Building Farm to School Connections and Capacity with Farmers and Communities Through Education and Outreach
This past summer, KRC was one of 159 schools and organizations across the country awarded a USDA farm to school grant to plan, implement, or provide training on farm to school activities. Along with KRC, two other grants were awarded in Kansas including the Kansas City Food Hub and the KS Department of Education.
The increasing desire to source local food in school meals has created a need for increased education and training opportunities for producers interested in supplying schools with fresh produce and meat. Natalie Fullerton, Assistant Director at KRC states, “A full systems approach is needed for farm to school to succeed therefore educating not only farmers and school personnel but the community at large is critical.”
USDA provided a universal objective for all grantees to meet for grant funding; improve access to local foods in eligible schools by implementing or expanding a comprehensive farm or school program that includes local procurement and agricultural education efforts.
The Kansas Rural Center and its farm to school partners, through workshops, community gatherings, and storytelling, will meet this objective by providing educational programs and training that strengthens: 1.) Farmers knowledge of how to produce food safely for schools and the market opportunities, and how to work with school food programs through trainings; 2.) Community involvement and understanding of farm to school programs and specific needs or opportunities through town halls and success stories; and 3.) Youth understanding of where and how food is grown through farm visits and increased access to local food in school meal programs.
This past October, Farm to School month, KRC hosted a statewide virtual Farm to school Town hall to kick off the project. The town hall invited community leaders and schools to tune in and learn from successful farm to school programs around the state. Fellow farm to school partner and grantee, Alicia Ellingsworth with the KC Food Hub lead a panel that included Mark Jirak, Jirak Family produce, David Kirkendall, USD 326, Lindsay Morgan, USD 497, and Sondra Davis, USD 350.
Panelists shared that while there is great success with a few Farm to School programs, the opportunities for more schools to engage with local farmers is exciting. However, the challenge is that there is no one-size-fits-all and merging the public and private sectors requires navigation since both groups function quite differently. Those schools, communities and farmers that have navigated this relationship have found that much more than nutritious food is being introduced. In addition, there is a whole new framework for them to benefit their community both with connections and commerce. A Full summary of the town hall can be found online at: https://kansasruralcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Kansas-Rural-Center-Town-Hall-Farm-to-School-Final_KRC.pdf.
Over the next year, KRC will focus on providing training from producers and education for communities. This fall, KRC staff participated in a pilot program evaluating curriculum called Brining the Farm to School. Developed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and National Farm to School Network (NFSN), the curriculum is designed to train farmers on important aspects of growing and working with schools. The program will bring together a state and regional team of leaders in the spring and summer of 2021 to be trained on using the curriculum. KRC will participate and use the curriculum in future farm to school producer training.
Throughout the year KRC will highlight successful farm to school programs and feature farms working with schools to elevate what can be done in Kansas. Fullerton says, “It’s important to not only focus on the practical hands on aspects of this project but to also acknowledge and celebrate the successes being built and working along the way.”
Kaitlin Stanley will lead this project. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.