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School Food FOCUS

In larger school districts, farm to school programs require some special considerations. An overview of the services provided by FOCUS, and a case study from Saint Paul Public Schools.

June 17, 2010: School Food FOCUS


School Food FOCUS is a national initiative that helps participating school districts with 40,000 or more students to procure more healthful, more sustainably produced and regionally sourced food.

The program director of School Food FOCUS presents an overview of the organization, including services they provide, followed by an in-depth case study of the highly successful Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) project. This case study is presented from two perspectives - that of the nutrition services purchasing analyst, and also from the community partner, a role that FOCUS contends is crucial to finding success. The webinar closes with some perspective on avenues of collaboration between the National Good Food Network and School Food FOCUS.


  • Kathy Lawrence, Program Director, School Food FOCUS
  • Jim Groskopf, Nutrition Services Purchasing Analyst, Saint Paul Public Schools
  • JoAnne Berkenkamp, Program Director for Local Foods, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)




Webinar Resources


Presenter Biographies

Kathy Lawrence has worked for twenty years in sustainable agriculture, local food systems development, and non-profit management.  She is the Program Director of School Food FOCUS, a national initiative that helps large school districts with 40,000 or more students procure more healthful, more sustainably produced and regionally sourced food so that children may perform better in school and be healthier in life.

Before serving as Executive Director of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, Kathy directed Just Food, the New York City-based non-profit organization she founded in 1995. Prior to that she coordinated outreach and education for the New York and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Groups (SAWGs) and engaged in citizen advocacy at the United Nations. Kathy serves on the boards of Just Food and NESAWG, sings in an a cappella jazz quartet, and is devoted to her perennial flower gardens.

Jim Groskopf is the Purchasing Analyst for the Saint Paul MN Public Schools Nutrition Services Department. He earned his BS degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from University of Wisconsin – Stout. Jim is Past President of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association, and a member of the first School Food FOCUS Learning Lab team. He is also on the Minnesota School Nutrition Association Farm to School Task Force and a voting member of the Minnesota School Food Buying Group.

JoAnne Berkenkamp is the Program Director for Local Foods at the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP) in Minneapolis.  IATP partners closely with the Minnesota School Nutrition Association to build Farm to School activities across the state, and partners with the St. Paul Public Schools in the national School Food FOCUS Network.  IATP also works closely with the Minnesota Dept of Health on state-wide Farm to School efforts through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP).


Written Answers to Questions

Q: For St. Paul Schools, how are you able to get by without selling a la carte options? Was anyone upset? Do you offer reimbursable meal options?

A: Our a la carte sales were very limited tio begin with ie small bags of chips, small cookies, ice cream and other small size snack items. District wide sales were approx $200,000 yr. We strongly encourage students to take the re-imbursable meal by offering a good mix of selections. We stopped selling burgers, pizza etc in a la carte lines probably 15 years ago.

Q: Which distributors are you working with?

A: Cre8it, Inc in St. Paul

Q: Are you working with any of the military services?

A: WIth our One Tray partners we're working to get more clarity, flexibility and responsiveness within the DoD Fresh program. For more detailed information you may contact Sheilah Davidson (FOCUS) and Marion Kalb (National Farm to School Network).

Q: Is School Food FOCUS looking to or willing to partner with any more schools? If yes, how does a school get connected?

A: Yes, with school DISTRICTS serving 40,000 students or more.  Please be in touch with our stakeholder liaison, Sheilah Davidson

Q: How do we get hold of the FOCUS Briefs that Kathy mentioned?

A: The first two of our School Food 101 briefs and the first two ""Learnings from the Lab"" are available on our website under Publications.

Q: Does FOCUS only work with cities? Are there groups that can serve rural areas, (given that there are very different challenges in rural vs. urban)?

A: Our criterion is school districts of 40,000 and above, not urban, so that does include a number of consolidated rural school districts.  Also, the procurement and supply chain changes that are made in larger districts open up opportunities and access to higher quality food for districts of all sizes.  We have numerous examples of this throughout the FOCUS network.

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