Schools across the state are digging into farm to school activities. Across all grade levels and interests, students are planting, harvesting and tasting in early childcare gardens; FFA students are growing produce in school greenhouses and cafeterias are incorporating the fresh produce into fruit and vegetable bars; and local ranchers are donating beef for the National School Lunch Program. Review the resources and best practices available below.
Nebraska Dry Bean Commission (NDBC) supports Nebraska dry bean growers and processors through programs of research, education and promotion. A strong supporter of farm to school, follow NDBC events, trainings and recipes at https://www.facebook.com/nebraskadrybean/
Midwest Dairy Council (MDC) supports the 8,000 dairy farm families that call the Midwest their home! Resources, promotional materials and grant funds are all available through MDC to fuel educational programs and promote farm to school efforts.
Nebraska Beef Council (NBC) is a resource for Nebraska community members, beef producers and beef processors, as well as schools. NBC is an expert in agriculture and culinary education and provides resources and tools for recipe development, nutrition and agriculture education and making connections to producers and processors.
Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) is a supporting farm to school partner and a leading force engaging people to build a better rural future. CFRA provides resources, support and training for new and beginning farmers, and leads efforts on local food and farm policy, network development and small business training, technical assistance and financing.
Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska (BFBL) is a supporting farm to school partner and leader in promoting the production and consumption of local food. BFBL identifies the needs of diversified family farms for training and technical assistance, makes connections from growers to markets, and expands consumer awareness about local producers and businesses.
Nebraska Extension’s Regional Food System Initiative (NeRFSI) is a supporting farm to school partner focused on enhancing the lives of all Nebraskans through research-based education. NeRFSI works across all sectors of the food system to increase production and consumption of local foods, and raise awareness of the value of agriculture in our communities.
National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and early care and education environments. Nebraska Department of Education Nutrition Services is the core partner in Nebraska with NFSN for farm to school work.
USDA’s Farm to School Program is housed in the Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS). OCFS helps child nutrition program operators incorporate local foods in the National School Lunch Program and its associated programs, as well as the Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program. In addition, OCFS staff works with tribal communities to respond to their desire to better incorporate traditional foods into our meal programs. OCFS accomplishes this through grant making, training and technical assistance and research.
- USDA’s Farm to School Planning Toolkit This reference for starting or growing a farm to school program is designed for use by schools, school districts and community partners.
- Self-assessment tool This simple-to-use worksheet from the Minnesota Department of Health provides a checklist to help schools evaluate their current farm to school efforts and identify next steps.
- Use local food and product directories.
- Looking for a local meat processor?
- Ask other food service managers where they source their local foods.
- Pose a question to other Nebraska food service managers on the discussion forum at the Nebraska School Nutrition Association.
- Check with your distributor(s) for a list of Nebraska products that they stock on a regular basis.
- Search for local distributors, grower cooperatives, and food hubs for more information about food producers in your area.
- Produce Seasonality, Crop Extension, and Storage Resource Guide for Nebraska
- How Are Nebraska Schools Sourcing Local Food? A new resource developed in partnership with farm to school partner, Center for Rural Affairs, outlines the many different ways local foods are accessible to schools search How Are Nebraska Schools Sourcing Local Food?
USDA Procuring Local Foods offers a procurement guide, webinars and fact sheets for sourcing local foods.
- SP 07-2016, SFSP 07-2016 Local Foods and Related Activities in Summer Meal Programs, with Questions and Answers
- SP 01-2016 Procuring Local Meat, Poultry, Game, and Eggs in Child Nutrition Programs
- SP-06-2015 Farm to School and School Garden Expenses
- SP-03-2013 Procurement Geographic Preference Q&As – Part II
- SP-01-2013 Federal Small Purchase Threshold Adjustment
- SP-18-2011 Procurement Geographic Preference Q&As
- SP-13-2010 Farm to School Activities
- SP-32-2009 School Garden Q&As
- SP-08-2009 Procurement Questions
- Nebraska Farm to School Local Purchase Report demonstrates the increasing demand for locally grown products and serves as a resource of prices being paid for Nebraska grown fruits and vegetables. Report your school’s local purchases by using the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Procurement Form. Contact John Goetz at email@example.com or 515-284-4460 for more information and to begin reporting.
- USDA Farm to School Census is designed to help establish realistic goals to increase the availability of local foods in schools. USDA conducted the first nationwide Farm to School Census in 2013 and the second in 2015. The next Census will be in 2019.
The Center for Rural Affairs is working with schools across Nebraska to revamp greenhouse programs. See their newly published resource “From Greenhouse to Cafeteria: A Toolkit for Creating and revamping greenhouse programs in Nebraska Schools”
This guide can assist teachers, administrators, FFA instructors, and students in:
- Forming a greenhouse committee,
- Creating a purpose and goals for a greenhouse,
- Establishing a greenhouse curriculum,
- Designing and maintaining a greenhouse system, and
- Creating a managing a production plan.
The toolkit also includes a list of online resources instructor and students can turn to for further instruction. View the resource here.
Greenhouse Manual: An Introductory Guide for Educators
United States Botanic Garden, the National Association for Appropriate Technology and City Blossoms developed this freely available manual in response to an expressed need to help guide would-be greenhouse managers and educators as their schools explore ways to build new infrastructure or reinvest in existing greenhouse facilities. Its purpose is to support and expand the planting and use of school gardens and greenhouses, farm to school activities, and the integration of plant science in the curriculum. The manual lays out a basic understanding of greenhouses, how to integrate greenhouses into lessons, and how to use greenhouses in classroom curricula and after-school activities. View the resource here.