Our guest author today is Zea Luce, who is the Farm to School Coordinator for the Santa Clara Valley office of Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF). Zea has been working on an interesting evaluation tool that can help improve relationships between school district staff and administrators. Read on to learn more!
As a school district, one of the best ways to increase sourcing of local produce is to simply ask your distributor to both label local products on invoices and deliver from more local farmers. But what if that sourcing goes unnoticed?
Many distributors throughout California and the country work hard to service these requests. School and district staff work equally hard to ensure that local food is planned and paid for from budgeting, to meal planning, to service in the cafeteria.
However, it can happen that the hard work of these two groups goes unnoticed by higher-ups–the administrators and decision makers in the school district and in the community–and those striving for strong Farm to School programs on the ground may not have the financial and political support they need to continue.
Case study: CAFF in the Santa Clara Valley
In the Santa Clara Valley, staff at Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) noticed this, and decided to do something about it. To engage area school districts on their progress in achieving Farm to School goals, CAFF Santa Clara Valley (SCV) farm to school staff decided to create simple progress reports–report cards, in a way–for district administrators.
It turned out that the superintendents and board presidents that received the reports were not aware of the hard work being done on Farm to School sourcing after all! CAFF works directly with food service directors, staff, and classroom teachers, who do so much of this work, but not necessarily with district administrators–so the report cards became a simple, powerful, and effective way to communicate with administrators about Farm to School progress.
To produce the report cards, CAFF SCV analyzed the produce purchasing reports of four school districts they are working most closely with this school year. Two of the districts have been working with CAFF on local produce procurement and Harvest of the Month classroom lessons for more than two years, while the other two were new to Farm to School work this school year.
CAFF looked at the purchases from August through December for this mid-year report and will give a final report in June. All districts are doing very well and have embraced the program, and they should be proud of their progress!
The reports work by informing administrators and earning their long-term buy-in. That way, Farm to School becomes a point of pride for the district, a selling point for administrators who can champion Farm to School success, and programs can achieve some sustainability instead of remaining dependent on grants year to year.
A closer look at Oak Grove School District
Oak Grove School District, in San Jose, launched their Farm to School program this year and have excelled in many ways. Eleven of their nineteen schools are participating in Harvest of the Month. One of CAFF’s educators, Sara Mendes, teaches Harvest of the Month lessons in five of the schools and promotes the monthly produce in the cafeteria through fun and educational tastings and activities as well! [ed note: we’ll share a great story that Sara wrote about her successful kale salad tastings in a future blog post!]
In addition to embracing the Harvest of the Month, Oak Grove has worked hard to purchase local produce for their cafeterias. From August of 2013 to February of this year, they are averaged 52% local purchasing, with a whopping 62% of their produce purchased locally in October. CAFF created Farm to School progress reports to share with districts participating in Farm to School programs. Having these report cards makes it easy for Farm to School advocates to show off and celebrate their successes in just a short period of time. Oak Grove should be proud of their progress and continued support of local farms!
Want more information and examples of Farm to School report cards? Email us!