FRUITS OF OUR LABOR
With the school year wrapped up and summer in full swing, Food Connect’s Farm to School team is switching gears! Before jumping into summer programming, we reflected on what we accomplished during the school year. We continue to be inspired by the progress our member schools are making in their Farm to School efforts. In fact, this school year:
7 new schools created Farm to School action plans
75% of FC member schools report significant progress was made on their action plan
77 educators participated in Farm to School professional development
6 schools received new funding for farm to school programming
89% of FC member schools were able to better integrate the “3 C’s of Farm to School” (classroom, cafeteria, community)
Farm to School programs are positively impacting the local economy by helping to reduce childhood hunger.
This year, local food purchasing by FC member schools increased by 43%! We know that for every dollar spent on local, 60 cents goes back to the local economy.
Nearly half of FC member schools saw an increase in breakfast and lunch participation by free and reduced students this year. Some of this can be attributed to new programming such as Breakfast After the Bell and Universal Meals.
Over 100 community organization and school staff received professional development to improve Farm to School programming.
NOURISHING OUR COMMUNITY
We are eager to stay connected to students and families throughout the summer when local farms are bursting with fresh produce. This summer, we will run two programs, including our Summer Garden Program and a new Local Food Taste Testing Program in collaboration with Retreat Farm.
The Summer Garden Program includes garden support for 5 local schools, ensuring that the gardens are healthy and ready to harvest come September. Tara Gordon, Green Street School Garden Coordinator, will lead summer programming at all 5 schools this year.
Local Food Taste Testing, led by Keene State College Dietetic Intern Carissa Brewton, will take place on Fridays throughout the summer at Retreat Farm, in conjunction with Summer Meals—free meals provided to students under the age of 18. Swing by the farm to sample fun foods and participate in Farm to School activities with your little ones.
PLANTING NEW SEEDS
Our Farm to School team is looking forward to piloting some new and innovative projects this fall. Sheila Humphreys, Food Connect’s Farm to School Coordinator, will be exploring connections between the Farm to School and Trauma Informed approaches to education this fall with WSESU educators and other school-based staff. She will partner with VT Trauma Informed expert, Joelle Van Lent, to host a day-long training for school counselors, nurses, behavior specialists, and food service professionals. This project is funded by the Thomas Thompson Trust and will span three years. Year two of the project will focus on creating cafeteria settings that are comfortable, peaceful, and conducive to making good food choices and year three will include work around youth engagement in farm to school programming.
This summer, Food Connects is preparing for its 5th Annual Farm to School Conference. With lots of new staff coming on board over the past two years, we took a break from organizing this event. But, this year WE ARE BACK! The conference will take place in April and will include an array of wonderful workshops on topics such as curriculum integration, marketing, cooking with kids, parent engagement, and more! Stay tuned for details.
Much of this summer will be dedicated to planning for the next school year. We have lots of great information to digest from our spring stakeholder survey and plenty of qualitative feedback to keep us energized and inspired. One of our favorite quotes was, “Food Connects is awesome. You guys are all over the map with the ways you support our district’s Farm to School efforts, and as we have said before, the most important thing you give us is a sense of friendship and community - a bunch of absolutely great people all working on a little piece of this food system revolution”. Viva la revolution!