The landscape of food on children’s plates here in Nebraska is diverse, healthy, and delicious. This helps farm to school in Nebraska embrace the entire plate.
Farm to School is a natural fit for Nebraska's rich history in agriculture. The term "Farm to School" refers to schools serving locally grown or produced fresh foods from the school cafeteria. This can range from fruits and vegetables to eggs to honey to meat. Often schools incorporate curriculums built around nutrition, agriculture, and science. Doing this creates learning opportunities based on experience, like farm visits, gardening, and culinary and entrepreneurial programs.
Greenhouse to Cafeteria Program
Since 2016, the Center for Rural Affairs has provided financial and technical support to Nebraska schools seeking to improve greenhouse and gardening programs. Our most recent program, Greenhouse to Cafeteria, partnered with Nebraska FFA and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, to support 10 rural schools in increasing food production in their greenhouses. Click here to learn about the annual Greenhouse to Cafeteria award.
Southwest Iowa Farm to School
Carroll, Fremont-Mills, Logan-Magnolia, East Mills, and Stanton school districts in southwest Iowa have been selected to begin and/or reinvigorate agriculture education in a new farm to school agriculture education program hosted by the Center for Rural Affairs.
These schools were selected from applicants in the Monona, Crawford, Harrison, Shelby, Pottawattamie, Cass, Mills, Montgomery, Fremont, Carroll, Audubon, and Page counties.
Goals of this program are to increase access to agriculture and gardening skills for food production and to promote access to healthy, delicious locally-grown foods for students and their families. Visit our Southwest Iowa Farm to School page for more.
Bringing the Farm to School Producer trainings
Beginning in 2022, the Center partnered with Nebraska Department of Education, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, and No More Empty Pots to train farmers and ranchers in marketing and selling their products directly to schools. These workshops, titled Bringing the Farm to School, explore how producers can develop products, set prices, make farm plans, and work directly with school nutrition directors to get their products into the cafeteria. The first of these training sessions was held in Omaha in March 2022 with 20 participants. Future trainings are planned for Winnebago, Nebraska, as well as Central and Western Nebraska in 2023.
How to get involved in Farm to School
2022 Mountain Plains Crunch Off
October is Farm to School Month and the Crunch Off celebrates local foods in schools by devoting one day for students to bite into something crunchy, like local apples or carrots. Nebraska will compete with other states in our region. Nebraska was victorious in 2021 with a total of 58,123 participants (3% of Nebraska’s population) biting into local foods.
For more information visit the Nebraska Department of Education website.
Serve a Nebraska-sourced meal in the school cafeterias on the first Thursday of each month and celebrate Nebraska Thursdays. Devoting this single day to local food each month will allow you to jump start Farm to School programs and build interest with staff and students.
Harvest of the Month
Harvest of the Month is a statewide farm to school program that promotes a different Nebraska specialty crop for each month of the school year. The program provides schools with resources to sample and serve local foods in the cafeteria.
For more information, visit the Nebraska Department of Education website.
Building a greenhouse
- Greenhouse to Cafeteria Toolkit - Center for Rural Affairs
- Greenhouse Manual - US Botanic Garden
- Miniature Greenhouse - Purple Plow
- 95 DIY Greenhouse Plans - Epic Gardening
- Harvesting Hope - UMÓⁿHOⁿ Nation Public Schools
- Greenhouse Stories - Center for Rural Affairs
- School Garden Program - Slow Food USA
- Curriculum Toolkit - Island Grown Schools
- Curriculum/Technical - KidsGardening
- Beetles Project - Lawrence Hall of Science
- Curriculum and Activities - Big Green
- Education Programs and Resources - Healthy Kids Happy Planet
- Resources - Project Learning Tree
- Food System Curriculum - Johns Hopkins University (FoodSpan)
- Farm to School Fact Sheets - USDA
- Grower's Library - Johnny's Selected Seeds
- Resource Library - The Edible Schoolyard Project
- Resources - FoodCorps
- Webinar Recording Library - SGSO Network
- School Garden Resources - Life Lab
- Resources - Whole Kids Foundation
- State Agencies (Dept. of Ed, Dept. of Ag, etc.)
- 4-H Junior Master Gardener
- Local farmers and farmer's markets
- Local grocery, garden, hardware stores, etc.
- University Extension offices
- Dietetic interns or master's students (for special projects, research, etc.)
- Cookbooks/food blogs
- STEM/art teachers
- Local botanic gardens
- Local community gardens and community garden organizations
- Local food policy council