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Extension > Family Matters > March 2012

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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