Top 10 Lessons from the Farm to School Summit

Last month’s Farm to School Summit held in Aurora, Nebraska, was a smash hit. We learned a host of things to help us move Farm to School forward. I hope they inspire you to act for your schools and communities!

  1. Keep it simple. When folks begin to implement Farm to School, they tend to get hung up on the details. Avoid this trap by setting small, realistic goals. Starting small is ok and encouraged!
  2. Think rural and urban communities. The program works in both types, and there’s no measurement or standard for progress. In Nebraska, some schools have Farm to School programs that are ready to grow, and others are starting from scratch.
  3. Student drivers. In some communities, students have driven Farm to School with their requests for fresher, healthier, more nourishing foods. Student involvement and feedback is key. And they want to be heard! One school nurse noticed children were often sick after lunch. She used the school’s wellness policy to become involved in school lunches. Once the school started serving fresh, healthy food, the problem was solved!
  4. Nearly 10,000 rural students were represented. A diverse group of wellness, research, education, nutrition, production, distribution and processing experts gathered. The summit had 17 presenters, 13 panelists, 17 exhibitors, 21 schools, and 51 farmers, with a total attendance of 110 folks.
  5. Sharing stories brings Farm to School to life. Schools, producers, and communities learned more simply by sharing successes and challenges. Everyone who participated in our networking session said they may or will sell to or purchase from one another in the future.
  6. Farmers, it’s on you. School food service directors extended an open invitation for farmers to approach schools directly. They are often pressed for time and don’t always know where to begin with finding a producer willing to procure to schools.
  7. Food service directors, it’s on you too. Farmers want to know what schools might buy. That way they can purchase seeds 4 to 8 months before harvest and know what schools need to have grown for their menus.
  8. Aquaponics is a win-win. An aquaponics project takes very little space, provides multiple classroom lessons, and can provide fresh food for the school. Actually it’s a win-win-win!
  9. Think beyond produce. Farm to School provides an opportunity for a variety of food choices for school meals. Mushrooms, grains, meats, dairy – what more can you think of?
  10. New Food and Drug Administration rules. Major new rules from FDA will affect how farmers grow food and how schools can purchase it. Comments on the draft rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act are accepted until December 15.

You can learn more about the Center for Rural Affairs Farm to School work here. And let me know if you have questions – Sandra Renner, or 402.687.2103 ext 1020.