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Posts Tagged: farm to school

October is National Farm-to-School Month

Partner with the University of California for National Farm to School Month.
Schools across the country are celebrating local connections to local food producers in October during National Farm to School Month. Education and outreach activities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and field trips are teaching students about healthy, local foods and food's journey from the farm to their forks.

There are plenty of opportunities for teachers and schools to celebrate and get involved in National Farm to School Month with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). Here are a few ideas to get you started.

4-H youth development

Launch a 4-H Club at your school. The 4-H Youth Development Program emphasizes enrichment education through inquiry-based learning. Core content areas include Healthy Living as well as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Clubs have access to a wealth of curricula materials exploring food, agriculture and natural resources. 4-H also offers the Ag in the Classroom school enrichment program.

Lettuce planting delights young gardeners.
Boots on the ground

Invite UC ANR academics and program staff to your career day or science fair or to make a classroom presentation. Specialists from Master Gardeners, Nutrition Education, Project Learning Tree, California Naturalist and other UC ANR programs know how to engage and inspire your students.

Some programs, including Project Learning Tree, offer "train the trainer" professional development workshops that equip educators with the skills and knowledge to teach concepts in their own classrooms. Project Learning Tree also provides free activity guides to teachers who attend their workshops. The guides highlight differentiated instruction, reading connections, and assessment strategies and offer ideas to integrate technology into classroom instruction,

Research and Extension Centers

Take your students on a field trip to a UC ANR Research and Extension Center (REC). The nine RECs in California are focal points for community participation and for active involvement in current and relevant regional agricultural and natural resource challenges.

Visiting a REC offers students a unique opportunity to learn about food production through the lens of applied science research in plant pathology, integrated pest management, conservation tillage, water conservation, development of new crop varieties, and much more. Some RECs also host extended education programs such as Sustainable You! Summer Camp and FARM SMART.

Students learn about post-harvest research at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
Take the first step

The 2016 National Farm to School Month theme is One Small Step, which highlights the easy ways anyone can get informed, get involved and take action to advance farm to school in their own communities and across the country.

Each week will have a different focus:

  • Education (October 3-7)
  • Healthy School Meals (October 10-14)
  • Farmers & Producers (October 17-21)
  • The Next Generation (October 24-28)

Join the celebrations by signing the One Small Step pledge then take your own small step to support healthy kids, thriving farms and vibrant communities this October by partnering with UC ANR.

This story en español.


Posted on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 7:29 AM
  • Author: Roberta Barton

Farm to school programs increase children's access to fresh, seasonal produce

Farm to school programs increase children's access to fresh, seasonal produce

Eating more locally grown food could improve the health of students and the local economy

Donnie Barclift, Oakland Unified School District chef, right, talks with Gail Feenstra as he prepares pozole.
If kids are introduced to fruits and vegetables at school, will they be more likely to choose to eat produce on an ongoing basis? That's the hope of University of California researchers who studied schools that served meals prepared with local produce.

The dramatic rise of obesity and diabetes in children has prompted nutrition experts to encourage parents to offer their children a more healthful diet with more produce. Yet fewer than 10 percent of California children consume the minimum recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, according to a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"School nutrition program directors are in the driver's seat. They're already making good decisions about changing school food across their districts," said Gail Feenstra, food systems analyst for the University of California's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, who led the study.  "We wanted to bring the resources of the university to bear and help them move forward."

For this three-year project, the UC researchers worked with three school districts: Oakland Unified School District, Winters Joint Unified School District (west of Sacramento) and Enterprise Elementary School District in Redding.

"The objective was to connect regional growers with school lunch programs so they could buy more fresh seasonal regional food for the school meal program," Feenstra said. "To encourage school gardening, we provided professional development for the school nutrition program directors, teachers, parents and others. We also measured kids' consumption of fresh seasonal regional food and their preferences for fresh vegetables."

The results have been positive: all three districts increased their purchases of fresh, seasonal, local produce. The definition of "local" varies depending on the location of the school district and time of year, but is generally within a 250-mile radius.  Much of the success is due to the creativity of school chefs in modifying their purchasing practices and making delicious meals from the fresh produce.

Oakland Unified chef Donnie Barclift won an award from celebrity chef Rachael Ray for his recipe for pozole con pescado, a zesty tomato-based soup filled with fish and vegetables.

"I take great pride in the work we are doing to integrate into our menus, not just fresh, but fresh local seasonal produce," said Barclift.  "It's also important that we are teaching kids where their food comes from and the importance of fresh produce in their daily diets.  It's wonderful to get food fresh from a farm instead of a factory."

Oakland Unified School District spent $794,000 on produce the first year, of which 11 percent was local. In the final year, Oakland's total produce purchases increased to $1.36 million with 31 percent locally sourced. Winters Joint Unified School District's produce purchases leaped from $7,707 and 6.6 percent local to $43,000 and 51 percent local. Enterprise Elementary School District doubled its produce spending from $89,000 and 4.4 percent local to $177,000 and 20 percent local.

Oakland doubled the number of its farmstands on the school grounds from 12 to 25 schools, involving more parents and community members and increasing students' access to fresh produce.
During the three-year project, student participation in Oakland's school meal program increased by 17 percent. Oakland doubled the number of its farmstands on the school grounds from 12 to 25 schools, involving more parents and community members and increasing students' access to fresh produce.  The school district also created a district-specific branding of its farm to school program: Oakland Eats Garden Fresh. To ensure the program continues, OUSD has hired a full time Farm to School coordinator.

In Winters, students more than doubled their consumption of fruit and total produce. Rominger Middle School planted a new school garden that is contributing to students learning about growing their own food. WJUSD students' parents reported a significant increase in their children's consumption of kiwi fruit at home and a slight increase in overall consumption of vegetables.

Students were asked to identify, taste and rate fresh, raw produce such as asparagus, cucumber, bell pepper, cabbage and kiwi fruit. Overall, the students improved their ability to identify the selected fruit and vegetables. Students reported that they would ask a family member to purchase spinach and bell pepper and that they would eat them as a snack.

"We were excited to learn that the students exposed to this program were able to identify new types of produce and that they would ask their families to purchase these items at home. This is an important step towards increasing children's consumption of fruits and vegetables," said Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Nutrition and co-director of the Center for Nutrition in Schools at UC Davis

Each school district has reaped other benefits from the project. Oakland developed a new bid process for buying produce to specify that products had to come from local farms and was able to increase local produce purchases by 40 percent.

In Winters, parents, farmers and others formed a nonprofit farm to school organization to raise money so the school district can continue the farm to school efforts. The money will help buy fresh local produce, support school gardens and fund other related activities.

In Redding, a grower began acting as an aggregator, delivering local produce from several local farms to the school district's kitchen so the school could work with one supplier and write a single check. Enterprise Elementary School District has also added nutrition education to the professional development offered to its staff. 

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has awarded Zidenberg-Cherr's research group a grant to work on the "Shaping Healthy Choices Program" with two other school districts – Elk Grove Unified School District in Sacramento County and Sylvan Union School District in Stanislaus County. They are studying how a multi-component program that includes classroom nutrition education, family and community participation, regional produce procurement, nutrition services and school gardening can influence students' food choices, critical thinking skills and health-related outcomes. This is a highly collaborative project that relies on expertise from the Department of Nutrition, Human Ecology, Population Health and Reproduction at UC Davis, the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute, UC Davis Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing and UC Cooperative Extension in Sacramento and Stanislaus counties.  The UC researchers are working with school staff and school wellness committee members to ensure the schools will be able to continue the Shaping Healthy Choices Program on their own.

Feenstra sees the key to encouraging children to eat fruits and vegetables throughout their lives as requiring more than putting the produce on their plates at school. Enticing them to try new items, getting them interested in growing food in gardens, teaching them about nutrition and involving their parents all play important roles in the learning process, she said.

"Since Cooperative Extension is a part of so many different counties, as we move forward in farm to school, I think that making sure that we involve Cooperative Extension and the nutrition education component in addition to school gardening and procurement is a really important way to think comprehensively about where we need to go next," Feenstra said.

In addition to improving children's access to fresh, seasonal produce, farm to school programs provide new markets for regional farmers.

This farm to school study was funded by a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.


Prize-winning recipe created by Donnie Barclift, Oakland Unified School District chef

Pozole con Pescado

Servings: 50 one-cup servings

Raw Atlantic Pollock. As an option, you may use other types of fish such as cod or tilapia.

1. Coat baking pan with oil or melted butter.

2. Lay filets in baking pan.

3. Combine the garlic and chili powder and cumin.

4. Lightly sprinkle seasoning blend on filets and bake until done in a pre-heated 350 degree oven (about 5 to 7 minutes).

5. Once done, allow fish to sit for five minutes then cut into chunks, about 1-inch cubes.


1. Saute celery and onions in 4 TBSP olive oil until onions are translucent.

  1.5 cups celery, chopped

  1.5 cups onion, fresh, diced

2. Combine the sauteed onion and celery with the ingredients below in a soup pot and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  2 #10 can tomatoes, crushed

  1 #10 can + 5 cups yellow hominy (undrained)

  14 oz diced green chilis

  3/4 cup chili powder

  3 TBSP garlic, granulated

  2 TBSP cumin

  1 TBSP cayenne pepper, ground

  1/2 tsp ground black pepper

3. Add kale during the last 10 minutes

4. Wash and shred the cabbage. Serve 1/8 cup on top of soup for garnish.

  1.5 lb cabbage, fresh, raw, chopped

Serving the pozole:

To insure proper fish portioning, portion 1 cup of the soup into a serving bowl, then float 1 ounce of fish chunks on the soup. Serve with warm, whole-grain flat bread or another bread item that equals 1 grain bread. Half of a 6-inch whole grain flat bread is the portion. Heat in a warmer, cut into quarters before serving and serve 2 quarters of bread per bowl of pozole.

How do we get better food in our schools?

According to FoodCorps, only 2% of children eat enough fruits and vegetables. Kids in the south suffer from very high rates of obesity. 1 in 3 children born in 2000 are on track to develop type II diabetes and 50% of children of color are expected to develop diabetes during their lifetimes. That's an astounding number.

So how do we fix this? Debra Eschmeyer of FoodCorps (and speaker at California Roots, Global Reach) says we start with the schools.

Watch her video to see how:


Posted on Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 10:27 AM
  • Author: Marissa Palin
Tags: children (3), diabetes (4), farm to school (3), food (59), fresh (1), fruit (34), obesity (51), school garden (6), schools (4), vegetables (52)

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