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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!
Riverway Charter School in Minnesota City shares, “The beginnings of this project require a true community effort in all areas, including a wide base of support where multiple organizations come to the table.”
Barb Larson, Alexandria Public Schools Food & Nutrition Services Director, views farm to school as a win-win on many levels, stating "Our goals are to create community partnerships with service clubs, such as Douglas County Master Gardeners, 4-H, Summer Child Care groups, and to strengthen the Learning Cafeteria concept with students and staff."
You need some other folks who are willing to help with the work — a committee, a task force, a working group, whatever you want to call it. Farm to school initiatives can involve a lot of people, from students to teachers to custodians to parents. To create a lasting farm to school program, you’ll need to invite participation (and help!) from a diverse group of school staff and community members.
Many people throughout the state have expertise in farm to school. Download this resource list [currently unavailable] to find state and regional contacts.

Teachers and School Staff

Teachers prepare their students to eat new fruits, vegetables, and other local foods on the school menu. Teachers may integrate nutrition and agriculture lessons into their curriculum and can educate their students about how to make healthy choices using school gardens, tasting lessons, and farm field trips.
A family and consumer science teacher, physical education teacher, or agriculture instructor may have a particular interest in farm to school and can help bring information to students in the classroom. Here are some examples of how teachers get involved.
  • With the support of the superintendent at Sibley East-Arlington Senior High School, agriculture instructors Jeff Eppen and Tim Uhlenkamp started a school garden in Spring 2010. They wanted to teach students about where their food comes from, engage students with experiential learning, and promote careers in agronomy and plant production. The bounty of fresh garden produce was brought to the school kitchen and served to students in the Summer Feeding and School Lunch Programs.
  • Lori Romans, of Round Lake Brewster High School and Karen Smith of Monticello Junior High are Family and Consumer Science (FACS) teachers. Both have introduced farm to school foods into their classroom cooking lessons and curriculum. In addition, Greenway High School has integrated local foods into their FACS classes with great success.
School boards and wellness committees help shape policies that support your farm to school efforts, and can help you fulfill requirements of your district’s wellness policy.

Students and Parents

Students who are involved can spread the word to other students. Willmar Public Schools works with FACS classes to develop and taste test farm to school recipes. The students of these classes then help promote new farm to school recipes in the cafeteria.
Parents can be great allies and may volunteer their time to help run healthy fundraisers, volunteer to lead nutrition education lessons in classrooms, or help prep local foods in the kitchen. Hopkins Public Schools works with parents in the cafeteria.
Parents are trained to encourage students to select and eat nutritious foods, including farm to school foods. Hopkins calls these parent volunteers “food coaches.”

External Organizations

Local Public Health agencies work to build healthy eating environments in the community. In Minnesota, the Department of Health's Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) is working to promote healthy policy, systems, and environments that support farm to school.
Local organizations and businesses are often looking for initiatives that support student health and learning. In the words of Caroline van Schaik at the Land Stewardship Project, who works closely with Ridgeway Community School in Houston, “Allies pop up in the darndest places if you are brave first.”
University of Minnesota Extension employs over 60 SNAP-Ed Educators who lead hands-on nutrition education lessons in the cafeteria, classroom, and community. Extension also has Master GardenersAgriculture Educators, and 4-H gardening and agriculture clubs — all ready to help you.

Minnesota Moments

In Willmar Public Schools, ongoing community partnerships brought additional farm to school resources into the school district including Community Nutrition Educators from University of Minnesota Extension, grants from the Department of Education's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop grants, support from SHIP, and Minnesota legislative support as a farm to school pilot site.
At Winona Area Public Schools, partners included the Winona County Economic Development Authority (EDA), the Land Stewardship Project, University of Minnesota Extension, Winona's food cooperative, farmers, gardeners, and concerned parents.
“If I want to do something GOOD, I can do it on my own. If I want to do something GREAT, I’m going to have to develop a TEAM.” — John C. Maxwell

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