Cortez Middle School students sampling produce from the garden.
From the west coast to New England, rural communities across the country are implementing community food systems’ strategies. The projects are bringing more local food into school meals, promoting healthy eating habits and expanding markets for American farmers and producers.
The USDA Farm to School Grant Program is proud to support these efforts. Over the past four years, approximately four out of ten schools impacted by the program are in rural communities. We look forward to supporting similar projects in the future and are currently accepting applications for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 funding. Visit our grant opportunities page for more information.
To celebrate the release of the FY 2017 RFA, we are highlighting two projects that are having a big impact in their communities. Read more »
MPS Jr. Iron Chef Competition with Chef Ann Kim and a True Food Chef Council member
It’s that time of year – books, backpacks and a BBQ! That’s right – Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is preparing for its annual Farm to School Community BBQ, a much anticipated back-to-school event that kicks off the school year. The following guest blog features inspiring initiatives MPS has implemented to serve local foods to its 35,000 students in the district.
Since 2011, MPS has sourced fresh produce, meats, baked goods and other products from local farmers and manufacturers. Purchasing local foods supports Minnesota farms and small businesses and provides opportunities for students to learn how their food is grown by extending farm to school efforts beyond the cafeteria and into the classroom with visits from farmers and taste-tests.
Farm to school also helps to support another USDA initiative designed to enhance school meals – the What’s Shaking? Creative Ways to Boost Flavor with Less Sodium initiative. Using local foods means that school nutrition programs are preparing more meals from scratch, allowing them to control the amount of sodium. Farm to school gets students engaged and excited about school meals – and with the community BBQ, both kids and their families get a sneak peek at what’s going to be on the lunch menu for the new school year.
By Kate Seybold, Farm to School Coordinator, Minneapolis Public Schools
What better way to ring in the new school year than by celebrating the bounties of local produce that farmers harvest during the back-to-school season? Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is hosting its Fifth Annual Farm to School Community BBQ – a community event built around fresh food, families and fun! The event brings together MPS students and their families, school staff, local farmers and vendors, True Food Chef Council members and other community partners in celebration of Minnesota Farm to School Month and our farm to school program. Read more »
Students at Yorkshire Elementary School (Va.) enjoy healthy school meals.
As Deputy Under Secretary, I have the honor and the pleasure of traveling to schools across the country to see our programs in action. Through my visits, I’ve had a chance to meet with hundreds of dedicated school administrators and school nutrition professionals, hearing countless testimonials of how they strive every day to serve students nutritious foods that will help them succeed in the classroom and grow into healthy adults. As a former school nutrition director myself, these visits are one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
Now, as students return to school and we all turn our thoughts to the year ahead, I can’t help but to be inspired by what’s to come. More than 50 million children attend schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. These students are experiencing school environments that are healthier than ever, with balanced meals, healthy snacks, nutrition education and consistent messaging about the importance of healthy eating. Read more »
Summer meal and farmers market offerings include local cherry tomatoes.
This National Farmers Market Week, we celebrate a growing national trend that exemplifies the power of partnership in achieving common goals. Across the country, sponsors of USDA’s Summer Meals Programs are joining forces with their local farmers markets, realizing a multitude of shared benefits. These partnerships increase access to the local seasonal bounty the summer months have to offer and help keep kids and their families nourished and active while school is out. Check out how three communities are taking full advantage of all that farmers markets during the summer months! Read more »
The “California Wrap” was served at many districts across Contra Costa County, a strategy that allows them to purchase collectively on California Thursdays.
June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month! To celebrate this, we’re showcasing the important work of California Thursdays, a collaboration between the Center for Ecoliteracy and a network of public school districts to serve healthy, freshly prepared school meals made from California-grown food. The following guest blog also highlights the inspiring work of the Center for Ecoliteracy, a partner with USDA’s national sodium reduction in schools-initiative, What’s Shaking? Creative Ways to Boost Flavor with Less Sodium.
By Jennifer Gerard, R.D., Center for Ecoliteracy, California Food for California Kids Program Director
What’s your favorite day of the week? For many students in California — it’s Thursday.
On Thursdays, over 1.7 million students in schools that participate in the California Thursdays program know they’ll be offered a lunch freshly prepared from California ingredients. California Thursdays is a celebration of local food, the people who produce and prepare it, and the significant connections that exist between children, food, and their environment. Read more »
Incorporating local produce into summer meals programs benefits the entire community.
Fields of asparagus and peas are in full bounty, soon to make way for sweet, juicy strawberries; towering stalks of corn; and more tomatoes than you’d ever know what to do with! In many parts of the country, as we approach summer, the warm weather means that local harvests are at their peak, and fresh fruits and vegetables abound. That’s what makes summer the perfect time of year for incorporating local foods into your meals. And according to the most recently released data from the Farm to School Census 2015, more than 1,000 school districts nationwide are doing just that: They’re bringing the farm to summer!
When school lets out for summer, there’s still a need to ensure the millions of children who receive free and reduced-price school meals during the school year have consistent access to healthy meals. USDA’s summer meals programs help fill that gap, serving over 191 million meals to children last summer alone! Community centers, libraries, day camps, churches, and more can all sign up to host a summer meals site through the summer meals programs, but schools make for a particularly good site since they already have food production facilities in place for serving meals throughout the school year. The Farm to School Census 2015 found that more than one in five school districts that participate in farm to school programs report including local foods in meals served through their summer meals programs. Read more »