what you think!

BONUS: There’s still time to enter NFSN’s Farm to School Month contest to win $1,000 for your farm to school project! Entries due October 31st!

California Thursdays

A powerful idea that began with Jennifer LeBarre, Director of Nutrition Services at Oakland Unified School District, has caught fire across the state. LeBarre–in collaboration with OUSD’s Farm to School Supervisor Alex Emmott, OUSD staff, and branding and menu support from the Center for Ecoliteracy–spearheaded a growing method of implementing Farm to School within school districts called California Thursdays.

Much like it sounds, a California Thursday is a weekly school meal where everything on the plate–not just the vegetables!–is sourced from a California farm or food producer. After a successful few test runs spaced one month apart at Oakland Unified, the district began serving California Thursday meals each week beginning on Earth Day 2014, where a fantastic meal was served featuring antibiotic-free Mary’s Chicken, snap peas and strawberries from ALBA Organics, and rice from SunWest Foods. The testing and launch were certainly a team effort. Community Alliance with Family Farmers provided support in linking OUSD to the family farm producers that supplied each component of California Thursdays meals, while Center for Ecoliteracy assisted the district with conceptualizing and implementing the significant changes the district is making to its food system, as well as with the branding of California Thursdays and menu planning. PBS Newshour coverage of the Earth day launch can be seen below!

In celebration of Farm to School Month, Center for Ecoliteracy unveiled its campaign to spread California Thursdays to school districts across the state. Coverage of this exciting development can be found about Oakland, Lodi, Oceanside, and others.

You’ll be hearing more about California Thursdays in future blogs, from both school districts and FoodCorps service members working to implement and improve the project from every angle. If you’re curious about the context for how Oakland Unified has overhauled its food system in order to truly do Farm to School well, see our webinar on Oakland’s Farm to School story.

Dairy Council

Our friends at the Dairy Council of California shared 9 Ways to Celebrate Farm to School in the Classroom. We’ll share a few of those here!

1. Make the Cafeteria Connection
A major center of food production occurs right down the hall from your classroom—in your cafeteria! Have students tour your school cafeteria or the central kitchen for the district. Your school foodservice staff can help your students learn where the food is sourced, what is made in-house and what it takes to make nutritionally-balanced meals for the many students they serve. Try these other ideas for activities to connect to the cafeteria.

2. Read All About It
There is nothing better than getting lost in a great story. Try these books that share agricultural and nutritional messages to help students value healthy eating.

3. Think Beyond the Garden
When thinking about local foods, it’s easy to concentrate on fruits and vegetables, but round out your discussions to include all five food groups. Did you know that milk goes from cow to cafeteria (or store) in about two days? Or that each year 5 billion pounds of rice is produced in California? Visit Dairy Council of California’s Farm to School page to learn more.

4. Teach Nutrition in Your Classroom
Integrate farm to school activities while teaching your nutrition lessons. Be sure to order your Student Workbooks and make the connection between healthy eating and local agriculture.

5. Bring the Farm to Your School
Invite a farmer from your local community to share his or her story with your class. With resources likeCalifornia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and Dairy Council of California’s Mobile Dairy Classroom, you’re sure to find a way to bring the farm to your school.

Want to read #6 – #10? Read the rest here!

Highlighted events

Lastly, we wanted to share with you a few fantastic events that CFSN regional leads held to celebrate the month.

crunch heard round the countyIn Ventura County, Sandy Curwood (South Central Coast regional lead, Director of Child Nutrition Services at Conejo Valley Unified School District, and all around Farm to School pioneer and leader) helped put together some very fun events. First, CVUSD successfully raised over $3,000 through the Tour de Fresh, a bicycling-based fundraiser that supports getting more salad bars in schools. The district partnered with Deardorff Farms to pull off this goal.

Another event that we really enjoyed hearing about was “The Crunch Heard Around the County!

For the “Crunch” event, Conejo Valley Unified ordered fresh, sweet local carrots from longtime partners Join the Farm, and all students, teachers, and staff at the district were invited to take a big bite of those carrots at exactly 11:15am. This fantastic event not only got farm fresh food right in the mouths of kids, teachers, and staff, but also helped created a feeling of connection and shared fun across the county. This idea was even approved by the one and only Jamie Oliver, and featured in a recent blogpost of his. Great job, Sandy and co.!

Further south in our San Diego region, CFSN regional lead JuliAnna Arnett convened more than 25 growers, 8 food distributors, and dozens of school districts, non-profits, and advocates for farm to school and farm to institution for the 2nd annual Let’s Go Local! Produce Showcase in Encinitas, CA, also on Food Day.

CFSN staff attended this amazing event, which took place at a picturesque sustainable agriculture ranch a stone’s throw from the ocean, and witnessed the power of bringing growers, buyers, and all that connect them together. School district representatives were able to have real time, direct conversations with growers about their needs and thoughts, while producers and distributors were able to better understand buyer concerns and price points. All were able to discover and learn more about the landscape of politics, statewide and regional non-profit initiatives, and trends in the farm to school and farm to institution field. It was abundantly clear that JuliAnna has been able to achieve some incredible goals for the San Diego region’s food system. Civil Eats attended and posted rave reviews of the event, which you can read here. See our photos below!

BONUS: In a time where flashy, polished materials are the norm, it can be easy to get discouraged if you or your school/organization don’t have a graphic designer on staff. Thankfully, there are a variety of tools available to help you put together great materials! JuliAnna shares that she was able to make some simple, great materials with Piktochart, seen below. Got any other tips? Share them with us via email or on Twitter!


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