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September 2010

In this issue

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Some recent funding opportunities. Read the Good Food Media Digest!
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  1. Starting the School Year Off Right: A look at Some Farm to School Efforts and Advancements to Come
  2. Study: Northern Virginia Local Food System Assessment
  3. Food Safety Report
  4. A Bevy of Upcoming Webinars
  5. Opportunities to Learn and Connect
  6. Good Food Media Digest
  7. Add your profile to the NGFN Database
  8. NGFN Media Outlets


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Stories

Starting the School Year Off Right: A look at Some Farm to School Efforts and Advancements to Come

Contributing writer: Kathleen Stewart

Farm to SchoolAs students head back to school, Farm to School efforts are in full swing in school cafeterias nation-wide.  According to Anupama Joshi, Co-Director for the National Farm to School Network, “There is a huge amount of support these days from the School Nutrition Association and the USDA which is a big step.”  Co-director of the National Farm to School Network, Marion Kalb adds, “there has been unforeseen and unprecedented support for Farm to School initiatives, as evidenced by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative, and strong Congressional support for funding Farm to School work.” As, Joshi states, Farm to School programs are being recognized as part of the solution to many national issues including child nutrition and economic development, and therefore, “a win-win for everybody.”

Know Your FarmerOne way in which the USDA is offering more support is through the establishment of a Farm to School Team this past school year. Composed of Food and Nutrition Service and Agricultural Marketing Service staff members, its goals are to provide access to resources for beginning and maintaining Farm to School programs and provide technical assistance to schools and farms and to identify obstacles faced by them.  They are in the process of visiting fifteen school districts implementing farm to school programs with the goals of identifying factors which support or hinder Farm to School efforts and determining how the programs affect the schools and communities involved.

Colorado ProudLocal governments have also added their funds to Farm to School programs.  Efforts vary from providing grant funding for schools to purchase local fruits and vegetables to establishing state laws to implement Farm to School programs statewide.  Maryland’s state-wide Farm to School effort has, for instance, established an annual “Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week” bringing in as much locally grown foods as possible during a week in September while providing educational opportunities for students.  Other states programs include Colorado’s Colorado Proud School Meal Day highlighting state-grown products on their menus and the Boise-district of Idaho, where the Governor declared September as Idaho Preferred Month during which the Farm to School program will provide students with at least one local food item per day.

The District Commits to Farm to School

DC Public SchoolsThe District of Columbia aims to increase Farm to School products in their cafeterias through the passing of the DC Healthy Schools Act which provides an additional five cent reimbursement for each lunch meal that includes a local product.  DC Public Schools also requires that all three of the District’s food service vendors purchase at least 20% of their products from a 120 mile radius.  Further, DCPS has established new pilot food service programs with DC Central Kitchen and with Revolution Foods to provide fresh meals with local ingredients to fourteen schools.

DC Central KitchenAs one of DC’s new food service providers, DC Central Kitchen, a non-profit program providing meal distribution and culinary job training, is providing from-scratch meals to seven DC schools through their Fresh Start Catering Program. CEO of DC Central Kitchen (DCCK), Mike Curtin explains that two critical aspects of a successful Farm to School program is solving the distribution problem and building personal relationships with the producers. He reports that DCCK was fortunate to have a fleet of trucks to fill the distribution gap between the rural agricultural producers and the eaters in urban schools, and Curtin has invested time and effort into nurturing relationships with his farmers. Because of this DCCK has been able to meet the 20% requirement for local products.

Wallace Center LogoSeasonality and storage capacity are challenges that are faced by all Farm to School programs, and DCCK is no different. However, new grant funding from the Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development (HUFED) Center at the Wallace Center at Winrock International will help DC Central Kitchen to build a new commissary in the next year. With it, they will be able to process fruits and vegetables at peak season into products such as apple sauce, pear sauce, and tomato sauce, use a commercial dehydrator at the commissary to dry produce such as stone fruit for snack mixes, granola, and various breads, and have more room for storage as well.

New Federal Funding Gives Farm to School a Boost

Anupama Joshi 2The largest pool of support on the horizon is the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Bill. Congress has proposed $40 million (Senate bill, passed) or $50 million (House bill, referred to the floor) in mandatory funding to support Farm to School Programs. Anupama Joshi says this funding would be a great start to solving another of Farm to School programs’ perennial challenges: the initial investment to establish the programs. Joshi says “money for set up costs is a big plus.” According to Joshi, this funding can help school districts start-up their Farm to School programs. While this increase in federal funding for Farm to School programming should have very promising results, identical Child Nutrition Bills will have to pass through both the Senate and the House before reauthorization expires on September 30 for the funding to be available in the near future.

Recovery - ARRA logoOther federal funding comes through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding. The Center for Disease Control will identify eight sites working with the Community Food Security Coalition to receive technical assistance. Three or four of these projects will have a farm to school component for which they will receive technical assistance from the National Farm to School Network.

Farm to School Census

ERS Food AtlasERS Food AtlasERS Food AtlasBeginning this fall, the National Farm to School Network will begin outreach through their Regional Lead Agencies to identify what programs exist and gather basic data such as how many schools are participating in what kinds of activities, such as school gardens and farm field trips, they are incorporating into their Farm to School program.  This work is being done in collaboration with the Economic Research Service (ERS) under a cooperative agreement with Occidental College, a partner in the National Farm to School Network.  Anupama Joshi, who will be leading the survey effort says, “This cooperative agreement will help us get a good handle on what programs are out there and do the outreach needed to get a good census of Farm to School programs.”  The next step is to create a simple template that can be used for creating profiles on the National Farm to School Website which will also feed into the ERS’ Food Environment Atlas.  Researchers will then have a comprehensive sample set allowing them to research various aspects of Farm to School Programs including local procurement, in-classroom nutrition education curriculum, school gardens, and experiential education.

Challenges Still Exist

Marion Kalb states that though there is great momentum within the government now, the Farm to School community must keep the interest going through upcoming administrations.   The non-profit community was key in getting the Farm to School movement started and, Kalb says, they can continue to play a role in Farm to School efforts by mobilizing on the ground and advocating policy particularly at the local and state level.

Mike CurtinOn the supply side, distribution and infrastructure are some of the key challenges for Farm to School Programs. Mike Curtin says, “There is an incredible amount of food out there and interest on both the consumer and producer side to be involved in farm to school.” Mike states, that the problem at this time is finding ways to get the product from rural areas into urban areas and then having the capacity to store and process that product once it is brought into urban areas.

Forming relationships between food service authorities and local producers is another area where organizations can play a key role in supporting Farm to School programs.  Some of the most successful Farm to School programs, reports Marion Kalb, involve organizations that help facilitate collaboration and cooperation among the food service entities and farmers. When each group understands one anothers’ experience and perspective they can better address issues that arise.  Kalb says, “Having all groups in the room will put you light years ahead.” (For an illustrative example of this, watch the NGFN webinar "School Food FOCUS").

As Farm to School programs continue, it will be key for all parties involved to continue to work together to define and share best practices and solutions to the challenges that exist as Farm to School programs are institutionalized.  This work will continue to accelerate the formation of new programs, and to ensure their success. 

School Food FocusView these National Good Food Network webinars to learn more:


 

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Study: Northern Virginia Local Food System Assessment

Contributing writer: Megan Bucknum

Piedmont Study coverA newly released feasibility study finds great opportunity for a fruit and vegetable aggregation facility in Northern Virginia.  The study explored the food system of the Piedmont region, located south of Washington, D.C., west of Interstate-95 and east of the Shenandoah Valley.  The area is characterized by aesthetically pleasing scenery, rich cultural history and the potential for a thriving local food economy.

Despite several challenges, the research shows that an aggregation center is a viable business venture.  This joint project of FamilyFarmed.org, the Triskeles Foundation and the Wallace Center at Winrock International demonstrates the economic opportunity to fulfill the demand for wholesale local food currently unmet in the nearby Washington D.C. metropolitan area.  In order to meet this demand, current agricultural production will need to be increased and infrastructure improvements will have to be made.

FamilyFarmed.orgQualitative research, gained through site visits and interviews, provided possible solutions to some of the quantitative challenges, demonstrating the need to have a multi-faceted research design.  For example, the numbers showed fruit and vegetable production are currently insufficient to supply the regional demand, but when interviewed, growers reported that they would transition to growing fruits and vegetables, or increase the amount they currently grow, if there were a reliable market.  Interest and support, the researchers found, exists from state agricultural agencies, wholesale food buyers and local regional government – all of which can help facilitate these increases and transitions in agricultural production.

The collaborative nature of this project, both within the research team and the extensive outreach, provided a deep investigation into the possibility of an aggregation center, revealing solutions to problems that may have not been found if such a diverse set of organizations and people were not included.

You can download the entire study from the National Good Food Network’s Knowledge Database.  The NGFN is also hosting a webinar on Sept. 30 featuring this study and a companion study done in Illinois. This “workshop style” presentation will demonstrate why and how to do food hub feasibility studies. Register now for this free learning opportunity.
 

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Food Safety Report

Steve WarshawerEach month, Steve Warshawer, food safety coordinator for the National Good Food Network, writes a column on the status of new and changing food safety regulations. A farmer and food distributor, Steve is focused on the challenge of developing food safety rules that work for food producers as well as food regulators.

Wild Farm Alliance Wins NRCS Grant

Wild Farm AllianceWild Farm Alliance has been awarded $140,000 through USDA NRCS for the 3-year project Co-managing for Food Safety and Conservation Objectives in Specialty Crops: Preparing NRCS Conservationists and Technical Service Providers to Address New Challenges.

The project will focus on preparing NRCS Conservationists and Technical Service Providers (TSPs) to address food safety and conservation co-management challenges in three specialty crop producing states --- California, New York and Florida. The innovative project will draw on the experience and expertise of California farmers, researchers and conservationists already dealing with food safety conservation pressures, as well as those in Florida, New York and elsewhere who are engaged in the intensifying issue of food safety. They will develop practical tools for conservation planning, in addition to guidelines to evaluate the actual (not perceived) impact of well-established conservation practices on food safety. A technical note, training materials and website resources will be developed, and trainings will be given to NRCS staff, technical experts, and farmers.

A Note on Alarmist "Action Alerts"

Does everyone remember last spring when there was a virulent, viral, internet “scare campaign” about HR875?  That campaign, which was launched by unidentified actors, led to an enormous amount of chaos and confusion for many parties, including producers and advocates, and was in no way accurate enough to be worth the attention it received. This piece is an attempt to cast S510 in a light similar to HR875.  It is a great read, and for anyone who has been following S510 it is so obviously and patently absurd that it holds no credence. Here is Steve Gilman of NOFA Interstate Council's response. (COMFOOD listserv posting. Free registration required.)

We encourage NGFN members and supporters NOT to forward any alarmist emails about S510.

GAP Harmonization Update

United Fresh ProduceI have attended all of the United Fresh Produce (UFP) GAP Harmonization Technical Working Group meetings, as I have previously reported on. Some of you may have "virtually" attended through the system UFP and NGFN set up together. Coming on Tuesday, Sept 21, though, Dave Gombas, the lead on this project from UFP, and I will give a more formal presentation on just what is in the standard, and the process we've used to develop it. We'll then answer any questions you have. We're using a webinar format so that we can show you some slides we've prepared, and can display particular portions of interest in the standard. This is free, but requires registration. Register now to reserve your spot!

... and as always, we want to hear your input! Send e-mail to contact@ngfn.org with your thoughts.

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A Bevy of Upcoming Webinars

The NGFN is committed to getting you the best, most timely information about scaling up Good Food. One medium we use is a monthly webinar, each third Thursday of the month. In September, however, there is so much we want to share that we're actually hostingTHREE webinars. Here is some information about each:

Notes:
  • All webinars are from 3:30pm - 4:45pm Eastern (12:00p - 1:45p Pacific).
  • All webinars are FREE, but you must register.
  • Click on the titles to reserve your spot!

 

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Opportunities to Learn and Connect

CFSC Conference in NOLACome on down to New Orleans October 16-19 for the fourteenth annual Community Food and Security Conference. With a full plate of tours, workshops, pre-conference sessions and more, the organization that has led national organizing around food, culture, and justice invites you to come and experience "the gumbo that unites us all!"

It Takes a Region ConferenceThe Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) convenes this November 12-13 meeting of practitioners and advocates in the northeast to explore the concept and reality of regional food systems: What they are, and why and how to build them. The event in Albany, NY includes pre-conference trainings on Nov. 11. NESAWG is a regional lead team of the National Good Food Network, convening the full spectrum of food buyers, producers, distributors, community leaders and more. 

The first annual conference to forge food, farming and policy solutions for the Black Community will convene at Brooklyn College in New York City, bringing together farmers, gardeners, activists, students and community leaders from across the nation.

Women in Sustainable AgThe 2010 Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference will bring together farmers, ranchers, educators, agricultural service providers and activists to to build production and business skills, share educational and organizational strategies, and forge new connections all aimed at expanding the success of women in sustainable agriculture. This conference will celebrate farm women's accomplishments, and through your participation set the stage for even further success.

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Good Food Media Digest

POLICY

New Report Says Federal Policies Discourage Farmers from Growing Fruits and Vegetables

FLAG logo“Federal policies discourage farmers from producing and marketing fruits and vegetables, according to a report released [on August 3rd] by Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG)…. The report, Planting the Seeds for Public Health: How the Farm Bill Can Help Farmers to Produce and Distribute Healthy Foods, offers a legal analysis of the 2008 Farm Bill and explains key agriculture and nutrition programs that were enacted into law. The report was commissioned by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.” Source: http://www.rwjf.org/files/research/20100804flagrelease.pdf

Groups threaten legal action over USDA’s new GE Sugar Beet Plans

Center for Food Safety“The Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice on Thursday threatened legal action against the Department of Agriculture for its plan to issue permits in the next two weeks authorizing the planting of genetically engineered (GE) sugar beet seedlings this fall, without performing any review of the crops’ environmental impacts.” Source: http://www.sustainablefoodnews.com/story.php?news_id=10348

Department of Justice and USDA Hold Workshop Focused on Competition Issues in the Livestock Industry

Department of Justice logo“The Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today held the fourth of five joint public workshops to explore the appropriate role for antitrust and regulatory enforcement in American agriculture. The workshop, led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, examined competition in the livestock industry and featured panel discussions on trends in the livestock industry, market consolidation and market transparency. The workshop also included opportunities for public comments.” Source: http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/press_releases/2010/261986.htm
For some commentary on this workshop see: http://civileats.com/2010/09/01/usdadoj-livestock-hearings-were-a-success-now-what/

FUNDING

2011 Community Food Projects Request for Applications (RFA)

“The USDA's Community Food Projects (CFP) Competitive Grants Program provides the major funding source for community-based food and agriculture projects nationwide.” The Community Food Security Coalition provides information and resources for applying in their email update.  Source: http://us1.campaign-archive.com/?u=923d8af6802cd35b0a1f16530&id=13cad632ff

USDA Announces Funding to Expand School Community Gardens and Garden-Based Learning Opportunities

USDA logo“WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA will establish a Peoples’ Garden School Pilot Program to develop and run community gardens at eligible high-poverty schools; teach students involved in the gardens about agriculture production practices, diet, and nutrition; and evaluate the learning outcomes. This $1 million pilot program is authorized under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. A cooperative agreement will be awarded to implement a program in up to five States. To be eligible as project sites, schools must have 50 percent or more students qualifying for free or reduced-price school meals.” Source: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/PressReleases/2010/0420.htm

SARE Grants Available for Sustainable Ag Efforts

SARE logo“The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, a USDA grants program, supports agricultural efforts that meet the three principles of sustainability. Farmers and others who participate in the agricultural field need to demonstrate that their projects are economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible when they apply to the following grants:” Source: http://www.urbanfarmhub.org/2010/09/sare-grants-available-for-sustainable-ag-efforts/

‘Renegade Lunch Lady’ and Whole Foods Market® invite schools to apply for grants to fund salad bars

Whole Foods Logo“With an ambitious vision to place a healthy salad bar in every public school in America, Chef Ann Cooper’s Food, Family, Farming Foundation (F3) and America’s leading natural and organic foods supermarket, Whole Foods Market®, announced today that the Great American Salad Bar Project’s grant application is now open for schools to apply for a free salad bar kit. The window to apply for the grant at www.saladbarproject.org is Sept. 1 through Nov. 1, 2010. Applicants must participate in the National School Lunch Program and demonstrate a commitment to sustaining a healthy cafeteria salad bar.” Source: http://www.saladbarproject.org/news/press-release2.pdf

AGGREGATION, DISTRIBUTION, INFRASTRUCTURE

A New Recipe for Feeding the Farm-to-Table Chain

“Mr. Mondragon and Mr. Beriau are two links in a fragile new supply chain known as the San Francisco Foodshed Project, which was launched in July by several nonprofits and business groups to connect small, local farmers with diners within a few hours' drive. The effort is part of a burgeoning movement nationwide in which nonprofits and businesses are trying to find viable models for distributing food locally.” Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703946504575470212852902950.html

Mapping Slaughter Availability in the US

ERS Slaughter Availability“Using data from FSIS and from the most recent USDA Agricultural Census, [USDA’s Food Saftey and Inspection Service has] developed maps showing the densities of small livestock and poultry producers per county and the locations of establishments available to slaughter their animals.  USDA will use these maps to identify areas where assistance or outreach would help build or maintain slaughter capacity within local or regional food systems.” The second and improved version of these maps are now available showing updated slaughter facility data, including locations of additional State-inspected establishments. Source: http://kyf.blogs.usda.gov/2010/08/23/mapping-slaughter-availability-in-u-s/

VALUE CHAINS

Sustainable Food Industry Leaders Offer Innovative Incentives to Certify Suppliers for Sustainability Practices

Food Alliance Logo“Bon Appétit Management Company and Pacific Coast Fruit Company recently announced two separate incentive programs to increase their supply of Food Alliance Certified products and ingredients. For a limited time, each company is offering financial assistance to offset the initial cost of certification, encouraging more of their current vendors to become Food Alliance Certified.” Source: http://foodalliance.org/newsroom/release-archive/2010/Incentive%20Press%20Release.pdf See also: http://www.sustainablefoodnews.com/story.php?news_id=10325 (registration required)

Sodexo and Coalition of Immokalee Workers Sign Fair Food Agreement

Sodexho logo“With consumer demand for sustainable food growing by the day, Sodexo, North America’s leading provider of Quality of Daily Life Solutions and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a leading voice for human rights in the US agricultural industry, have joined forces to improve farm worker wages and working conditions in the tomato fields of Florida. The agreement that establishes the new partnership was signed this week and takes effect when the fall harvest begins in Florida.” Source: http://www.ciw-online.org/ciw_sodexo_joint_release.html

PRODUCERS

FoodCorps Call for Host Sites

“A new service program promises to recruit an army of volunteers to help transform school food and, perhaps, groom a new generation of farmers.” Source: http://civileats.com/2010/08/30/foodcorps-call-for-host-sites/

Organic crops find home on California refuge land

“Even with a short water supply this year, many growers in Northern California’s Klamath Basin are confident that the federal wetland-crop rotation system offered on Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge land is a “win-win” for farmers and wildlife.” Source: http://www.sustainablefoodnews.com/story.php?news_id=10380 (registration required)

FARMERS MARKETS

Farmers Markets as Small Business Incubators

Kathleen MerriganOn August 29, “CBS News featured USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan and discussed how farmers markets are part of a fundamental shift in the way people access their food and interact with their community.  And, as the story notes, “… [f]armers markets and other forms of selling straight to customers are helping to keep farmers in business,” which is why those of us at the Agriculture Marketing Service were excited to report that there are now 6,100-plus farmers markets, recognizing that these markets provide jobs and economic growth opportunities for their producers.” Source:  http://kyf.blogs.usda.gov/2010/09/01/farmers-markets-as-small-business-incubators/

AFT Announces Top Four Farmers Markets

“Over 50,000 people from across the country voted for their favorite farmers markets this summer,” said Jane Kirchner, Senior Director of Marketing for American Farmland Trust (AFT). “And in the last three weeks of the promotion, we’ve seen the top 20 markets in each category change positions, sometimes daily.” Source: http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Shopping/farmers_markets/aft_announces_top_four_farmers_markets_pr_0209100713.html

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Add your profile to the NGFN Database

org button blueAre you part of a food and farm initiative that more people should know about? Are you skilled or knowledgeable in an area of this work and ready to be part of it? Do you have some research to share? Then create your profile on ngfn.org to make sure your work shows up in the National Good Food Network's database of experts, organizations, and information. The database is just starting. Help it grow into the comprehensive clearinghouse we could all use!

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NGFN Media Outlets

TwitterFind us on Twitter and YouTube. And if you haven't signed up for our mailing list, sign up to keep up on the latest activity in the Network! Note: if you already receive our NGFN e-mail, but would like to be on one of the Wallace Center's other mailing lists (e.g. the food safety updates) you should click on the "Change e-mail update settings" at the bottom of one of the e-mails from us.

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