Community and parent advocates have taken action and pioneered several initiatives in their local schools, like…
- Supporting the implementation of school garden’s, either in the form of raised beds or a hoop house, on school property
- Collaborating with food service staff to increase scratch cooking in the lunchroom with a focus on local and whole foods to the lunch program
- Organizing and connecting classes with farms for field trips
- Encouraging teachers and working to see Farm to School integrated into curriculum
- Organizing school fundraisers in partnership with local food companies or farmers to sell healthy and local food options.
According to the National Farm to School Network, “Farm to School works to strengthen the connection communities have with healthy, whole, fresh foods and local food producers by focusing on schools and changing the way that schools purchase local food and influence the educational practices of students.”
Successful Farm to School programs look different in every learning community, but they typically include one or more of the following pieces…
- Procurement: Schools work to source fresh and local foods for scratch cooking in cafeteria breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and for taste tests for students. The “Local Partners and Providers” page can connect food service professionals to locally grown produce and foods.
- Education: Teacher curriculum incorporates and integrates materials on agriculture, nutrition, health, and food.
- School Gardens: Students can learn in a hands-on, engaged, active environment through gardening and growing plants. Resources can be found on our “Garden Resource” page.
Now that you hopefully have some ideas of what a program at your school could look like, we’ve got some tools to help you gather a team of supporters and get organized to create real change.
- Inquire about your School Wellness Policy: As of 2010 when Congress launched the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, all schools and districts are required to have a Wellness Policy. Congress placed the responsibility for developing Wellness Policies at the local level. This allows schools to assess themselves and subsequently implement programs around physical activity, school lunch nutrition, safety around the school, and health care in the school. Inquire about your school’s Wellness Policy and see whether or not there is a place for Farm to School in your cafeteria. This can be done through classroom snacks or innovative physical activity programs like Recess Before Lunch. Learn more about School Wellness Policies from Action for Healthy Kids.
- Join in for Lunch: Joining your child for lunch is a wonderful way to get to know your local food service professionals and the school’s food program. By visiting a cafeteria for lunch, you could have the opportunity to learn more about the logistics of serving lunch, while maybe beginning to build a positive relationship with the food service staff. Make sure to first inquire with your Principal or another school administration about joining in for lunch.
- Form an Advocacy group and Identify Partners: Forming an advocacy group, interested in Farm to School, can make a difference at any school. Get in touch with your school office staff, parents, as well as other beneficial school stakeholders and plan a meeting. Even just one meeting could help!
Now that you have begun initiating conversations and networking with partners in your farm to school project, it is time to get something started!
- Identify a target area and goals for your advocacy group. Are you hoping to work with food in the cafeteria, classroom learning, after-school programs, clubs and extracurricular activities, school gardens, or something else?
- Present your ideas and information to the principal and/or Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).
- Get involved with gardening by starting, maintaining, or coordinating volunteers for your school garden.
- Coordinate a school fundraiser with local foods in partnership, with a local farm or food company, to promote healthy foods and community partnerships.
- Try a grant! Many grants are simple to fill out and usually support is provided by the funder when writing one. This is also where your advocacy group and partners can help, writing grants as a team will ensure your content is strong and well written. Plus it is a lot less daunting if you can split up the work! Here are a few grants to get you started:
1. Whole Kids Foundation provides grants for school and off school garden projects as well as lots of assistance to write, organize, and submit garden oriented grants
2. Annie’s Garden Grants offers donations to schools and other educational programs that help build school gardens. Since 2008, they have directly funded more than 350 gardens across the country.
3. National Farm to School Network has a great resource and fact sheet for getting grants and funding for your school farm to school program.
4. MSU Center for Regional Food Systems provides a wonderful grant opportunity for Michigan programs through the Kellogg Foundation specifically as planning and implementation grants through the MI Farm to School Grant Program.
5. Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools by Chef Ann Foundation has rolling applications via Chef Ann Foundation which has launched the Project Produce: Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools. These $2,500 grants help schools increase kids’ access to fresh fruits and veggies and nutrition education. Any district or independent school participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is eligible to apply.