Farm to School Toolkit Available Online
The Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition has launched an online toolkit to assist anyone wanting to incorporate more local foods into their school lunch menus through a Farm to School program. The toolkit is designed to walk school food service personnel, food producers, distributors and others through the process of local foods procurement including information on local food sources, the definition of “local” and the seasonality of foods grown and produced in Nebraska.
This new Farm to School toolkit is available at http://toolkit.centerfornutrition.org/, and is being launched in conjunction with National Farm to School Month in October, which is a time to celebrate the connections that are happening all over the country between schools and local food.
“Through our work to identify Farm to School feasibility in Douglas County, we quickly learned that schools, producers and others need tools to simplify the local foods procurement process. This toolkit will serve as a one-stop resource for anyone looking for a step-by-step guide to Farm to School along with the links, templates and tools to make it happen in any school district,” Dr. Amy Yaroch, Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition executive director, said.
Farm to School programs are widely recognized as an effective way to encourage healthy eating and boost local agriculture sales by bringing local vegetables, fruit and other products into schools.
Since March 2010, Douglas County school districts have received technical assistance with local foods procurement from the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition. The Center leads the Farm to School portion of the Live Well Omaha: Douglas County Putting Prevention to Work two-year grant project. Funding is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This unique toolkit provides a comprehensive overview of the Farm to School concept as well as access to resources to make it happen in any school anywhere. I look forward to watching Nebraska’s Farm to School efforts evolve with the use of this new resource,” Marion Kalb, Community Food Security Coalition, Training and Technical Assistance Director, said. Kalb is one of the founders of the national Farm to School Network.
In November 2010, Congress approved a resolution introduced by Representative Rush Holt (NJ) to officially designate October as National Farm to School Month. The passage of House Resolution 1655 demonstrates the growing importance and role of Farm to School programs as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies and educate children about the origins of food. Visit www.farmtoschoolmonth.org for details.
The United States Department of Agriculture is preparing to announce the availability of competitive Farm to School grants worth up to $100,000 for planning and implementing Farm to School programs – including supporting staff salaries, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens and other activities. Stay tuned for more information on www.farmtoschool.org.
The Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition provides scientific expertise and technical assistance in areas of childhood obesity prevention, food insecurity, local food systems and survey development and program evaluation. This is accomplished through outreach and research efforts often partnering with various entities such as universities, nonprofits and other community organizations. In addition to an endowment, the Center garners further funding through the submission of grants and contracts to build the research infrastructure at the local, state and national levels. Located on the campus of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition is one of the few national nutrition research centers with complete independence to pursue projects with an adaptive approach in response to society’s needs.