Building professional capacity to enhance farm-to-school marketing and distribution networks

Final Report for ENE05-094

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2005: $110,487.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Jennifer Wilkins
Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University
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Project Information

Summary:

In K-12 school cafeterias and college dining halls across the country, there is growing interest in providing students with foods that have been produced by local or regional farmers. This interest has been kindled by school food service and college dining directors, students, farmers, students, school staff, parents, and others striving to improve the quality of school meals, strengthen and diversify markets for family farmers, enhance understanding of agriculture and food systems, and build community. More recently concern over rising food costs in response in part to increasing fuel prices is increasing interest in food transported short distances.

These community members as individuals and partners seek information and strategies they can use to make farm to school connections. This project was designed to help build the capacity of Extension educators and other community leaders to effectively respond to these needs and, in doing so, support efforts to develop, strengthen, and sustain farm to school projects in New York State.

To build capacity for farm to school we focused on two main objectives: 1) increasing understanding of farm to school opportunities, challenges, and strategies; and 2) developing process skills for helping those wanting to start or enhance farm to school programs. We approached these objectives simultaneously through the development of a farm to school toolkit, “Farm to School in the Northeast: Making the Connection for Healthy Kids and Healthy Farms” and a two phased training program. The toolkit consists of six chapters, each with a toolbox and a resource section, designed to help users assess their capacity for farm to school, build relationships, work collaboratively to develop and implement a plan, and evaluate progress. During Phase I of the training program, participants were introduced to the toolkit, basic farm to school concepts, and others in their region with an interest in farm to school. Phase II consisted of a series of training and technical assistance sessions designed to help participants actually draw on the toolkit to design, implement, and evaluate a farm to school project.

The toolkit has been promoted broadly through email announcements and listings in both print and e-publications. It has been well-received by reviewers and users alike. Phase I of our training was very successful – we exceeded the number of participants we identified as a goal in our milestones, with 150 participants. Phase II went well but did not include the number of participants we sought to engage. We set a goal of having 35 of our Phase I participants join us to implement a farm to school program in Phase II and were able to recruit only 20 to the training. Despite our efforts to walk participants through the design, implementation, and evaluation of farm to school project, moreover, the majority of these participants did not implement a project during the course of the training, though they emphasized the value of the trainings and their intent to implement a project at some point later on. An important unintended outcome of this project is a core curriculum designed to support farm to school programming that can easily be adapted for use across the Northeast.

Performance Target:

Of the 60 Cooperative Extension educators participating, 35 will conduct one to three farm-to-school assessments yielding recommendations to food service directors. Twenty of these educators will continue to work with school food service directors to implement the recommendations and evaluate changes in local food purchases. Of the 17 k-12 and college food service directors who participate in the training programs, 12 will demonstrate increased knowledge and skills to initiate local purchasing and will increase purchases of locally produced foods.
We will know we have reached this performance target by:
 Documented gains in educator ability to conduct farm-to-school assessments through role play and demonstration in the workshops;
 Receipt of Farm-to-School Recommendations from 35 cooperative extension educators.
 Adoption by 20 schools of at least one recommendation made by an extension educator.
 Identification of at least three local farm products that will be purchased by 20 schools and colleges in appropriate form and quantity and incorporated into student meals.
 Record of types and amounts of local products purchased direct or ordered through a supplier by at least seven school districts and three colleges.
Data will be collected by the project team on the number of farmers involved, sales volumes and income generated by farmers as a result of the extension educators’ efforts.
As a consequence of this project, beneficiaries will gain an in-depth understanding of school food service and acquire the skills needed to assess schools and their surrounding food and agriculture system. By using the Farm-to-School Assessment Toolkit extension educators will be better able facilitate and initiate farm-to-school connections thereby building their capacity and the capacity of stakeholders to strengthen farm viability and local food systems.
It is important to note that one of the important lessons we learned in this project was that our assumption that we would be able to implement these tracking mechanisms was not realistic. These bench marks could not be measured given that participants were not able to follow though on intentions with a commitment to developing and implementing at least one recommendation. Perhaps providing additional incentive for implementation in addition to technical support would increase engagement in actual projects. Despite lack of tangible progress in measurable farm to school connections, our evaluation and the connections participants did begin to make, suggest that our objectives were met. That is, beneficiaries indicated that they have an in-depth understanding of school food service and have acquired skills (and tools) to help them assess schools and their surrounding food system; they also indicated and demonstrated that they feel better able to facilitate and initiate farm to school connections than before participating in the program. (see appendices for evaluation comments).

Introduction:

Farm to School refers to the promotion and use of foods produced by local farmers in meals served in cafeterias of K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, and related educational efforts to increase nutrition, health, and agricultural and food system literacy. Farm to School is a part of the broader “Farm to Cafeteria” movement, which also includes the use and promotion of locally produced foods in cafeterias of hospitals, nursing homes, businesses and other institutions. Local foods can be used in a salad bar set up in the cafeteria, as part of the main dish in the hot lunch, or as a side dish.
Depending on the interests and resources at the school and within a community, farm to school programs can include a number of elements in addition to featuring locally-produced food in the meals. Examples of such elements include: Nutrition, cooking, and food system education in the classroom; School gardens and garden-based learning; Farmer visits to schools and college dining halls; Student and food service staff visits to farms; Harvest events; and Local fruit and vegetable variety tastings.

In the Northeast, a region known for its distinct seasons, fruits and vegetables each have specific harvest periods. But thanks to advances in storage technology, many are available for extended periods and, with freezing, canning, and drying, local fruits and vegetables can be enjoyed in school and college cafeterias throughout the year. Further, in addition to fruits and vegetables, there are many other local foods from the Northeast that can be incorporated into school meals. For example, the region produces a wide range of animal products (milk and cheeses, meats, eggs and poultry), grains, and legumes – foods from all the food groups. (For a consumer food guide based on Northeastern farms and food, visit the Northeast Regional Food Guide website: http://nefoodguide.cce.cornell.edu/).

There are several trends and issues that together have given rise to interest in developing farm to school connections. These include:
 Childhood adolescent overweight and obesity. Prevalence of overweight among children and teens ages 6-19, at 16% (or more than 9 million kids) has tripled since 1980. 4%. It is estimated that about 70% of overweight adolescents will become overweight adults, increasing their risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
 Poor Diet Quality. It is well-established that diets rich in fruits and vegetables are associated with multiple health benefits, including decreased risk for some types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. High fruit and vegetable intake may help prevent cancers initiated at the onset of puberty.
Unfortunately, only 22% of young people eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Many of those who do still don’t follow what we can call a healthy diet. Fat-laden French-fried potatoes alone constitute approximately 23% of all vegetables consumed. Over 60% of U.S. children and adolescents exceed recommended limit for dietary saturated fat. Only 39% of children ages 2-17 get the recommended 20-25 grams of dietary fiber per day. With its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, farm to school programs can help address this problem.

 Substantial untapped market for Farmers. With nearly 21,000 K-12 schools and over 550 colleges in the northeastern states – and with most of them serving meals to hungry students every school day – these institutions collectively represent an enormous largely yet untapped market for farmers. On any given day 5,541,183 first to twelfth-graders will choose a reimbursable meal for lunch served in the cafeteria of one of the 20,728 participating schools in the Northeast. The number of students eating school lunch is even greater when those students opting for ala carte items are added in. The amount of revenue in the form of federal reimbursement for lunch alone is $349,187,985 for the northeast region. A growing number of farm to college programs are providing models for other institutions of higher learning as their dining services consider greater engagement with their local food and agriculture system. With 559 colleges and universities in the Northeast region and increasing interest on the part of students and dining services to link with local and sustainable food systems, the potential for farm to college in our region is substantial.

 Pressure on farms and farmland. Trends in agriculture in the Northeast largely parallel the nation with respect to farm size and number and the total number of acres in agriculture. Farms in the Northeast, however, are generally smaller in acreage. Both the new crises and new opportunities in Northeast agriculture are mostly the result of the expansion of urban areas in recent decades. As the urban fringe expands outward it puts economic pressure on farmers because their land has dramatically increased in value. Farmers who use a lot of land as part of an extensive, efficient operation need relatively cheap land to make a profit from their work. This urbanization, in addition to falling agricultural prices, has shrunk the farming sector in the Northeast over the past few decades. According to the Census of Agriculture, over 5 million acres were lost from agriculture in the Northeast between 1978 and 1997, representing over one-sixth of all farm land. The number of farms in the region declined by over 26,000, or 16%, in the same time period. The 1997 Census of Agriculture showed that the number of farms went up slightly between 1992 and 1997, suggesting these downward trends may be reversing, at least temporarily.
In general, farmers in the Northeast have sought to make their operations competitive by linking themselves more closely with their buyers. Schools may soon become important buyers of our regions’ farms.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Betsey Bacelli
  • Martha Goodsell
  • Meredith Graham

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

During Phase I, program participants attended regional workshops where they (1) met and were given opportunities to network with others interested in making farm to school connections; (2) were introduced to the toolkit and guided through its chapters and resource sections, with the goal of helping them to understand farm to school basics, including challenges, opportunities and success strategies. During Phase II, participants engaged in a series of nine training sessions that drew on the toolkit to develop or enhance a farm to school project.

Individual assessments of school districts and/or college dining and area farmers can assure that initial steps to create farm-to-school connections are successful and lead to expansion rather than wariness and lack of interest. Educators and community leaders throughout New York State received training on the use of the toolkit and how to put it in action, through six workshops. Workshop participants also attended educational school food service tours to increase their understanding of the practicalities of cafeterias and dining halls. They were also given the opportunity to sign up for technical assistance in the implementation of a farm-to-school project. The technical assistance phase of the project involved this subgroup of trained educators who received support in their efforts to conduct actual school or college-level assessments, develop site-specific recommendations, provide resources, and assist in the initial phases of a farm-to-school project as indicated by the assessment. (As noted above, our expectations for this phase, with respect to assessments and project implementation, turned out to be unrealistic; that is, in practice, it takes more time than we allotted for farm to school relationships to be developed.)

CCE educators participating in the technical assistance component of the project were also trained in the basics of school food service and in facilitating meetings between farmers, food service directors, processors, and distributors. These meetings were meant to effectively address gaps in understanding of NYS agriculture and seasonal availability, limited appreciation of the needs and realities of school food service, and under-utilization of local processing facilities as outlets for local farm products. Our goal to assess change in the amount and types of NYS grown food served in school cafeterias and college dining halls was unachievable since none of the intended projects and plans for implementation progressed this far by the time the project ended. Educational resources for classroom use and for dining hall/cafeteria signage were provided via the toolkit to participating schools and colleges. These are available in pdf format on the Cornell Farm to School Research and Extension website.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

Milestone 1: The project team, in collaboration with a multi-stakeholder team will develop a “Farm-to-School Assessment Toolkit”. This resource will be piloted by team members with members of the NYS School Food Service Association. Verification will take place through the refining and publication of the assessment tool responding to pilot testing.

The toolkit, “Farm to School in the Northeast: Making the Connection for Healthy Kids and Healthy Farms” was completed in early 2007 and made available for free as a downloadable pdf on the Cornell Farm to School Research and Extension website http://farmtoschool.cce.cornell.edu, or for a $31 fee, a bound paper version can be ordered. We used a working draft in the Phase I workshops and shared it with several reviewers, including project advisors and Phase I participants, from whom we gathered comments that helped shape the final draft of the toolkit.

Milestone 2: Sixty nutrition, agriculture, and economic development extension educators will attend one training workshop where they will learn the fundamentals of school food service and dining service, the day-to-day operations within the school setting, and how to assess schools and colleges for initiating a farm-to-school project. Verification will be through an attendance sheet and administration of a pre-and post- workshop learning assessment.

We conducted four regional workshops in addition to two preliminary workshops. Our first workshop was took place on November 16, 2005 in Ithaca, NY. A second workshop was held at the Association of Cornell Cooperative Extension Employees (ACCEE) Conference in Syracuse, NY on May 10. 2006. Both of these workshops were planned as we had outlined in the proposal – that is, in the context of an existing conference. One of the important lessons we learned from this format was that a stand-alone workshop would allow for much more thorough treatment of the material, more in-depth review of the toolkit, and greater, more meaningful interaction among participants. We also incorporated the educational tours in with the workshop, which we felt strengthened both experiences. These initial workshops, then, while satisfying the terms of the project, provided important lessons for how to organize and conduct future workshops. We conducted four of these combination tour/workshops during October and November of 2006 with the completed toolkit and in strong partnership with local extension and school district representatives. In total we trained nearly 100 participants on the use of the toolkit. Participants included extension educators, food service management, and contract management company representatives, parents, farmers, county and state agency representatives.

Workshop dates, locations, and participation are summarized below:

1. Monday, October 30th at Alden Central School District, Alden High School 13190 Park Street, Alden NY 14004
Total Participants: 19. Extension educators (6), School food service/admin (10), Marketing/Management (2); Farmers (1)

2. Tuesday, October 31st at Geneva High School, 335 Gambee Road, Geneva, NY 14456
Total Participants: 18. Extension educators (7), School food service/admin (8), Marketing/Management (1); Other (1); Farmers (1)

3. Thursday, November 16th at Schoharie High School, Schoharie Central School District
Schoharie, NY 12157
Total Participants: 37. Extension educators (15), School food service/admin (9), Marketing/Management (4); Other (1); Farmers (8)

4. Friday, November 17th at Irvington High School, Irvington Central School District,
Irvington, NY 10533
Total Participants: 24. Extension educators (6), School food service/admin (7), Marketing/Management (6); Other (parents, agency reps) (5); Farmers (0)

Milestone 3: Fifty educators will participate in at least one tour of K-12 or college food service operations and receive follow-up technical assistance to conduct up to three school/college assessments and develop farm-to-school recommendations. Technical assistance will include recipe and menu ideas, in-class and cafeteria educational resources, and other materials previously developed by the team and previous Northeast SARE projects. Verification will be through copies of recommendations made, conference call participant records, technical assistance log, and list serve log.

Since the tours were incorporated into the last four workshops conducted during the fall of 2006, all workshop participants (see above) participated in the tours. Technical assistance, provided through conference call trainings and and individual consultation, began in May of 2007 and ended in November 2007 (See Appendix for timeline).

Milestone 4: Thirty-five educators will receive assistance from the project team to facilitate one school district or college in carrying out the recommendations provided through the assessment process. Verification will be through personal contact with project team members.

Of the 98 fall 2006 workshop participants, 38 signed up to receive technical assistance in the second phase of the project. Together with the original seven who had signed up during the first trainings, 45 educators and other community leaders expressed interest in receiving technical assistance during Phase II. However, when we shared the technical assistance timeline and asked those interested to formally commit to the technical assistance phase of the training program, despite the strong indication of interest, far fewer people (22) actually committed to participate in Phase II.

It is important to note that of the 22 people who actually committed to Phase II participation, six represented two extension offices and, in actuality, looked to two of the six to participate in the program. In addition, two Phase II participants left their positions and at least two had personal matters that prevented them from being as engaged as they had intended. Thus, only about 12 of the 22 who originally committed to the participate in Phase II actually fully participated in the training through its completion.

Milestone 5: Twelve school districts and five colleges will increase purchases of New York State farm products by at least 15%. Verification will be through submission of pre- and post-purchasing records.

Because none of the participants who continued with the project through Phase II actually were at a stage where the cafeterias they started working with were ready to increase their purchases of NYS products or they were already purchasing significant quantities of NYS products, we were unable to accomplish this milestone. However, verbal and written feedback from Phase II participants demonstrates they were developing relationships with food service directors and farmers that they believed would eventually yield farm to school sales. Thus, the networking and capacity-building which occurred during the project, has helped forge the kinds of partnerships that will eventually lead to more NYS products being purchased and used in NYS school cafeterias. Simply stated, we feel certain that some farm to school activity in the state was initiated at least in part because of the training offered through this project.

At the same time, an important lesson learned is that successful farm to school projects take time to develop, time that does not necessarily fit within typical grant funding cycles. Below are the farm to school plans that Phase II participant submitted as part of their commitment to the project.

Documented Project Plans Received from Phase II Participants

Farm to School: Making It Happen in Your Community
Phase II Project Descriptions
July 17, 2006

Sophie Belanger
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Chenango County

So far I have two different schools interested in participating. One is a small catholic school which only operates during the regular school year. The other is the Norwich public school system that does have a summer program involving approximately 140 students for lunches. I met with both school’s food Directors and I handed them the Needs Assessment sheet to be returned to me as soon as possible.

So far due to the challenges of cost and distribution we plan on starting with the implementation of just a few key item. We have also discussed the importance of participating in Harvest week as an educational tool. The kids need to know where their local food is coming from when they have it on their plates.

I am hoping that Betsy and other more experienced participants of the Farm to School program can further assist me with availability and distribution of produce. But I must emphasize that without education and awareness of where each carrot or apple is coming from, the effort is wasted.

Brian Gilchrist
Laura McDermott
Chrys Nestle
Cornell Cooperative Extension – Washington County

The Washington County Farm-To-School project will:

1. Survey lunch program managers from at least 6 of the 11 school districts in Washington County to determine how they purchase, and their interest in purchasing fresh, local product.

2. Survey local growers and producers to determine their interest in providing product to local schools and what that product would be.

3. Work to have at least 3 of the school districts provide a local product each day during NY Harvest for NY Kids week.

4. Provide and educational component regarding nutrition and the local food system to all schools who participate in some way with either with Farm to School or with NY Harvest Week.

5. Provide all schools with a listing of local growers and the products that they have available.

6. Work to connect at least one school with a local grower for an ongoing relationship.

Patti Hudak
Livingston County/Rochester Area
Parent Advocate /Nutritionist / Horticulturist
NYSNA Member

My first priority is to compile a list of farmers in this multi-county area that are even remotely interested in participating in providing local school cafeterias with their produce and to help them evaluate the pitfalls and work with them to overcome those encumbrances. The local Co-operative extension agency may be able to help with that. To date, I have not engaged them to any real extent.

I feel that in this multi-county area around Rochester there is a multitude of farmers capable of providing a whole host of fresh produce but the logistics of distribution seem to be the greatest obstacle. I’m in a unique situation in that my family business deals with sales of an organic biostimulant to farmers all over this region. We have a very large client base that I intend to draw from to ascertain any interest on the part of farmers and then provide interested Food Service Managers with a list of available sources of market fresh vegetables.

So the second piece to this puzzle is to contact local school administrators and their Food Service Managers to assess their desires for fresh produce in their school systems. This may prove a little difficult during the summer months, but I am starting locally and trying to expand throughout the region so that distribution might be more efficient.

Debbie Richardson
drichard@hannibalcsd.org
315-564-7910×4157
Farm to School Project
Hannibal Central Schools
2007-2008
“ Eating Our Way Through the Alphabet, A-Z”

1. This project will take place at the Fairley Elementary School, a K-4 school with a population of 587 students. Approximately every other week, a letter will be chosen and a fruit or vegetable that begins with that letter will be introduced or re-introduced. Students will receive a sample size portion. I have partnered with Oswego County Farm Bureau who will assist with contacting local farmers to see who has what products and if they would be willing to donate. I have partnered with Co-Operative Extension of Oswego County who will assist with the nutritional information about each product and a recipe to be put into the schools weekly bulletin given to the student to bring home. I have partnered with the Home and School Group that has offered assistance with preparation and handing out samples plus they approved $1000.00 to assist with any start up or purchasing needs. I have not yet spoke with the owner of the local supermarket but am hoping we can coordinate so advertising of “this weeks special” will be on the marquee.

2. The plan and goal of this project is to introduce or re-introduce 26 different food products to the students. It has not yet been determined but some sort of survey will need to be done as to the acceptance of each product. A cost analysis will also need to be done.

3. Challenges—finding available products locally through our farmers; finding available products at an affordable cost

4. Opportunities—broaden the knowledge and taste buds of the students and hopefully their families

Louis Rodriguez
ARAMARK
Farm to School Program
Westchester County, NY

• Number of Participating Districts: 19 (all located in Westchester County NY and parts of Long Island)

• In the current school year, approximately 12% of fresh produce brought into those school districts was local.

• Examples of local produce served in these districts are apples, squash, cucumbers, cabbage, pears and corn

• From September 30th – October 8th, ARAMARK teamed with nutrition committees, school administrators, the NY State Department of Agriculture and Cornell University Cooperative Extension Educators to celebrate New York Harvest Week. Students learned about agriculture and healthy eating through a series of food tastings, lunch specials, farm visits and classroom activities.

o In Chappaqua and Irvington, students helped take the husk off their corn that later was served in the cafeteria. (see Food Service Director article in PDF format)

o At New Rochelle, elementary students participated in an apple tasting led by Cornell Cooperative extension featuring different types of apples grown in New York (high-res photos uploaded)

o At Katonah, students enjoyed made-from-scratch meals featuring local foods.

Currently, ARAMARK has been actively engaged in Farm to School conferences and workshops to further improve and grow the program into other regions of the United States:

• Cornell University Cooperative Extension Workshop: “Farm to School: Making it Happen in your Community”
• ARAMARK also committed as a sponsor and will be represented at the “School Meals and Gardening – Cultivating a Future” conference in New York City; hosted by the Baum Forum. (www.baumforum.org)

Other Highlights from the region:

At the Chappaqua School District, we offer daily vegetarian entrees and whole wheat alternatives to all bread and pasta products. Every school building features a salad bar with a wide variety of fresh vegetables, fruit, low fat protein and organic items. With parent support, ARAMARK has reintroduced the Eat a Rainbow Program at the elementary level. This program uses color-coded food groups to help students create a nutritious meal. At the high school level we introduced our SnackFactor program, which includes several organic, natural and nutrient dense food choices.

The Irvington School District offers fresh vegetables and fruit every day. In addition, students can choose lean protein menu items such as turkey dogs, turkey burgers and veggie burgers. The menu has been adjusted to cook more meals from scratch and source local ingredients when available. We eliminated high-sugar drinks and replaced them with 100% fruit juice, water and low-fat milk. Our vending machines are filled with SnackFactor items that are included in the New York Nutrition Association’s “Choose Sensibly” list.

In Katonah, our Food Service Director, teamed up with the district’s nutrition committee to implement a
nutrition and wellness program that features:

• Fresh fruits and vegetables that are sourced locally when available
• Whole foods that are made from scratch, avoiding processed and canned products
• Whole wheat pasta and bread
• rbST-hormone free milk and soy milk
• Organic and preservative free snacks, including soy crisps, trail mix and yogurt-covered raisins
• An expanded salad bar that includes protein alternatives such as nuts, seeds and tofu
• A beverage selection composed of 100% organic juices, free of artificial colors and flavors

In Central Falls, Rhode Island; ARAMARK Food Service Director Dennis Gomez has formed an excellent relationship with Hill Orchards. Allan Hill provides fresh local produce to the Central Falls School District almost year round. The students, faculty and staff are all very proud to have local produce on the menu. Here is a quote from Kids First praising the District for its effort in utilizing local farms: “Did you know that Central Falls has a wonderful relationship with Hill Orchards and serves up fresh RI apples year round? [Central Falls] has also had RI plums, peaches, nectarines and this year, for the first time, corn on the cob.” Terry Brierley, Assistant Food Service Director, says “we are happy to have Allan and Hill Orchards as our partner. The quality of his produce is the freshest available and exceeds our expectations.”

Josie Ennist, RD
Regina Tillman, MS, RD
Date: June 25, 2007
Farm to School In The Northeast
a. Schoharie County Project Implementation Proposal
(1) June 2007

Part I: Orientation

Local coordinators, J. Ennist, RD, School Food Service Manager, Schoharie Central School, and R.Tillman, MS, RD, Nutrition Resource Educator, Schoharie County CCE (Cornell Cooperative Extension) will continue participation on the Farm to School educational conference calls and by August 17th, complete a thorough review of the Farm 2 School “Tool Kit”. Thereafter, the first face to face project meeting is tentatively scheduled in August for more detailed planning based upon the outline below.

Part II: School Contacts

Area School Food Service Directors regularly hold informal networking meetings. In an upcoming meeting (target approximately September/October), the School Needs Assessment instrument will be reviewed and discussed in order to obtain inputs. With potential interest from the local College, a representative will be requested to join the schools group for follow-up discussions and completion of needs assessment.

Part III: Farm/Growers Contacts

Utilizing both an existing CCE Schoharie County Ag email group of local farmers as well as area Ag/Farming contacts and their news outlets, announce and distribute the Farmers Need Assessment instrument in order to establish interest and obtain initial inputs. Telephone follow-up may be utilized. (Process is targeted to begin by October/November.)

Part IV: Informational and Media Outlets

Jumping off with the participants of the Farm to School Workshop in November 2006, establish an email list group that will serve to inform and to solicit feedback on strategies for enhancing Farm to School implementation in Schoharie County and its immediate surroundings, as well as provide success stories to encourage further participation. Additionally, will:

• Seek to establish relationships with media outlets to feed them with information on our needs, publicize our progress, and continuously promote the development of the Farm 2 School Implementation Project. (Initially available: the Schoharie County Cornell Cooperative Extension monthly newsletter and other CCE publications directed toward the farming community.)
• Seek areas, both online and offline, for advertisement and featuring of Farm 2 School commercial/retail participants and supporters.
• Determine a strategy to implement to begin to galvanize support for the project with other stakeholder groups, primarily parents, school administrators, and community leaders.

Part IV : Joint Conferencing of School Food Service and Growers

After delineating the results of the Needs Assessments, establish a meeting date and time for the results to be reviewed by school and farmer representatives and other stakeholders, along with resource individuals, and conclude with best next action steps for Schoharie County determined. Coordinators will aid in facilitation of the conference and share available resources. Identify baseline purchasing and goals for years 2008 –2011.
(Targeted conference timeframe, which might allow for any changes in planting plans to begin to be made, as well as identifying any changes in process for acquisition of farm produce by schools, is January/February 2008.)

Resources:

 Farm to School In The Northeast: Making the Connection for Healthy Kids and Healthy Farms. A Tool Kit for Extension Educators and other Community Leaders. Funded by NE Sustainable Agriculture and Research Program. March 2007.
 Cornell/Division of Nutritional Sciences Farm to School Program Website: http://farmtoschool.cce.cornell.edu

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

A total of 150 extension educators and other community leaders participated in the phase one workshops and were trained in the nuts-and-bolts of farm to cafeteria and in the use of the toolkit. Comments from workshop participants included:

 “Thanks very much for this wonderful workshop. I will brief my organization and get back to you but I think we are going to go for it. We will be looking forward for our copy of the training manual.”

 “I enjoyed the workshop and felt everyone’s thoughts and experiences helped play an important part of understanding farm-to-school. I would like to continue to receive additional information when available.”

 “You and Betsy did a great job. My hat is off to you!”

 “I found the workshop very interesting and have asked our superintendent for his input regarding my continuing to press ahead on a farm-to-school program for our district. On October 22nd, Slow Food Huntington and the PTA Nutrition and Wellness Committee hosted Kids Day at the Huntington Farmers Market as a way to introduce kids and their parents to the market, to show them the bounty that our local farmers have available. We are talking a lot about where our food comes from. I really love the idea of the schools participating in this movement towards regional/seasonal produce, but the preparation of the raw materials is what is going to create the roadblock. [..] If my district supports this initiative Ill ask you to add my name to the list.”

 “Thanks for the great workshop. [The] Extension educator from Schenectady and I would like to continue to be involved with the farm-to-school work. We met after the workshop to brainstorm and will begin our projects after the holidays. Any help that you can offer would be much appreciated.”

•45 educators and other community leaders signed up to receive technical assistance with their farm to school programming during phase II of the training program.

• The tookit, “Farm to School in the Northeast: Making the Connection for Healthy Kids and Healthy Farms” was finalized in May of 2007 and is available free as a downloadable pdf on the Cornell Farm to School Research and Extension website, or for a fee, a paper version can be ordered. Comments we received from workshop recipients and toolkit reviews indicate the need for and usefulness of this resource: “The toolkit was a wonderful help and will be a valuable tool as we move forward.” “Thank you again for the opportunity to review this, great job in putting it together – there are so many useful references and ideas; I can see it making a big difference in extension, and school-based programming.”

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Milestone 1: The project team, in collaboration with a multi-stakeholder team will develop a “Farm-to-School Assessment Toolkit”. This resource will be piloted by team members with members of the NYS School Food Service Association. Verification will take place through the refining and publication of the assessment tool responding to pilot testing.

The toolkit, “Farm to School in the Northeast: Making the Connection for Healthy Kids and Healthy Farms” was completed in early 2007 and made available for free as a downloadable pdf on the Cornell Farm to School Research and Extension website http://farmtoschool.cce.cornell.edu, or for a $31 fee, a bound paper version can be ordered. We used a working draft in the Phase I workshops and shared it with several reviewers, including project advisors and Phase I participants, from whom we gathered comments that helped shape the final draft of the toolkit.

Milestone 2: Sixty nutrition, agriculture, and economic development extension educators will attend one training workshop where they will learn the fundamentals of school food service and dining service, the day-to-day operations within the school setting, and how to assess schools and colleges for initiating a farm-to-school project. Verification will be through an attendance sheet and administration of a pre-and post- workshop learning assessment.

We conducted four regional workshops in addition to two preliminary workshops. Our first workshop was took place on November 16, 2005 in Ithaca, NY. A second workshop was held at the Association of Cornell Cooperative Extension Employees (ACCEE) Conference in Syracuse, NY on May 10. 2006. Both of these workshops were planned as we had outlined in the proposal – that is, in the context of an existing conference. One of the important lessons we learned from this format was that a stand-alone workshop would allow for much more thorough treatment of the material, more in-depth review of the toolkit, and greater, more meaningful interaction among participants. We also incorporated the educational tours in with the workshop, which we felt strengthened both experiences. These initial workshops, then, while satisfying the terms of the project, provided important lessons for how to organize and conduct future workshops. We conducted four of these combination tour/workshops during October and November of 2006 with the completed toolkit and in strong partnership with local extension and school district representatives. In total we trained nearly 100 participants on the use of the toolkit. Participants included extension educators, food service management, and contract management company representatives, parents, farmers, county and state agency representatives.

Workshop dates, locations, and participation are summarized below:

1. Monday, October 30th at Alden Central School District, Alden High School 13190 Park Street, Alden NY 14004
Total Participants: 19. Extension educators (6), School food service/admin (10), Marketing/Management (2); Farmers (1)

2. Tuesday, October 31st at Geneva High School, 335 Gambee Road, Geneva, NY 14456
Total Participants: 18. Extension educators (7), School food service/admin (8), Marketing/Management (1); Other (1); Farmers (1)

3. Thursday, November 16th at Schoharie High School, Schoharie Central School District
Schoharie, NY 12157
Total Participants: 37. Extension educators (15), School food service/admin (9), Marketing/Management (4); Other (1); Farmers (8)

4. Friday, November 17th at Irvington High School, Irvington Central School District,
Irvington, NY 10533
Total Participants: 24. Extension educators (6), School food service/admin (7), Marketing/Management (6); Other (parents, agency reps) (5); Farmers (0)

Milestone 3: Fifty educators will participate in at least one tour of K-12 or college food service operations and receive follow-up technical assistance to conduct up to three school/college assessments and develop farm-to-school recommendations. Technical assistance will include recipe and menu ideas, in-class and cafeteria educational resources, and other materials previously developed by the team and previous Northeast SARE projects. Verification will be through copies of recommendations made, conference call participant records, technical assistance log, and list serve log.

Since the tours were incorporated into the last four workshops conducted during the fall of 2006, all workshop participants (see above) participated in the tours. Technical assistance, provided through conference call trainings and and individual consultation, began in May of 2007 and ended in November 2007 (See Appendix for timeline).

Milestone 4: Thirty-five educators will receive assistance from the project team to facilitate one school district or college in carrying out the recommendations provided through the assessment process. Verification will be through personal contact with project team members.

Of the 98 fall 2006 workshop participants, 38 signed up to receive technical assistance in the second phase of the project. Together with the original seven who had signed up during the first trainings, 45 educators and other community leaders expressed interest in receiving technical assistance during Phase II. However, when we shared the technical assistance timeline and asked those interested to formally commit to the technical assistance phase of the training program, despite the strong indication of interest, far fewer people (22) actually committed to participate in Phase II.

It is important to note that of the 22 people who actually committed to Phase II participation, six represented two extension offices and, in actuality, looked to two of the six to participate in the program. In addition, two Phase II participants left their positions and at least two had personal matters that prevented them from being as engaged as they had intended. Thus, only about 12 of the 22 who originally committed to the participate in Phase II actually fully participated in the training through its completion.

Milestone 5: Twelve school districts and five colleges will increase purchases of New York State farm products by at least 15%. Verification will be through submission of pre- and post-purchasing records.

Because none of the participants who continued with the project through Phase II actually were at a stage where the cafeterias they started working with were ready to increase their purchases of NYS products or they were already purchasing significant quantities of NYS products, we were unable to accomplish this milestone. However, verbal and written feedback from Phase II participants demonstrates they were developing relationships with food service directors and farmers that they believed would eventually yield farm to school sales. Thus, the networking and capacity-building which occurred during the project, has helped forge the kinds of partnerships that will eventually lead to more NYS products being purchased and used in NYS school cafeterias. Simply stated, we feel certain that some farm to school activity in the state was initiated at least in part because of the training offered through this project.

At the same time, an important lesson learned is that successful farm to school projects take time to develop, time that does not necessarily fit within typical grant funding cycles. Below are the farm to school plans that Phase II participant submitted as part of their commitment to the project.

Documented Project Plans Received from Phase II Participants

Farm to School: Making It Happen in Your Community
Phase II Project Descriptions
July 17, 2006

Sophie Belanger
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Chenango County

So far I have two different schools interested in participating. One is a small catholic school which only operates during the regular school year. The other is the Norwich public school system that does have a summer program involving approximately 140 students for lunches. I met with both school’s food Directors and I handed them the Needs Assessment sheet to be returned to me as soon as possible.

So far due to the challenges of cost and distribution we plan on starting with the implementation of just a few key item. We have also discussed the importance of participating in Harvest week as an educational tool. The kids need to know where their local food is coming from when they have it on their plates.

I am hoping that Betsy and other more experienced participants of the Farm to School program can further assist me with availability and distribution of produce. But I must emphasize that without education and awareness of where each carrot or apple is coming from, the effort is wasted.

Brian Gilchrist
Laura McDermott
Chrys Nestle
Cornell Cooperative Extension – Washington County

The Washington County Farm-To-School project will:

1. Survey lunch program managers from at least 6 of the 11 school districts in Washington County to determine how they purchase, and their interest in purchasing fresh, local product.

2. Survey local growers and producers to determine their interest in providing product to local schools and what that product would be.

3. Work to have at least 3 of the school districts provide a local product each day during NY Harvest for NY Kids week.

4. Provide and educational component regarding nutrition and the local food system to all schools who participate in some way with either with Farm to School or with NY Harvest Week.

5. Provide all schools with a listing of local growers and the products that they have available.

6. Work to connect at least one school with a local grower for an ongoing relationship.

Patti Hudak
Livingston County/Rochester Area
Parent Advocate /Nutritionist / Horticulturist
NYSNA Member

My first priority is to compile a list of farmers in this multi-county area that are even remotely interested in participating in providing local school cafeterias with their produce and to help them evaluate the pitfalls and work with them to overcome those encumbrances. The local Co-operative extension agency may be able to help with that. To date, I have not engaged them to any real extent.

I feel that in this multi-county area around Rochester there is a multitude of farmers capable of providing a whole host of fresh produce but the logistics of distribution seem to be the greatest obstacle. I’m in a unique situation in that my family business deals with sales of an organic biostimulant to farmers all over this region. We have a very large client base that I intend to draw from to ascertain any interest on the part of farmers and then provide interested Food Service Managers with a list of available sources of market fresh vegetables.

So the second piece to this puzzle is to contact local school administrators and their Food Service Managers to assess their desires for fresh produce in their school systems. This may prove a little difficult during the summer months, but I am starting locally and trying to expand throughout the region so that distribution might be more efficient.

Debbie Richardson
drichard@hannibalcsd.org
315-564-7910×4157
Farm to School Project
Hannibal Central Schools
2007-2008
“ Eating Our Way Through the Alphabet, A-Z”

1. This project will take place at the Fairley Elementary School, a K-4 school with a population of 587 students. Approximately every other week, a letter will be chosen and a fruit or vegetable that begins with that letter will be introduced or re-introduced. Students will receive a sample size portion. I have partnered with Oswego County Farm Bureau who will assist with contacting local farmers to see who has what products and if they would be willing to donate. I have partnered with Co-Operative Extension of Oswego County who will assist with the nutritional information about each product and a recipe to be put into the schools weekly bulletin given to the student to bring home. I have partnered with the Home and School Group that has offered assistance with preparation and handing out samples plus they approved $1000.00 to assist with any start up or purchasing needs. I have not yet spoke with the owner of the local supermarket but am hoping we can coordinate so advertising of “this weeks special” will be on the marquee.

2. The plan and goal of this project is to introduce or re-introduce 26 different food products to the students. It has not yet been determined but some sort of survey will need to be done as to the acceptance of each product. A cost analysis will also need to be done.

3. Challenges—finding available products locally through our farmers; finding available products at an affordable cost

4. Opportunities—broaden the knowledge and taste buds of the students and hopefully their families

Louis Rodriguez
ARAMARK
Farm to School Program
Westchester County, NY

• Number of Participating Districts: 19 (all located in Westchester County NY and parts of Long Island)

• In the current school year, approximately 12% of fresh produce brought into those school districts was local.

• Examples of local produce served in these districts are apples, squash, cucumbers, cabbage, pears and corn

• From September 30th – October 8th, ARAMARK teamed with nutrition committees, school administrators, the NY State Department of Agriculture and Cornell University Cooperative Extension Educators to celebrate New York Harvest Week. Students learned about agriculture and healthy eating through a series of food tastings, lunch specials, farm visits and classroom activities.

o In Chappaqua and Irvington, students helped take the husk off their corn that later was served in the cafeteria. (see Food Service Director article in PDF format)

o At New Rochelle, elementary students participated in an apple tasting led by Cornell Cooperative extension featuring different types of apples grown in New York (high-res photos uploaded)

o At Katonah, students enjoyed made-from-scratch meals featuring local foods.

Currently, ARAMARK has been actively engaged in Farm to School conferences and workshops to further improve and grow the program into other regions of the United States:

• Cornell University Cooperative Extension Workshop: “Farm to School: Making it Happen in your Community”
• ARAMARK also committed as a sponsor and will be represented at the “School Meals and Gardening – Cultivating a Future” conference in New York City; hosted by the Baum Forum. (www.baumforum.org)

Other Highlights from the region:

At the Chappaqua School District, we offer daily vegetarian entrees and whole wheat alternatives to all bread and pasta products. Every school building features a salad bar with a wide variety of fresh vegetables, fruit, low fat protein and organic items. With parent support, ARAMARK has reintroduced the Eat a Rainbow Program at the elementary level. This program uses color-coded food groups to help students create a nutritious meal. At the high school level we introduced our SnackFactor program, which includes several organic, natural and nutrient dense food choices.

The Irvington School District offers fresh vegetables and fruit every day. In addition, students can choose lean protein menu items such as turkey dogs, turkey burgers and veggie burgers. The menu has been adjusted to cook more meals from scratch and source local ingredients when available. We eliminated high-sugar drinks and replaced them with 100% fruit juice, water and low-fat milk. Our vending machines are filled with SnackFactor items that are included in the New York Nutrition Association’s “Choose Sensibly” list.

In Katonah, our Food Service Director, teamed up with the district’s nutrition committee to implement a
nutrition and wellness program that features:

• Fresh fruits and vegetables that are sourced locally when available
• Whole foods that are made from scratch, avoiding processed and canned products
• Whole wheat pasta and bread
• rbST-hormone free milk and soy milk
• Organic and preservative free snacks, including soy crisps, trail mix and yogurt-covered raisins
• An expanded salad bar that includes protein alternatives such as nuts, seeds and tofu
• A beverage selection composed of 100% organic juices, free of artificial colors and flavors

In Central Falls, Rhode Island; ARAMARK Food Service Director Dennis Gomez has formed an excellent relationship with Hill Orchards. Allan Hill provides fresh local produce to the Central Falls School District almost year round. The students, faculty and staff are all very proud to have local produce on the menu. Here is a quote from Kids First praising the District for its effort in utilizing local farms: “Did you know that Central Falls has a wonderful relationship with Hill Orchards and serves up fresh RI apples year round? [Central Falls] has also had RI plums, peaches, nectarines and this year, for the first time, corn on the cob.” Terry Brierley, Assistant Food Service Director, says “we are happy to have Allan and Hill Orchards as our partner. The quality of his produce is the freshest available and exceeds our expectations.”

Josie Ennist, RD
Regina Tillman, MS, RD
Date: June 25, 2007
Farm to School In The Northeast
a. Schoharie County Project Implementation Proposal
(1) June 2007

Part I: Orientation

Local coordinators, J. Ennist, RD, School Food Service Manager, Schoharie Central School, and R.Tillman, MS, RD, Nutrition Resource Educator, Schoharie County CCE (Cornell Cooperative Extension) will continue participation on the Farm to School educational conference calls and by August 17th, complete a thorough review of the Farm 2 School “Tool Kit”. Thereafter, the first face to face project meeting is tentatively scheduled in August for more detailed planning based upon the outline below.

Part II: School Contacts

Area School Food Service Directors regularly hold informal networking meetings. In an upcoming meeting (target approximately September/October), the School Needs Assessment instrument will be reviewed and discussed in order to obtain inputs. With potential interest from the local College, a representative will be requested to join the schools group for follow-up discussions and completion of needs assessment.

Part III: Farm/Growers Contacts

Utilizing both an existing CCE Schoharie County Ag email group of local farmers as well as area Ag/Farming contacts and their news outlets, announce and distribute the Farmers Need Assessment instrument in order to establish interest and obtain initial inputs. Telephone follow-up may be utilized. (Process is targeted to begin by October/November.)

Part IV: Informational and Media Outlets

Jumping off with the participants of the Farm to School Workshop in November 2006, establish an email list group that will serve to inform and to solicit feedback on strategies for enhancing Farm to School implementation in Schoharie County and its immediate surroundings, as well as provide success stories to encourage further participation. Additionally, will:

• Seek to establish relationships with media outlets to feed them with information on our needs, publicize our progress, and continuously promote the development of the Farm 2 School Implementation Project. (Initially available: the Schoharie County Cornell Cooperative Extension monthly newsletter and other CCE publications directed toward the farming community.)
• Seek areas, both online and offline, for advertisement and featuring of Farm 2 School commercial/retail participants and supporters.
• Determine a strategy to implement to begin to galvanize support for the project with other stakeholder groups, primarily parents, school administrators, and community leaders.

Part IV : Joint Conferencing of School Food Service and Growers

After delineating the results of the Needs Assessments, establish a meeting date and time for the results to be reviewed by school and farmer representatives and other stakeholders, along with resource individuals, and conclude with best next action steps for Schoharie County determined. Coordinators will aid in facilitation of the conference and share available resources. Identify baseline purchasing and goals for years 2008 –2011.
(Targeted conference timeframe, which might allow for any changes in planting plans to begin to be made, as well as identifying any changes in process for acquisition of farm produce by schools, is January/February 2008.)

Resources:

 Farm to School In The Northeast: Making the Connection for Healthy Kids and Healthy Farms. A Tool Kit for Extension Educators and other Community Leaders. Funded by NE Sustainable Agriculture and Research Program. March 2007.
 Cornell/Division of Nutritional Sciences Farm to School Program Website: http://farmtoschool.cce.cornell.edu

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

Agricultural professionals. Among the group of stakeholders that participated in our project there is now a greater understanding of farm to school opportunities and strategies for overcoming barriers. Skills and capacity for developing and implementing farm to school projects is enhanced. In our workshops and educational conference calls and tours, we went through farm to school from A-Z. The Toolkit and the powerpoint presentations constitute a core curriculum that other states and regions can model.

Farm to School Connections. New market relationships have been cultivated between NYS schools and NYS farmers as a result of this project, meaning more locally or regionally sourced products have been made available to NYS students.

Farm Viability – By fostering a shift in food procurement from national distribution channels to more regional and local sources, this project helps develop schools as a new market for farms in the region. At the same time, as farmers capture more of the local school food and college dining services market, this may threaten this as a market for more distant producers.

Regional sustainability. The project focused on getting local food into school and college meals and consumed by students. As global climate change and declining supplies of fossil fuel become more apparent, efforts such as those involved in this project will help reduce the amount of fuel used in (and greenhouse gases generated from) the transportation of food for school meals.

Future Recommendations

a. Offering the educational in-services, conference calls and tours at no charge may have been a barrier to participation and engagement. If the participants had been charged a fee for the Phase II services, we believe that there may have been greater investment of time, and fewer no-shows.

b. Funding cycle did not provide adequate time time to train and implement. Upon reflection this could have worked as two separate projects – one to engage stakeholders in the development of the toolkit; and the other to provide the outreach training and technical assistance to participants who were implementing farm to school plans.

c. Participants in our project definitely had good intentions but engaging in assessing need, planning and implementing and evaluating a farm to school project, particularly within the six month time frame we allotted (deliberately so as to correspond with the school calendar) required a level of commitment and time that was not available given existing responsibilities of the group. Initiating a farm to school project was definitely an “add-on,” though one they sought to do, for many participants.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.