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Strengthening Farm to School Programs—A Policy Brief for State & Local LegislatorsBy Matt Benson and Megan LottA publication of the Community Food Security Coalition and National Farm to SchoolNetworkAcknowledgementsCDC Communities Putting Prevention to Work Grant ProgramThank you to the peer-review panel who provided valuable comments and suggestions thatsignificantly improved this policy brief. This includes Dorothy Brayley, Kids First Johanna Herron, Alaska Division of Agriculture Anupama Joshi, National Farm to School Network Marion Kalb, Community Food Security Coalition Alyssa Moles, The Food Trust Kathy Mulvey, Community Food Security Coalition John Weidman, The Food TrustThank you to the individuals who provided valuable information and support for the casestudies. This includes Becky Elias, Washington State Department of Agriculture Johanna Herron, Alaska Division of Agriculture Tricia Kovacs, Washington State Department of Agriculture Andrea Northrup, D.C. Farm to School Network Andrew Smiley, Sustainable Food Center Sara Tedeschi, Wisconsin Farm to School Program, Center for Integrated Agricultural SystemsThank you to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for their support. Thank you to the State andRegional Leads of the National Farm to School Network who provided valuable informationfor this project. Special thank you to Marion Kalb for her guidance in the development ofthis document. 1 (Benson & Lott, 2012)
Case Study 1: AlaskaDue to the challenges of utilizing produce harvested in the state, in January 2009,Representative Carl Gatto introduced House Bill 70 into the Alaska State Legislatureofficially creating the Alaska Farm to School Program. Passed in May 2010, this bill initiateda permanent full-time position in the Department of Natural Resources, Division ofAgriculture and directed this individual to develop the Alaska Farm to School Program(http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_FTS.htm) by connecting Alaska farmers with public schoolcafeterias, creating school gardens, school farms, and conducting farm visits. Shortly afterpassage, Johanna Herron was hired to lead the program as the Alaska Farm to SchoolCoordinator. The goal of the Alaska Farm to School Program is to increase the procurementof Alaska product in the school environment through the support of school aged youth andschool food service professionals. Since the passage of House Bill 70, the Alaska Farm toSchool Program has completed two Farm to School summits bringing together over 100different stakeholders who provided valuable input to the program and creation of anAlaska Farm to School strategic plan. The Alaska Division of Agriculture has also fundedseventeen local Farm to School projects through a mini-grant program designed to fundprojects that connect more local and regional food to public school cafeterias, developschool gardens, and implement nutrition and agriculture education through taste tests.During this time, the Alaska Farm to School program also conducted three farm tours withthe three largest school districts and five diverse farms around Anchorage, Fairbanks, andthe Delta regions of Alaska. Because of funding an Alaska Farm to School Coordinator,outreach to hundreds of individuals and organizations has occurred, and diversestakeholders including, Alaska 4-H, Alaska Future Farmers of America, the Alaska FarmBureau, the Youth Alliance for Healthier Alaska, Alaska Youth for Environmental Action,Alaska Agriculture in the Classroom, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation,Alaska Cooperative Extension Service and other University groups, Alaska School NutritionAssociation, Child Nutrition Services, Alaska School Food Service Professionals, and othercommunity advocates have been brought together around a common goal. Additionally,having an official State Farm to School Coordinator has allowed Alaska to play an active andleading role in the National Farm to School Network and the movement. 2 (Benson & Lott, 2012)
Case Study 2: TexasSustainable Food Center (SFC) began planning for a Farm to School project in 2005, andlaunched “Sprouting Healthy Kids,” (http://www.sustainablefoodcenter.org/sprouting-healthy-kids) a Farm to School and food systems education program in Austin, Texas in2007. Over the years, SFC documented the challenges related to sourcing local food andevaluated the impact of the program. In 2009, SFC was invited to join the Partnership for aHealthy Texas, a coalition composed of 22 state agencies and organizations working toidentify and support policy recommendations that positively impact the obesity epidemic.The Partnership for a Healthy Texas chose Farm to School as a priority during the 2009Texas legislative session, largely as a result of the aforementioned documentation andevaluation by SFC. SFC drafted a white paper to introduce the concept of Farm to School tolegislators, which formed the basis of legislation introduced by State Senator Kirk Watsonin March 2009. When introduced, Senate Bill 1027 had no meaningful opposition, andeasily went on to be passed in May 2009. Senate Bill 1027 established an Interagency Farmto School Coordination Task Force to advance the Texas Farm to School Program bymaking specific recommendations for state agency support that would allow more schoolsystems to source food for their cafeterias from local and regional farms. This sixteenmember Task Force developed a 25-page report, which summarized challenges faced byboth schools and farmers to further developing Texas Farm to School. The report alsopresented several recommendations, including the creation of a state Farm to SchoolCoordinator position within the Texas Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, despitegaining approval from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use NationalSchool Lunch Program State Administrative Expense funds from the USDA Food &Nutrition Service to support the position, due to state budgetary issues, the position has yetto be created. Rather than viewing this as a barrier to furthering Texas Farm to School, SFC,Texas Department of Agriculture, and other supporters are pursuing alternate strategiessuch as sourcing other funding for the position and identifying tasks that could beincorporated into existing positions within the Department. 3 (Benson & Lott, 2012)
Case Study 3: Washington, D.C.In an effort to improve child health and wellness, D.C. Council Member Mary Cheh andCouncil Chairman Vincent Gray introduced the Healthy Schools Act in December of 2009.Among other things, the Healthy Schools Act requires D.C. schools to meet the United StatesDepartment of Agriculture’s Healthier U.S. Gold nutrition standards for school meals and toserve minimally processed foods from sustainable, local growers whenever possible. InMay of 2010, the bill passed unanimously in the Council and was signed by the Mayor,effective for the 2010-2011 school year. The legislation creates an extra 5-centreimbursement for meals that include locally grown and unprocessed foods and a 10-centreimbursement for meals that meet the updated nutrition requirements. Schools are alsorequired to promote and educate students and staff about eating local and sustainable food,and participate in at least one Farm to School educational event each year (such as a Farmto School Week). Additionally, the Healthy Schools Act requires schools to be heldaccountable to their Local Wellness Policies, which should include a Farm to Schoolcomponent. Finally, the Healthy Schools Act establishes a school garden grant programwithin the state education agency. To pay for these new provisions, specifically the increasein reimbursement for school meals, the legislation extended the D.C. sales tax to includesoda purchased within the District. During this legislative process, numerous communitypartnerships were formed between the D.C. Farm to School Network(http://dcfarmtoschool.org), teachers, parents, farmers, food service providers,environmental organizations, farmers’ market directors, and health advocates. Thesepartnerships proved essential when advocates had to go head-to-head with the sodaindustry to keep this revenue stream, and then again defend funding for the Act frombudget cuts across the District in 2010. Due to the recent passage of this legislation, it isdifficult to measure the full impact it will have; however, to date, there have been higherparticipation rates in school breakfast programs, a school garden coordinator has beenhired, and many schools are currently renewing their food service contracts withprovisions that comply with the Healthy Schools Act (http://dchealthyschools.org). 4 (Benson & Lott, 2012)
Case Study 4: Washington StateDue to a wealth of support from diverse stakeholder groups, (including agricultural,environmental, education, and child-welfare advocates) the 2008 Local Farms-Healthy KidsAct was introduced in the Washington State Legislature by Representative Eric Pettigrew.This legislation was designed to connect schools with community-based farms and providethe necessary information and technical assistance to both schools and farmers byestablishing a Farm to School Program in the Washington State Department of Agriculture(WSDA). It also created the Washington Grown Fruits and Vegetables Program, andadapted government purchasing policies to help direct state dollars towards local farmsand food sellers. The Local Farms-Healthy Kids Act passed with only one dissenting voteand was signed into law by the Governor in March of 2008. The policy initially allocatedfunding for 2.5 employees and the Washington Grown Fruit and Vegetables Program,however funding for one employee was eliminated before the program was initiated.Additionally, the fruit and vegetable program was cut by half after one year, and eliminatedthe following year. Despite these cuts, the WSDA Farm to School Program conductedstatewide outreach to increase awareness of, and participation in, Farm to School andsought funding for additional projects. The WSDA team presented on Farm to School topicsat more than fifty events, reaching an estimated 1,500 people and their listserv now hasover 650 members who share and receive information about Farm to School, includingnews, events, job and funding opportunities, research and government updates. The WSDAFarm to School Program worked directly with over one hundred school districts and fiftyfarms to support successful Farm to School sales relationships. Furthermore, the WSDAFarm to School team has worked with local groups in the state to support regional Farm toCafeteria conferences and respond to geographically specific needs. The team developed aninnovative training model using mobile tours to provide an opportunity for farms andschools to see each other in action and learn about the realities of on-farm and schoolkitchen operations, including hands-on cooking training using local produce. These eventsuse a peer-to-peer training model that empowers the farmers and foodservice staff to sharetheir experience and expertise with one another. Mobile tours have been conducted in fivelocations around the state, with more planned for the future. In 2009, WSDA partnered forthe first time with Washington School Nutrition Association on Taste Washington Day, anannual celebration of Washington grown foods served in school meals, resulting in morethan sixty schools and fifty local farms teaming up to celebrate Washington-grown produceand teach kids about healthy eating habits by featuring locally-sourced meals in the schoolcafeterias. Survey responses indicated $17,000 was spent on Washington grown productsfor that day’s lunch and schools planned to spend $90,000 more on Washington productsduring the following six months. The WSDA has been awarded over $700,000 in externallyfunded grants to enhance the Washington Farm to School Program, and assisted numerousorganizations in garnering an additional $659,000 in grants to support related effortsthroughout the state. State funding for the WSDA Farm to School Program was eliminatedin 2011, although the team will continue working on grant-funded Farm to School projectsover the next couple of years. These projects include critical training on regulatoryrequirements for bidding and contracting, food safety education and assistance for farmsand schools, and continued development of a web-based resource toolkit for Farm toSchool (www.wafarmtoschool.org). 5 (Benson & Lott, 2012)
Case Study 5: CPPW Success—WisconsinBy strengthening local and state Farm to School programs, Wisconsin is addressinggrowing concerns about public health related to childhood obesity and diabetes, andfocusing on stimulating rural and agricultural economies by supporting small and mediumfarms. With support from a Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant, diversestakeholders including teachers, farmers, public health advocates, and community-basededucators are promoting more physical activity, greater health and nutrition, and economicdevelopment in La Crosse and Wood Counties, and across Wisconsin. In La Crosse andWood Counties, projects include connecting local and regional farm products to schoolcafeterias and cultivating school gardens. Organizations and individuals are also updatingschool wellness policies to include Farm to School goals, encouraging healthy vendingoptions, and organizing more physical activity opportunities for youth and the communityat-large. At the state level, CPPW funding has provided for training and technical assistanceacross the state, including the completion of two web-based Farm to School toolkits,specifically targeting School Nutrition Directors and producers with the tools, resources,and strategies to successfully purchase and market local and regional foods. Additionally, aWisconsin Farm to School summit is being planned for early 2012 and a state levelWisconsin Farm to School advisory council has been convened, with representation fromstate agencies, stakeholder groups, and advocacy partners. With CPPW support, Wisconsinis able to direct expertise and resources to support, develop, and evaluate its Farm toSchool programs in hopes of changing state policy to include funding for Farm to School.Networks and organizations are also increasingly communicating, building grass-rootcoalitions, sharing resources, and partnering to strengthen Wisconsin Farm to School forlong-term success. 6 (Benson & Lott, 2012)