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  • As an overview, Chuck and I would like to cover the following…
  • As early as 1997, USDA began a comprehensive effort to connect small farms to the school meal programs. USDA’s earlier efforts to provide resources on farm to school included: The development of a 2000 publication entitled Small Farms/School Meals Initiative: a Step-by-Step Guide on How to Bring Small Farms and Local Schools Together . This guide details how to connect small farms and local schools to initiate Farm to School projects, and The development of a 2005 publication entitled Eat Smart—Farm Fresh! A Guide to Buying and Serving Locally-Grown Produce in School Meals. This is a handbook that offers information on procurement, types and examples of Farm to School distribution models, how to find locally grown food and farmers, menu planning considerations, and strategies for success. Both of these publications were published by FNS are available on Farm to School website (which I will provide later). I would like to note, however, that the Eat Smart-Farm Fresh! guide is a bit out of date in terms of the procurement requirements and applying geographic preference to local food purchases.
  • As for the most recent history on farm to school… In March of 2008, FNS held a discussion session in Washington, D.C. to learn more about the interest in purchasing locally produced foods from schools, farmers, and community organizations. Attendees including representatives from farmer associations, school districts, food banks, local farms, and advocacy organizations.  The session provided participants with the opportunity to share insights, best practices, and challenges regarding procurement of local farm products.  These topics included the challenges of transporting foods from the farm to the school, the cost associated with purchasing local foods, the needed cafeteria infrastructure to peel and cut fruits and vegetables, and more.  In addition, the 2 008 Farm Bill, amended the National School Lunch Act to allow institutions receiving funds through the Child Nutrition Programs the option of applying geographic preference when procuring unprocessed locally grown or locally raised agricultural products. This provides for more flexibility for USDA programs to promote local foods in the school meal programs. FNS has issued several memorandums on how this affects operators of the Child Nutrition Programs, including relevant Q&As which are available on the FNS website. The Farm to School Team was created in September 2009 as part of the broader Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative
  • Before we talk about the Farm to School Team specifically, I’d like to reinforce the connection between the Department’s focus on Farm to School and the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative. At a department level, the initiative titled “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” was formed as a USDA-wide effort to create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers. This initiative focuses on the importance of understanding where our food comes from and how it gets to our plate. From the very beginning, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food has been a collaborate effort of professionals from across the USDA, bringing diverse skill sets to together to work on common goals. Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan is leading this interagency taskforce to determine how USDA can use resources from across the department to create the link between local production ad local consumption. One of the goals for this initiative, is to break down barriers and support policies that focus on the connection between farmers and consumers (including children/students). Out of this goal, the Farm to School Team was established. The purpose of the Team is to support local and regional food systems by facilitating linkages between schools and their local food producers. For more information on Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, I encourage you to visit the website: www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer
  • The purpose of the Team is to support local and regional food systems by facilitating linkages between schools and their local food producers. The Team is comprised of four staff members from Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and two staff members from the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). We also have Regional resource members at each of our seven regional offices, and various other resource members at the headquarter offices. The Farm to School Team tasked with finding ways to: assist schools in accessing local markets, help enable food producers to effectively service their local schools, and facilitate communication between interested stakeholders In order to make this happen the Team is working with (and will continue to foster) key partnerships and relationship with: Local, state, and regional authorities, school districts, farmers, and community partners. The Regional and State partnerships have been especially important to the Farm to School Team as each Region (and State for that matter) face different issues. It is has been very helpful to have input from around the country.
  • Looking at the Farm to School Team’s Long-Term goals, the Team will: Provide access to resources and information on beginning and maintaining Farm to School activities for schools, farmers and local community members. As many of you know, there is a lot of great information already out there, so the Team will be: Looking for ways in which we can assist in sharing that information with interested parties; Filling in any missing gaps that may exist to help a schools and/or farmers make the transition to purchasing locally grown food; and Maintaining the Team’s farm to school website as a way to disseminate information. Provide technical assistance to assist schools and farmers in the development, progression, and/or sustainability of Farm to School activities. Identify obstacles faced by schools and farmers in implementing and/or sustaining Farm to School activities and provide suggested solutions. A lot of the this information will be identified during our Farm to School Team’s site visits, as well as from existing resources.
  • So in order to accomplish our goals, over the course of the next year, the Farm to School Team will: Visit 9 areas of varied demographics and farm to school characteristics. I’ll talk more about these characteristics soon. Use the site visits to analyze and assess which variables are most influential in supporting or deterring the success of farm-to-school activities, as well as identifying trends and best practices that we can pass along to farmers and schools which are interested; The Team will also maintain a Farm to School website , which will serve as our main link to disseminating the information we obtain to those who are interested. And, the Team will engage in webinars with interested parties to allow for information sharing of Farm to School obstacles and successes. We had our 1 st Webinar a couple of weeks ago, and nearly 1,200 people registered for the event!
  • As Loren mentioned earlier, the Farm to School Team is comprised of FNS and AMS staff. So I want to take a moment to provide some information on the roles that the two agencies have on the Team. For FNS, in addition to the general oversight of the Farm to School Team, FNS will bring the school and school administrators perspective to the table. As you know, FNS oversees the entirety of the school lunch program, and they bring that knowledge and expertise to this effort. AMS works with programs that directly interact with farmers, ranchers, and the food marketing chain, and we will bring the farmer, grower and wholesaler perspective to the F2S site visits.
  • As mentioned, one of the Team’s objectives is to visit 9 areas of varied demographics and farm to school characteristics. So how did we choose the schools to visit? We utilized various F2S list serves, as well as the resources of our FNS regional offices, to identify schools that had a F2S program. We contacted those schools and encouraged them to apply if they were interested. Requests to be considered for a site visit were due to the Team on January 31 st of 2010. The Team received and reviewed roughly 300 requests to be considered for a Farm to School Team site visit. This overwhelming response is another testament to the growing interest in farm to school. The Team has made the final selections of the site areas and the sites were announce in March. The visits began earlier this month, and will conclude in September.
  • Numerous variable were considered during the selection process of site visits. It’s important to note that the nine sites were selected for many reasons – not because we considered these to be the “premier” F2S sites. We wanted to make sure we had a good regional representation – meaning that we were visiting at least one site in each of our seven regions. This is important because schools in northern climates (w/ short growing seasons) face different challenges than schools in southern climates with longer growing seasons. Visiting schools which represented rural, urban, suburban and tribal schools was important to the Team, as well as visiting large and small school districts. Again, urban schools face different challenges than rural or suburban. Having a variation of self-operating schools, or schools that vend meals or contract with a food service management company was also considered; We looked at various distribution models used to get local food products into the schools. For example, was the school purchasing directly from the farmer; or a farmer cooperative; or a buying cooperative; or Farmers’ market; or through a food service management company; or a traditional wholesaler? Because we want to understand what challenges and obstacles the schools and growers face when implementing Farm to School activities, we wanted to make sure we visited a variety of schools at different stages of farm to school implementation. In addition, we were interested in visiting schools that were practicing new or novel ideas that help them implement their Farm to School efforts and would be transferable to another school with similar characteristics.  
  • During the actual site visits, the Farm to School Team will be looking at a number of areas that affect the implementation of farm to school. Those areas are listed on your screen, but I will elaborate on a few of those areas now. For example, in the school’s infrastructure, we want to know who coordinates the F2S activities? Is there an official coordinator at the school or State agency? Or does the food service director or argiscience teacher coordinate these activities? What types of partnerships has the school made or attempted to make with external entities? Another example—in the non-purchasing aspect of farm to school—does the school have a school garden and, if so, what role does that have in farm to school efforts? How does the school market their F2S Program to the students, teachers, parents and farmers? Does the school have an Agriscience Program? From the farmer’s perspective, we’d like to know how the farmer first connected with the school? What has been the biggest challenges for the farmer? Does the farmer offer tours of the farm as an educational opportunity for the students? As you can see, there are many facets to implementing farm to school activities.
  • A school district which has been selected for a site visit can expect this to be: First and foremost, a working visit. This is not a regulatory or media visit. We want to understand the nuts and bolts of the success and challenges schools and farmers face in implementing their farm to school activities. As I mentioned during these visits we will visit both the school and the farmer. It’s important to us to get both perspectives. 2-3 Team members will visit each school. In addition, one Regional and one State representative may also attend – it will be left up to the Region, State and School district. The Team’s visits will be conducted before the end of this fiscal year. This is just the start of our information gathering and additional sites may be visited in the future.  As mentioned in the Team’s goals that Loren identified earlier, one of our main objectives is to provide the information we learned on these visits with other interested parties and/or developed resource materials that will help with the purchasing of locally grown foods. Speaking of resources, Loren will now give you information on what resources are currently available.
  • We believe that sharing information is crucial in supporting Farm to School programs and helping schools to share best practice and other information with each other, and the same for farmers We have started compiling a collection of other available USDA resources that may be helpful to schools and farmers in their efforts to purchasing locally grown foods.   USDA tools and resources available on our F2S website at the link on your screen: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/F2S/f2sresources.htm   As the Team visits the 9 selected areas, we plan to share any lessons learned, best practices and identified trends through our Farm to School website and in webinars. In addition to the resources USDA provides, many State agencies (both Departments of Agriculture and Education) and non-governmental organizations have farm to school related materials available.
  • As our team carries out the work to meet our goals this year, we want to stay connected with you. One way we hope to stay connected is through our Farm to School website. Currently, we have information on the legislative history of farm to school, the Farm to School Team (including the Team’s monthly reports), the site visits, USDA available resources, procurement policies related to Farm to School. In the near future, we will be adding a page with information on implementing and supporting farm to school efforts, available grants, and food safety resources. We are in the process of creating an email listserv to keep interested parties in the loop about the latest USDA information on farm to school. You can join the mailing list by requesting to be added through our email addressed listed on this slide, and shortly we will have a link for joining on our website. We know that F2S activities involve many different entities including school food service directors, farmers, students, food policy council, USDA regional staff, parents, dietitians, and many others. We aim to provide technical assistance that will meet the needs of these diverse programs and activities. We intend to offer periodic webinars throughout the year. Some of the topics we are considering include: Farm to School design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation Lessons learned and success stories Farmer Perspectives Food safety Procurement State agencies – getting them involved in F2S and state info/idea sharing We are open to your ideas for future topics. If you have a webinar topic idea please feel free to share those with us after this session or through email.

Transcript

  • 1.
    • Loren LaCorte, Farm to School Team Lead
    • USDA, FNS, Special Nutrition Programs
    • Chuck Parrott, Farm to School Team
    • USDA, AMS, Fruit and Vegetable Programs
    USDA Farm to School Farm to Cafeteria Conference May 18, 2010
  • 2. Overview
    • Brief History of Farm to School at USDA
    • Introduction to Farm to School Team
    • Farm to School Team Site Visits
    • USDA’s Farm to School Website
    • Keeping Connected
  • 3. History of Farm to School at USDA
    • 1997: USDA began a comprehensive effort to connect small farms to the school meal programs
    • Several publications have been issued throughout the years.
  • 4. History of Farm to School at USDA (cont.)
    • Recent History
    • 2008: Teleconference with farm to school stakeholders
    • 2008: New Farm Bill offers more flexibility
    • 2009: USDA creates F2S Team
  • 5.
    • Agency-wide effort to create new economic opportunities by connecting consumers with local producers
    • Initiative focuses on the importance of understanding where our food comes from and how it gets to our plate
    • Breaking down barriers and supporting policies that focus on the connection between farmers and consumers
    • KYF2 website:
    • www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer
    KYF2 Connection To Farm to School
  • 6. Farm to School Team
    • Supports local and regional food systems via linkages between schools and local food producers
    • Comprised of FNS & AMS employees
    • Regional & Other HQ Representation
    • Tasked with developing mechanisms to:
      • Assist schools in accessing local markets
      • Enable food producers to effectively service their local schools
      • Facilitate communication between interested stakeholders
  • 7.
    • Provide access to resources and information on beginning and maintaining Farm to School activities for schools, farmers and local community members.
    • Provide technical assistance to assist schools and farmers in the development, progression, and/or sustainability of Farm to School activities.
    • Identify obstacles faced by schools and farmers in implementing and/or sustaining Farm to School activities and provide suggested solutions.
    Farm to School Team Goals
  • 8.
    • Visit 9 areas of varied demographics and farm to school characteristics
    • Analyze and assess variables that support or deter farm-to-school activities
    • Identify trends and best practices
    • Maintain a Farm to School website ( http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/F2S )
    • Engage in webinars with interested parties to allow for information sharing of Farm to School obstacles and successes
    Farm to School Team Objectives
  • 9.
    • FNS
    • Perspective of schools and school administrators
    • General oversight of the Farm to School Team activities
    FNS and AMS Roles in Farm to School Team
    • AMS
    • Perspective of famers, growers, and wholesalers
  • 10. Farm to School Team’s Site Visits
    • Visit 9 areas of varied demographics and farm to school characteristics
    • Requests were due January 31, 2010
    • USDA received 300 requests to be considered
    • Site visit selected based on a numerous variables
  • 11.
    • Regional representation
    • Rural, Urban, Suburban, Tribal Schools
    • Large and Small School Districts
    • Self-op, Vended and Management Company
    • Various Distribution Models
    • Different Stages of F2S Implementation
    • New or Novel Ideas for incorporating F2S activities
    Variables Considered:
  • 12. Farm to School Site Visit Locations:
    • Harrisonburg City Public Schools, VA
    • Boston Public Schools, MA
    • Jamestown Public Schools, RI
    • Burlington School District, VT
    • Jefferson County and Montgomery County Public Schools, KY
  • 13. Farm to School Site Visit Locations: (cont)
    • Jamestown Public Schools, RI
    • Ventura and Riverside Unified School Districts, CA
    • Union and Morrison Public Schools, OK
    • Chilton and Hilbert Public Schools, WI
    • Bethel and Eugene School Districts, OR
  • 14.
    • School’s Farm to School Infrastructure
    • School Food Service Infrastructure
    • Procurement Process
    • Non-purchasing Aspect of Farm to School
    • Food Safety
    • Implementation and Impact
    • Policy Support and Recommendations
    • Farmers Perspective
    Areas of Interest for Site Visit:
  • 15. What to Expect?
    • Working visit
    • Visiting school and farmer
    • 3 core team members
    • Possible Regional and State participation
    • Visits conducted May, June & September 2010
    • Best practices, lessons learned and tips to share with others
  • 16. USDA’s Farm to School Website:
    • http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/F2S
      • Federal Procurement Policies
      • Available Federal Grants
      • USDA Resources
      • Farm to School Team Updates
      • Sights Sounds and Stories (stories, pictures, and webinars)
      • Ideas for beginning and expansions of Farm to School efforts
  • 17. Keeping Connected
    • USDA’s Farm to School Website
      • http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/F2S
    • Email Listserv
    • Webinars
    • Contact us: [email_address]
  • 18. Thank you! [email_address]