Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO. The annual gathering is an opportunity for Farm to School grantees from across the country to meet face to face, network and share best practices.
“The term ‘farm to school’ involves thinking of the whole plate, so to speak. It’s about increasing the amount of local and regional foods served in school cafeterias while also increasing education and community outreach for kids, and creating market opportunities for producers.”
So says Matt Russell, Grant Program Manager for the Farm to School Program at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Matt works to support school districts, non-profits, and other stakeholders in bringing more local and regional food into the school meal program. Read more »
Children in Kalispell, Mont., enjoy locally sourced meals as well as time in the garden at SFSP sites. Photo credit: Jessica Manly, FoodCorps service member
As the school year draws to a close, many program operators that help keep our nation’s children nourished and active are just ramping up. When school is out, many school districts and an array of nonprofit partners step up to offer healthy summer meals through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option. Options that provide children who rely on free and reduced price meals access to the nutrition they need to return to school healthy and ready to learn.
With the warm summer sunshine and the sweet taste of the season’s bounty here, it’s a great time to reflect upon some best practices for a flourishing summer meals program. We’re highlighting three examples that emphasize replicable strategies for bringing local, nutritious foods and educational activities to children throughout the long summer break. Read more »
Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program. (Photo credit: Jessica Kourkounis)
One of the best parts of my job as a Farm to School Regional Lead for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is visiting schools and districts that are bringing local foods into the cafeteria and teaching students where their food comes from. And I am always particularly excited when I get to visit programs with innovative school garden components, like William Penn High School, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.
Several years ago, William Penn went through a major restructure. Part of what came out of that process was a renewed commitment to agricultural education, and the recognition that the 117-acre William Penn Historic Farm, operated by a local land trust, could be a major asset to the school. A new agriculture “major” was established, and students took over two acres of the adjacent parcel to grow more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They also started a CSA program selling shares to teachers and community members. Read more »
Beautiful meals like this are what’s for lunch today and every day in schools across the country. (Photo credit: Matthew Noel)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the digital age we have ample opportunity to document and broadcast every moment, meeting and meal. We have all seen those unappetizing photos of food served at school that quickly go viral. A lonesome whole wheat bun atop a sad fish fillet; a mysterious-looking meat mixture served next to an apple. It’s natural to ask, “Is this what they serve for lunch!?”
No, it’s really not. Read more »
Two years after starting Fresh Water Greens, Owner Regina Villari (left) along with her brother and Production Manager Joseph Villari, have fresh lettuces and herbs in 37 supermarkets throughout New Jersey.
It’s been two years since Regina Villari, of Sewell, N.J., stepped into unchartered territory. Her idea was so different that no one else in her New Jersey town was doing it.
“I was intrigued by the operation,” said Villari. “I always wanted to have my own business and I wanted to do something in the local community that could provide fresh, local produce all year round.”
That something turned out to be a hydroponic greenhouse. Hydroponics uses nutrient-rich water instead of soil to grow lettuce, herbs, tomatoes and other vegetables. The greenhouse allows Villari to grow the crops year round, feeding thousands of people throughout the state. Read more »
According to Food Service Director, Todd Bedenbaugh, “since the cafeterias begun promoting Supreme Chicken, sales for this ‘local protein source’ have increased by 25 percent.”
It’s not surprising that chicken, the most popular meat for kids, is being served in school cafeterias across the nation. However, in Columbia, S.C., locally sourced chicken has taken center stage on school meal trays in an effort to increase the state’s Farm to School programming.
South Carolina’s District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties Schools are piloting a poultry project to expand local products offered to students. In partnership with Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, the school district is offering a variety of locally produced products to their students.
This particular Farm to School Program is made possible through the collaboration of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, South Carolina Department of Agriculture, South Carolina Department of Education, and Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute.
By Holly Godwin, South Carolina Farm to Institution Program Director
During the 2013-2014 academic school year, 20 District Five schools of Lexington and Richland Counties (South Carolina) participated in the Supreme Chicken project. This included all 12 elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools. Read more »