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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Minnesota Farm to School Toolkit Acknowledgements

The Minnesota Farm to School Toolkit for School Foodservice was introduced in November 2008 after countless hours of hard work by numerous individuals. Interest in developing a farm to school toolkit grew after a three-year pilot project in the Willmar Public School District led by Annette Derouin, Lynn Mader, and others. Beginning in 2005, the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships supported Lynn Mader to begin developing farm to school practices in western MN.

Part of this work involved foraging for farm to school initiatives. As a result, the demand for farm to school resources grew. To address the needs of Minnesota school foodservice professionals, Annette and Lynn approached the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture who agreed to coordinate and oversee the development of the Minnesota Farm to School Toolkit for School Foodservice.

In Fall 2010, demand for farm to school resources and tools again increased. University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Health partnered, and with funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, transformed the original toolkit to include additional tools and resources for school foodservice, farmers, partners, and teachers. The toolkit continues to evolve to meet the needs of farm to school practitioners.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Farm to School Real Stories

In 1996, only two schools nationwide purchased foods directly from farmers to serve their students. Today, there are more than 2,300 farm to school initiatives operating in all fifty states. Such partnerships between schools and local farmers have grown exponentially in Minnesota, serving students in 123 school districts. Farm to school is a win-win for America's farmers, ranchers, schools and students.


Training School Foodservice Staff

A statewide collaboration of the University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota School Nutrition Association has developed new training programs for school foodservice staff. Farm to School: So Fresh, So Easy offers a series of five short video trainings on sourcing, menuing, prepping and promoting farm to school items. Great Trays™ offered regional, hands-on trainings from February to November 2011, complete with recipes, sample menus, an equipment grant to receive a food processor and other tools.

Mobilizing Resources, Coordinating Efforts

Eleven member organizations throughout Minnesota are working together to maximize resources, ideas and impact of the state’s farm to school efforts. This Farm to School Leadership Team collaborates to overcome challenges faced by farms and schools as they strive to increase the number of healthy, local foods offered at schools. Working with University of Minnesota Humphrey fellows, a report was published outlining the most significant challenges to the growth of farm to school in Minnesota as well as a set of high-level policy recommendations.

Including Farm to School Wellness Policies

Willmar Public Schools incorporated farm to school directives into its Wellness Policy. It requires the district to buy and feature farm fresh foods and incorporate nutrition education into the curriculum through experiential learning. One lesson has consumer science students creating school lunch recipes using local foods.

Finding the Right Source

Rich farmland surrounds Dover-Eyota School District; yet finding local farmers to source food was a challenge for this small district. Now, in its third full year of Farm to School, the district serves students local fruits, vegetables and ground turkey bought directly from farmers and reinforces healthy food offerings with classroom wellness lessons.

In contrast, the large urban district in Saint Paul sources its local produce from a distributor/processing partner who meets the need for large amounts of precut produce. Nutrition Services purchased 110,000 pounds of locally grown produce during the first six weeks of the 2009-10 school year.

Slowing Down School Food

Taking its cue from the international Slow Food movement, Hopkins Public Schools incorporates similar practices into its cafeterias: cooking whole foods from scratch in schools’ own kitchens. Students taste test new homemade recipes that include dishes like Caprese Salad and Sage Chicken Breast using local, seasonal ingredients when readily available.
Marketing Fresh Recipes to Students and Parents

Nearly 25% of food served to students in Wayzata Public Schools is locally grown or made. The district uses creative marketing strategies to promote its homemade recipes and encourage kids to talk with parents, teachers and school cooks about healthy food choices. It has a student-run greenhouse that supplies lettuce to the lunchroom and organizes a family event to celebrate farm to school Month.

Connecting Students to the Land, Culture

At Pine Point School on the White Earth Indian Reservation, students visit a wild rice mill, apple orchard and heritage turkey farm. Teachers and tribal leaders are working to reintroduce local and traditional foods into is community’s food system. Students learn about the significance of these foods to the Ojibwe people through cooking classes, community art and vocabulary.

Investing in Local Communities

Real change comes from the ground up. Minnesota’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) helps put systems in place to create healthier communities that encourage people to make healthy choices in their daily lives. By working in four areas – community, school, workplace and health care – SHIP programs help communities achieve widespread, lasting results.


Improving National Standards for School Meals

Millions of school children will get more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less fat and sodium in their lunches under new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards announced in January 2012. They are the first major changes to school lunches in 15 years.

Partnering for a Healthier Colorado

Farm to School partnerships in Greeley, Colorado involve community members and organizations that help maintain school gardens. farm to school activities also include Harvest of the Month, local purchasing, and health and nutrition education with Farmer and Chef in the Classroom demonstrations.

Awarding Excellence in Georgia

Schools in Gwinnett County, Georgia feature a different locally grown fruit or vegetable on the lunch menu each month. The Georgia Department of Education and USDA honored the school district for its farm to school efforts, which provided more than 800,000 servings of native Georgia produce during the 2010-2011 school year.

Buying Direct from Michigan Farmers

More than 80 percent of foodservice directors in Michigan have expressed interest in buying directly from local farmers, if possible. State organizations and universities are supporting partnerships between schools, foodservice professionals and distributors working to improve distribution, availability, communication and policy support.

Increasing Purchasing Power in the Upper Midwest

School Food FOCUS helps large school districts change the way they do business by leveraging knowledge and procurement power to purchase more fresh, local foods. Focus Midwest is made up of six of the largest school districts in the Midwest, representing over 1,000 schools.

Creating Statewide Farm to School Legislation

In Oregon, the Department of Education is required to help schools use Oregon food products from school gardens, promote food and garden based educational opportunities, and help schools incorporate wellness policies.

The Oklahoma Legislature set aside $100,000 to support requirements for a statewide director to oversee farm to school initiatives with help from a non-profit food policy council. The director must provide training and technical assistance to school food employees, facilitate communication between farmers and school districts, and establish partnerships with public and non-profit sources to implement a public campaign.

A seven person farm to school Council in Iowa appointed by the Governor encourages hands-on learning opportunities for students such as farm visits, cooking demonstrations and school gardening and composting programs. The council is also required to establish partnerships with other public agencies and nonprofit organizations to facilitate the program and receive grants.

See the 2002-2013 list of Farm to school legislation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Farm to School for Producers: Business Management

By working with Minnesota school districts, farmers have the opportunity to help improve the health and education of Minnesota school children.

Farm to School for Producers: Getting Started

By working with Minnesota school districts, farmers have the opportunity to help improve the health and education of Minnesota school children.

Planting a Farm to School Program, Tips for FarmersCommunity Alliance with Family Farmers — This 2-page fact sheet provides brief, helpful advice for farmers.

Marketing Michigan Products: A Step-By-Step GuideC.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food & Systems, Michigan State University — This guide includes a detailed farmer assessment, sample invoices, and bid documents, tips for marketing and budgeting, and more. It was developed with input from farmers like you, and its practical tools are designed to address lessons learned through real farm to school experiences.

Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act: What Farmers Should Know [no longer available] — The change in nutrition standards for school food provides an increase in the amount of produce served to students, and diversifies the array of products. Review this fact sheet to learn about what fruits and vegetables schools are looking to source.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Farm to School: Farm Field Trips

Interested in organizing a farm field trip? This list will help you get started.

School to Farm Tours — Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota

Making the Farm Connection: A Guide to Field Trips for FarmersCommunity Alliance with Family Farmers

Farm Field Trips as a Source of Farm IncomeAppalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

Guide to Farm Field Trips for Farmers and TeachersAppalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

The Hayride: A Resource for Educational Farm Field TripsAppalachian Sustainable Agriculture ProjectGarden Classroom Field Trips — Life Lab

Farm Field TripsShelburne Farms — Example of educational programs offered from a Vermont farm.

Farm to School Fundraisers

Parents and community members, you can get involved in your school's farm to school initiative. Whether you work with policies, raise money, or organize a field trip, you can make a difference.

A+ Fundraisers for High SchoolsHealthy High Schools Initiative, New York City Health Department — This guide contains healthy food and non-food fundraiser ideas with tips for organizing and implementing.

Farm-raisers: Fundraisers with a farm-fresh, healthy twistCenter for Food and Justice, Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, Occidental College

Harvest Montana Fundraiser How-to GuideHarvest Montana Fundraising Program — This document provides a comprehensive how-to guide to organizing a Harvest Montana Fundraiser in your own community. Pilot projects of this fundraising program were organized by Montana Team Nutrition and the Office of Public Instruction School Nutrition Programs.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

So Fresh, So Easy Online Training

So Fresh, So Easy online training is a series of five training sessions designed for foodservice professionals. This series is an overview of the components of farm to school and illustrates how easy it is to implement. In less than two hours, you will have numerous resources, contacts, and ideas to begin or enhance your farm to school practices.

The five video segments can be viewed in any order and vary in length from 10-20 minutes each. If you complete all five video segments, you can receive 1.5 CEUs.
  • 1. Why Farm to School?

    This video segment provides an overview of farm to school: the benefits and the basics on how to get started. This video segment covers talking points and provides many resources, including people, you can connect with to answer questions.
    Presentation (2.8 MB PDF) | Resources (307 K PDF)
  • 2. Sourcing Your Farm to School Items

    This video segment addresses legal and food safety issues and provides an overview of the many ways healthy, local foods can be sourced into any school. Other MN schools are highlighted to provide ideas and resources for sourcing local items.
    Presentation (2.6 MB PDF) | Resources (261 K PDF)
  • 3. Menuing Your Farm to School Items

    This video segment shows the viewer how to make menu planning quick and simple and how farm to school foods can help meet the proposed meal standards. Resources are showcased that provide delicious recipes and ideas to menu farm to school items.
    Presentation (1.7 MB PDF) | Resources (307 K PDF)
  • 4. Prepping Your Farm to School Items

    This video segment discusses food safety and proper food handling in the kitchen. It identifies ways to simplify food preparation as well as some of the basic food preparation skills and equipment that are helpful when preparing local fresh foods. Additional resources and examples are provided.
    Presentation (2.6 MB PDF) | Resources (228 K PDF)
  • 5. Promoting your Farm to School Items

    This video segment explores how relationships and partnerships can support farm to school efforts and provides some specific step-by-step guidance for promotion and marketing. You are given examples of other school’s promotion efforts and a variety of resources are provided to help your promotion efforts.
    Presentation (2.9 MB PDF) | Resources (307 K PDF)
If you are a member of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association and would like to obtain a certificate of completion for 1.5 CEUs, please complete this short evaluation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

FFVP Education and Outreach

Thank you for connecting your school with Minnesota farmers who grow fresh fruits and vegetables. This section provides tools and resources to help educate students, their families, and school staff about the nutritional benefits and availability of Minnesota-grown produce through USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

FFVP Fact Sheets

The Making the Connections for Minnesota-Grown Fresh Fruits and Vegetables pilot project worked with three Minnesota School Districts and their suppliers to increase the purchase of local fresh fruits and vegetables in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) and to educate students and their families about the benefits of Minnesota grown produce. In this blog post, four fact sheets will help your school or farm connect Farm to School with the FFVP.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to introduce children to a wide variety of fresh produce. With help from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program, Minnesota grown foods are making their way into schools that participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Find out more about how your school can highlight fresh local foods with FFVP.

Education and Outreach
Educate students, their families, and school staff about the nutritional benefits and availability of Minnesota grown produce.

Fact Sheets
Tips for schools and produce suppliers to serve local produce as part of the FFVP.

Learn how Minnesota schools, farmers and distributors are working together to make Farm to School a success.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Building Farm to School Foods Into Your Menu

Looking for a planning tool to incorporate farm to school foods into your menu? The Farm to School timeline and planning tool includes an action plan, product planning chart, sample budget and more!
Improving National Standards for School Meal

Improving National Standards for School Meal

Millions of school children will get more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less fat and sodium in their lunches under new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards announced in January 2012. They are the first major changes to school lunches in 15 years.

Great Trays® helps Minnesota schools identify cost savings on healthier foods and provides tools and training to plan kid-tested menus that meet new nutrition recommendations.

HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary initiative established in 2004 to recognize those schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity. In February 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama introduced Let’s Move!, incorporating the HealthierUS School Challenge into her campaign to raise a healthier generation of kids. At that time, monetary incentive awards became available for each HUSSC award level: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Gold Award of Distinction.

Farm to School: Finding Local Foods

There is generally no wrong way to source local foods. Depending on your needs, you may:
  • Purchase locally from a distributor.
  • Locate and purchase directly from a farmer.
  • Use school garden produce.
  • Purchase at a farmers market.
  • Use a “forager.” This is someone who works with the farmer and foodservice staff to make sure everyone’s needs are met.
  • Enter into a “growing contract” with a farmer.
The Land Stewardship Project developed a tool that contains questions to help school foodservice and others prioritize who you buy from and how: Things to Consider as you BUY LOCAL!

The 2012 change in nutrition standards for school food provides an increase in the amount of produce served to students, and diversifies the array of products. Use this fact sheet to communicate with your regional growers: Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act: What Farmers Should Know (512 K PDF).

Farm to School: Sourcing Seasonal Food

By Stephanie Heim, Minnesota State Lead
You can find local foods for you farm to school program in Minnesota all year long. It just takes some creativity, help from farmers and distributors, and knowledge of the types of products available in each season.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Farm to School: Getting Started: Meet the Challenges

By Stephanie Heim, Minnesota State Lead
According to the March 2011 Farm to School Survey conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in partnership with the Minnesota School Nutrition Association, four big challenges exist for those starting farm to school initiatives.

Farm to School: Getting Started: Get Staff on Board

By Stephanie Heim, Minnesota State Lead

Any type of change requires extra effort within the school. Advance planning is important to make it easier for everyone involved to feel comfortable and support the farm to school initiative. It is not possible to over-communicate!
By educating and involving others, you can create excitement about the farm to school foods being offered in the cafeteria. Teachers are needed to ensure that students are provided the opportunity to learn more about the food they are eating, where it comes from and how to improve their choices. You may need to help teachers find educational resources that would be useful. In addition, foodservice staff may need more information or skills to be successful. Perhaps training on knife skills or more information about the products they are receiving would be helpful.

Farm to School: Getting Started: Assemble a Team

By Stephanie Heim, Minnesota State Lead
Even a highly motivated, passionate foodservice director can't do it all. You need help to start a farm to school initiative!

Farm to School: Getting Started: Do Your Homework

Set yourself up for success by reviewing the resources on this page and learning what other schools in Minnesota are doing.
Farm to School Assessment Tool — Minnesota Department of Health — Is your farm to school initiative starting up, cruising, or breaking barriers? Take this self-assessment to find out.
Food Education Every Day — Vermont FEED — Watch this excellent introductory video from the Vermont farm to school initiative.

Minnesota Moments

Food and Nutrition Director of Dover-Eyota Public Schools Carrie Frank says, “Find inspiration, dream big and keep asking questions.” Carrie credits Annette Derouin, foodservice director of Willmar Public Schools, for her pioneering and inspirational role in Minnesota’s farm to school movement.
Barb Mechura, Director of Operations for the Royal Cuisine department of Hopkins Public Schools, finds no need to re-invent the wheel. Barb does her research and adapts tools to suit her district’s needs. To learn what other schools in Minnesota are doing to bring fresh, local food to their students check out Minnesota’s profile on the National Farm to School Network.

Related Resources

Getting Started with Farm to School — National Farm to School Network — Use these five steps to get going in farm to school
Farm to School Start-Up Kit — Washington State Department of Agriculture — Considerations for starting farm to school.
Farm to School Guide to Implementations, Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013 — Minnesota Department of Health — Provides basic information to get you started and links to a variety of other resources.
National Farm to School Network — The website has a wealth of information about farm to school initiative across the country.
Wisconsin Farm to School: Toolkit for School Nutrition Directors and Producers — Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems UW Madison — These interactive toolkits serve as a resource for both food service staff and producers and offer valuable tools from getting started to evaluation.
Farm to School Resource Manual — Countryside Public Health — This resource manual contains newsletters, public service announcements, recipes, and more.
Farm to School Field Guide for Food Service Directors — Community Alliance with Family Farmers' Farm to School Initiative — This guide gives foodservice directors a place to start and answers basic questions about farm to school initiatives.
The Lunch Box: Healthy Tools to Help All Schools — Provides a variety of resources for school lunch programs.
Vermont Farm to School: A Guide for Using Local Foods in Schools — Vermont Feed — A manual designed for school foodservice directors or staff who are interested in making changes to the food students eat at school.

Farm to School: Getting Started: Determine Your Goals

By Stephanie Heim, Minnesota State Lead
Farm to school happens in the cafeteria, classroom, and community. As you set goals, think about how to include all three components. To be successful in reaching your goals, keep them simple and develop a step-by-step plan to achieve them.

Farm to School: Getting Started

New to farm to school practices? You're in the right place! The resources below outline what you need to consider as you develop your unique farm to school initiative. And remember: Many people throughout the state have expertise in farm to school: Resource List [not currently available].
"The strongest farm to school programs start small and grow like pumpkin plants, extending vines in many directions and producing fruit that slowly ripens! If you're inspired to plant the seeds of a farm to school program, start with a manageable project and have fun." — Community Alliance with Family Farmers

Friday, March 16, 2012

Farm to School: Education and Outreach

By Stephanie Heim, Minnesota State Lead

Minnesota schools are doing some amazing things to engage their students and the community in farm to school activities. Below is just a sampling from schools across the state. If you have an educational or outreach activity that you’d like to share, please send an email to

Pine Point School

Pine Point School students, in conjunction with the 21st century after-school program, are learning about local food systems. They have taken trips to visit a wild rice mill, apple orchard, and a heritage turkey farm, learning about where each of these foods comes from and talking with the growers. The fourth grade class spent a week focusing on mandaamin (corn). In the classroom, they wrote haiku poems and learned about seasonal food. Outside the classroom, they went to help harvest native Bear Island Flint corn and learn its significance for Ojibwe people. Students were later taught how to braid the corn to properly dry it for storage. In winter, Pine Point began traditional cooking classes with community members and decorated the school cafeteria with Ojibwe art and vocabulary. It is Pine Point’s hope that relocalizing our food system and reintroducing traditional foods will create not only healthier children, but a healthier community. Read about Pine Point's 2009 farm to school events: Pine Point 2009 Farm to School Brief Report (271 K PDF).

Ridgeway Community School

Ridgeway Community School created a poster to promote their farm to school efforts: Why We Choose Food from Farmers We Know (126 K PDF). Here are several outreach tips they use with their students, parents, and community:
  1. Conduct a morning meeting of student body to inform them of the local food being serving.
  2. Put an announcement in the school newsletter. For example, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Real Food (383 K PDF).
  3. On the monthly menu, make note of farm to school foods.
  4. Place a bulletin board in a prominent location with photos and captions.
  5. Use a display board for community events and conferences.
  6. At school programs, make note of your farm to school initiative to reach families and increase their awareness of your good work.
  7. Use radio and print media (agriculture, local papers) — they love to pick up farm to school stories.
  8. Prepare a presentation and update for the school board.
  9. Start informal conversations with anyone and everyone!

Wadena Deer Creek Elementary

As part of the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Wadena Deer Creek Elementary invited Minnesota Grown Spokesperson and Minnesota Olympian Carrie Tollefson to connect with students about the benefits of eating locally grown fruits and vegetables and staying active. Learn more: Olympian runner inspires WDC students (274 K PDF).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Farm to School: Taste Testing

Stephanie Heim, Minnesota State Lead

Red Lake, St. Cloud, Wadena Deer Creek, Willmar, Little Falls, Morris and other schools have found great success with tasting events. Taste tests encourage students to use all of their senses to explore fruits, vegetables, and other farm to school foods.

Morris Area Schools has offered apple and wild rice tastings among others. Students tasted two different apples — Harral Red and Sweet 16. Staff found two-thirds of the students picked the sweeter, Sweet 16 apple as their favorite.

Red Lake partnered with an educator from Extension to lead tasting lessons as part of the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program. Tasting lessons were popular among students and staff alike. Below is feedback Willie Larson and Josh Hovde, school nutrition coordinators, received from a Red Lake teacher.
“The kids loved the green beans today. We did a mini-lesson and I admit I was eating a bean while I gave the lesson. The kids could hear the crunch of the bean and knew they were fresh and thought it was neat when they also hear the 'squeak' when we would bite down. This was also a sign of how fresh they beans were. We talked about the color and that the purple or darker color on the beans were showing they were 'full' of healthy vitamins. They each got to 'taste' a bite of a bean — if they liked it they took the snack. All of my kids ate their beans and most didn’t dunk them in Ranch!”
Repeated opportunities to taste and eat new and familiar foods is required to increase acceptance and intake. Some say that classroom and cafeteria taste testing creates positive peer pressure. If your friend is willing to try the rutabaga, why wouldn’t you? Classroom and cafeteria taste tests encourage students to eat farm to school foods in a supportive environment.

Who can lead a taste testing? Anyone — teachers, parents, foodservice staff, students, and SNAP-Ed educators can all lead a taste testing.

Who are SNAP-Ed educators? SNAP-Ed educators from the University of Minnesota Extension teach students and families the information and skills to maintain healthy diets. They can partner with qualifying Minnesota schools at no cost to lead taste testings and other fun, hands-on nutrition education classes.

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