Changing Tastes in Farm to School Programs

Moving into my third month as the new Lead for the South Region of the National Farm to School Network, I just attended the NFSN annual meeting with an energetic group composed of 48 State Leads, 8 Regional Leads, national staff, advisors and consultants. Our welcome address was very inspiring – Tammy Yarmon, Food Service Director of the Omaha Public Schools, shared her personal story of life long, avid gardening and how she was able to bring that passion into the cafeterias of 91 feeding sites in Omaha. Check out some of her strategies here.

Her descriptions of numerous school gardens, hoop houses and even hydroponic greenhouses at schools were all music to my ears. The students are selling their produce at the local farmer’s market, their own parking lot market and to their own families.  Ms. Yarmon went on to describe creative stimulators for encouraging local foods into the school kitchens such as honoring School Lunch Heroes, hosting Jr. Iron Chef contests, awarding a Golden Radish Award for Food Service Director’s leadership in F2S. All great ideas to encourage Farm to School!

My charge is to assist and organize in the five States of AL, AR, LA, MS, and TX and it has been rewarding to network and get to know the folks on the ground who are connecting our small and mid size farmers with new market outlets and connections to local consumers through this work. There are many regulations to understand and a few hurdles to jump, but we have a great opportunity for farmers expanding into this market within the new federal nutrition standards from USDA.

The Farm to School movement is blossoming! Farm to School programs have grown from a handful of schools in the late 1990s to over 12,500 programs in all 50 states as of 2012. This is a broad-based movement encompassing schools, educators, food service professionals, parents and advocates at the local, state, regional and national levels. Last January, at the Southern SAWG conference we hosted a Farm to School networking session that packed the room and brought palpable excitement to the networking. Consider joining us for the same celebration and networking opportunity at our next conference January 15-18, 2014 in Mobile, Alabama!

Pam Kingfisher