Strengthening University Local Food Systems: Train the Trainer Approach through Extension, Student, and Food Service Collaboration

Final report for ES14-124

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2014: $78,547.00
Projected End Date: 08/15/2018
Grant Recipient: North Carolina A&T University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Kathleen Liang
North Carolina A&T State University
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Project Information

Abstract:

A train-the-trainer approach was facilitated by the NC 10% Campaign to prepare Cooperative Extension agents on strengthening university local food systems in North Carolina with a Local Food Ambassador Program at 6 Minority-Serving Institutions. The first of a two-year effort - to build, facilitate, and educate university local food teams; understand institutional-level food service; and direct farmers on the regulations and best-practices needed to sell to institutional markets - will be followed by another year of the program and an extension-train-extension workshop so that additional Extension agents can understand the opportunities and challenges of this emerging market for small and mid-scale farmers.

Project Objectives:

The following behavior-based objectives support the project goal of equipping Extension educators with the knowledge and programming materials to effectively train others in the creation of effective working teams that simultaneously build student demand for local foods and university dining services' ability to procure local foods.

Objective 1: Extension educators, Local Food Ambassadors, and University Dining Service representatives are equipped to identify the structure and components of the university community dining system and can explain the benefits and challenges of university procurement of local food to a variety of audiences.

Objective 2: Extension educators are equipped with the knowledge and training materials to lead a collaborative and participatory process of building local food supply chains to university dining. Extension participates in an effective university dining –student -- producer partnership.

Objective 3: Increase the amount of local food procured by university dining partners.

Introduction:

The NC 10% Campaign is a collaborative initiative out of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) and North Carolina Cooperative Extension that encourages consumers - individuals, businesses, and institutions - to spend 10% of their existing food dollars on NC-grown, raised, and caught food. The Campaign works through a Local Food Ambassador (LFA) Program to strengthen university food systems in North Carolina. The Campaign has focused efforts at six public universities in North Carolina (five Historically-Black Colleges and Universities and one Historically-American Indian University): Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, North Carolina Central University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Winston-Salem State University. LFA teams from each of these six schools participate in campus-based projects to increase local food education and market opportunities for local farmers; participants include: a Local Food Ambassador student, University Dining Services, University Sustainability Office, faculty/staff, local farmers, and county Cooperative Extension Agent. Cooperative Extension agents support the teams and students in their local food outreach and education efforts on campus.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Kenny Bailey
  • Jay Blauser
  • Dr. Scott Bradshaw
  • Dr. Mary Jac Brennan
  • Bob Brothers
  • Tom Campbell
  • Djibril Diop
  • Rebecca Dunning
  • Vincent Evans
  • John Ivey
  • Mack Johnson
  • Deborah McGiffin
  • Eddie Moore
  • Jacques Pierre
  • Matt Rogers
  • Twanda Smith
  • Robyn Stout
  • Vern Switzer
  • Ellen Ziemer
  • Kenny Bailey
  • Jay Blauser
  • Dr. Scott Bradshaw
  • Dr. Mary Jac Brennan
  • Bob Brothers
  • Tom Campbell
  • Djibril Diop
  • Rebecca Dunning
  • Vincent Evans
  • John Ivey
  • Mack Johnson
  • Deborah McGiffin
  • Eddie Moore
  • Jacques Pierre
  • Matt Rogers
  • Twanda Smith
  • Robyn Stout
  • Vern Switzer
  • Ellen Ziemer

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Local Food Ambassador Program
Objective:

The Local Food Ambassador (LFA) Program works to create market opportunities for farmers through farm-to-university programming, to increase knowledge of extension educators on supporting farm-to-university programs, and to provide student leadership training through local food organizing.

Description:

The LFA Program promotes local foods on university and college campuses and provides training for students to more deeply engage with the food system. The Local Food Ambassador Program trains county-based Cooperative Extension agents to facilitate university local food teams, to support student local food projects, and to support farmers interested in university markets.
The purpose of the Local Food Ambassador (LFA) Program is to:
- encourage local foods education and outreach on university campuses
- engage the student body through events and media promotion
- support local foods in alignment with the campus sustainability mission
- connect teams of university, farmer, and community advocates
- provide resources for food service organizations
- mentor future leaders in understanding community-based food systems.

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

15 Extension
7 Farmers/ranchers
30 Others

Project Outcomes

3 Grants received that built upon this project
Project outcomes:

YEAR 1 (2016 Report)

Impacts

The NC 10% Campaign worked with Extension agents to facilitate 12 Face-to-face meetings with the 6 LFA teams, totaling nearly 60 participants; and worked with food service companies to provide listening sessions for 25 food service managers and chefs. Topics covered at all meetings were benefits, goals, challenges, and opportunities of local foods on campus. Forty participants attended a University Local Food Summit where team members networked with their peers from the other counties/campuses. Over 500 students were directly engaged through educational booths, presentations, cooking demos, and campus garden days at the 6 universities during LFA student-led events during the 2015-2016 school year. Surveys of local food awareness have been conducted by LFA students at 2 of the 6 schools and over 200 student signatures have been gathered at a third school to encourage University Chancellor support to bring more local foods to campus. The two LFA campus surveys revealed that some students need for more information on where to find locally-grown foods and on how to cook fresh vegetables.

The following outcomes were articulated from evaluating the LFA teams:

Objective 1:

  1. Student Learning

The NC 10% Campaign, with the help of Extension agents, mentored 6 student leaders. The student understanding of local food systems was assessed at the beginning and the end of the school year. The following areas of knowledge were self-assessed by the 6 student Ambassadors:

  • I have a good understanding of the benefits to farmers when a university buys from local farmers.
  • I am confident in my ability to explain to others the work of the Cooperative Extension in North Carolina.
  • I have a good understanding of the benefits to students and other people in the university community when a university buys food from local farmers
  • I am confident in my ability to explain to my peers the components of the food system.
  • I feel confident in my ability to explain to students how the dining system operates at a university.
  • I am confident in my ability to explain the challenges that universities face when trying to buy food from local sources.

The students were the most confident (before and after training) in their understanding of the benefits to farmers and to students/campus community when a university buys from a local farmer. The students were mostly confident in their understanding but may need some additional training on understanding the work of Cooperative Extension in North Carolina and on the components of the foods system. The biggest gains in student Ambassador understanding - following training - was confidence in explaining how the dining system operates at a university and the challenges that a university faces when trying buy food from local sources.

 

  1. University Dining Listening Sessions

The NC 10% Campaign participated in two University Dining Food Service Listening Sessions, one with food service project partner Sodexo and one with food service partner Aramark.  The listening sessions revealed the following:

  • Definition of “local” at each school varies and included most often “food grown...:
    • 50 miles from the school
    • 100 miles from the school
    • 250 miles from the school
    • In NC and neighboring states
  • Benefits of local foods differs at each university and depends most highly on the university’s requirements of the food service company and the contract language between the university and the food service company
  • Challenges to procuring local food included most often:
    • Lack of availability/volume
    • Seasonal availability of products during school session
    • Corporate purchasing policy/vendor compliance
    • Higher price for local
    • Not knowing how to buy local
  • Opportunities to procuring local food included most often:
    • New season extension projects like food businesses that provide frozen local products
    • Increasing local food orders from approved vendors that focus on local foods, such as FreshPoint, the schools’ main fresh produce vendor that specializes in local foods
  • Needs for procuring local food included most often:
    • Corporate-led training on how to source local foods/sustainability certificate
    • Means to more easily identify the local option in ordering systems and invoicing systems
    • List of NC farmers with GAP certification that have the volume to sell through current approved vendors
    • Guidelines of how local vendors fit into AASHE Stars and Real Food Challenge points systems

 

  1. Cooperative Extension Educator Learning

Pre/post-training evaluations will be collected during the Cooperative Extension Educator Workshop planned for November 2016 to understand the Extension agent’s ability to identify structure, benefits, and challenges of a university system for procuring of local food.

 

Objective 2:

  1. LFA Team Program Participation & Effectiveness

Of the 18 responses from the LFA Team end-of-year evaluation (including responses from Extension agents, University Dining, University Sustainability, staff/faculty, and farmers):

  • 61% believed the LFA Program has a positive impact on increasing local food awareness on campus
  • 61% believed the LFA Program has a positive impact on the student population on campus
  • 71% believed that the LFA Program had a positive impact on the Sustainability Office
  • 54% believed that the LFA Program had a positive impact on the University Dining Services
  • 54% believed that the LFA Program had a positive impact on the community surrounding the campus
  • 85% thought that the Face-to-face team meetings were helpful/extremely helpful in building communications for the LFA teams
  • 92% thought that the University Local Food Summit was helpful/extremely helpful in building communications for the LFA teams
  • 100% would like to continue participating with the LFA program

These results indicate to the program leaders that more follow-through is needed in the time between the face-to-face meetings; and the 100% feedback on continuing the program indicates that participants are engaged and prepared to work together in the next school year.

  1. A formative evaluation will be conducted in July 2016 to guide program implementation in the 2016-2017 school year.  
  2. Pre/post-training evaluations will be collected during the Extension Educator Workshop planned for November 2016 to understand the Extension agent’s ability to lead a collaborative and participatory process of building local food supply chains to university dining.

 

Objective 3:

School administrators have requested from their suppliers the dollar ($) amount of NC-grown produce purchased by the 6 LFA schools during the 2015-2016 school year. In general, identifying NC-grown purchases from distributor invoices is challenging for university food service administrators; therefore, tracking purchases from distributors and suppliers that focus specifically on local products may be the easiest way to quantify local food procurement, albeit at a limited capacity since this would not represent the total spent on local foods from all sources. To help identify more accurate local food numbers for the 2016-2017 school year, 2 of the 6 schools are considering running a robust evaluation of their school’s purchases via the Real Food Challenge Calculator. A promising note is that a small-scale farmer from one of the LFA teams has started the new vendor process with the food service company Sodexo. Sodexo serves 3 of the 6 LFA schools and 7 additional NC universities; once a farmer becomes an approved Sodexo vendor, they will be added to the approved vendor list for all 10 universities in NC served by Sodexo.

Accomplishments

The NC 10% Campaign is a collaborative initiative out of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) and North Carolina Cooperative Extension that encourages consumers - individuals, businesses, and institutions - to spend 10% of their existing food dollars on NC-grown, raised, and caught food. The Campaign works through a Local Food Ambassador (LFA) Program to strengthen university food systems in North Carolina. The Campaign has focused efforts at six public Minority-Serving Institutions across North Carolina: Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, North Carolina Central University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Winston-Salem State University. A LFA team has been started at each of these six schools; participants include: a Local Food Ambassador student, University Dining Services, University Sustainability Office, faculty/staff, local farmer, and county Cooperative Extension Agent. Cooperative Extension agents have helped identify team members from their corresponding university and community, have helped facilitate the team meetings, and have supported the students in their local food outreach and education efforts on campus.

Local Food Ambassador Program Locations

LFA Locations

In order to meet our three objectives, the NC 10% Campaign supported a series of activities (meetings, trainings, and events) for the LFA team participants to learn about the benefits and challenges of local foods, and have provided experiential learning opportunities in the first year for Extension agents to increase their knowledge of facilitating team meetings and communications for a farm-to-institution program. The University Local Food Summit provided a networking opportunity between participants with similar roles in other universities and communities; for instance, sustainability offices from all schools discussed how local food indices fit into their school’s sustainability plan; farmers discussed how they have engaged with campuses; extension agents discussed how to to report this local food work in their end-of-year evaluations. Presentations given were: 1) university food service supply chain basics and 2) the various market channels for farmers on a campus community: cafeteria, catering, farmers market, or campus box delivery program. The NC 10% Campaign provided additional training for LFA students to increase their understanding of local food systems and how to run outreach on campus.

     Activities included:

  • 2015-2016: year-long organizing and educational events by LFA students
  • June - August 2015: LFA Team Meetings at the 6 universities
  • June 16, 2015: Sodexo Listening Session
  • August 7, 2015: Aramark Listening Session
  • October 1, 2015: LFA Student Training
  • Nov 8, 2015: University Local Food Summit
  • February - April 2016: LFA Team Meetings at the 6 universities

A Cooperative Extension Educator Workshop led by extension agents is currently being planned for November 2016.

A formative evaluation will be conducted in July, 2016, to guide implementation of the program in the second academic year. Training materials are being developed from presentations that have been given during the first year and from information gained from listening sessions and from experiential learning; the training materials will cover the following topics: (1) how to build and facilitate university local food teams, (2) what are campus market opportunities for local farmers, and (3) how do university food system supply chains work.

3 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
Additional Outcomes:

YEAR 2 (2017 Report)

Impacts

In the second year, the Local Food Ambassador project has been successful in building local food opportunities at the six partnering NC universities and in connecting Cooperative Extension agents with university food service.

Activities included:

  • 2016-2017: year-long organizing and educational events by LFA students
  • Mar 2016: LFA Program Presentation at Small Farms Week
  • Apr 2016: LFA Poster Presentation at AIAEE Conference
  • Local Food Ambassador Program Manual developed
  • August 20, 2016: LFA Student Training
  • Aug – Sep 2016: LFA Team Meetings at the 5 universities
  • Nov 3, 2016: University Local Food Summit
  • Nov 16, 2016: Farm to University Agent Training with Agent Panel
  • Jan – Feb 2017: LFA Team Meetings at the 6 universities

A formative evaluation is being planned for to guide implementation of the program in future years. A manual on how to create a Local Food Ambassador Program at a university has been developed. More info at nc10percent.com/lfaprogram. A Farm to University Guide for Extension Agents is being developed that includes: 1) Why Work with Universities/Benefits for Extension of F2U work, 2) Navigating University Food Service, 3) Farm to University Programming examples, 4) Local Food Education on Campus, 5) Facilitating Local Food Teams, 6) Identifying and Preparing Local Farmers, and 7) Reporting Farm to University Work. The Local Food Ambassador Program started collaboration with a research and farmer outreach project called University Food Systems (UFoods, ufoodsnc.com) to provide additional supply chain support for the Local Food Ambassador Program.

In the second year, the project has accomplished many project objectives. Some examples follow:

  • 6 Cooperative Extension Agents engaged in university local food systems through experiential learning
  • 6 University Local Food Teams continued and supported at public Minority-Serving Universities in North Carolina with members including Cooperative Extension agents, students, farmers, University Dining, University Sustainability, and faculty/staff
  • 12 student Ambassadors (6 new students) trained in food systems and leadership skills
  • 1 Farm to University Cooperative Extension Agent Training led by 4 Extension Agents
  • 2 additional Farm to University conference presentations
  • 1 student Ambassador Orientation and Training Workshop
  • 1 University Local Food Summit
  • 11 University Local Food Team meetings at the 6 participating universities
  • 8 local food education campus events

 

 

The NC 10% Campaign worked with Extension agents to facilitate 11 Face-to-face meetings with the 6 LFA teams, totaling over 115  participants. Topics covered were benefits, goals, challenges, and opportunities of local foods on campus.

50 participants attended a University Local Food Summit where team members networked with their peers from the other counties/campuses.

Students were directly engaged through 8 educational booths, presentations, cooking demos, and campus garden days at the 6 universities during LFA student-led events during the 2016-2017 school year.

 

The following outcomes were articulated from evaluating the LFA teams:

Objective 1:

  1. Student Learning

The NC 10% Campaign, with the help of Extension agents, mentored 6 student leaders. Of the 6 LFA students trained in 2016-2017, only 2 students completed end-of-year surveys with the following results:

Objective

Post-Training

I have a good understanding of the benefits to farmers when a university buys from local farmers.

2 of 2 agree/ strongly agree

I am confident in my ability to explain to others the work of the Cooperative Extension Service in North Carolina.

1 agree/ 1 neutral

I have a good understanding of the benefits to students and other people in the university community when a university buys food from local farmers

2 of 2 agree/ strongly agree

I am confident in my ability to explain to my peers the components of the food system.

1 agree/ 1 neutral

I feel confident in my ability to explain to students how the dining system operates at a university.

2 of 2 agree/ strongly agree

I am confident in my ability to explain the challenges that universities face when trying to buy food from local sources.

2 of 2 agree/ strongly agree

 

 

  1. Cooperative Extension Educator Learning

On November 16, 2016, NC 10% Campaign staff co-led a training with partnering cooperative extension agents at the NC Cooperative Extension Statewide Conference entitled “Farm to University/Institution - Campus Outreach & Education, Facilitated Connections and Market Opportunities for Farmers”. Of the 15 responses to a pre- and post-training evaluation, all agents increased their knowledge of university food supply chains; 13 agents increased their knowledge of the barriers of local food procurement; 12 increased their knowledge of local food market channels;

 

Objective 2:

  1. LFA Team Program Participation & Effectiveness

Of the 19 responses from the LFA Team end-of-year evaluation

(including responses from Extension agents, University Dining, University Sustainability, staff/faculty, and farmers):

  • 100% believed the LFA Program increased local food awareness on campus
  • 94% believed the LFA Program has a positive impact on the student population on campus
  • 100% believed that the LFA Program had a positive impact on the Sustainability Office
  • 93% believed that the LFA Program had a positive impact on the University Dining Services
  • 87% believed that the LFA Program had a positive impact on the community surrounding the campus
  • 100% thought that the Face-to-face team meetings were helpful in building communications for the LFA teams
  • 100% thought that the University Local Food Summit was helpful in building communications for the LFA teams
  • 86% thought that monthly e-Newsletters were helpful in building communications for the LFA teams
  • 100% would like to continue participating with the LFA program
  1. A formative evaluation is planned to guide program implementation in future school years.  
  2. Of the 15 agents participating in the November 2016 Farm to University training, 11 increased their knowledge on how to facilitate university local food teams.

 

Objective 3:

            The NC 10% Campaign and students have requested the dollar ($) amount of NC-grown produce purchased by the 6 LFA schools during the 2016-2017 school year. Students at one of the 6 schools received training to run a robust evaluation of their school’s purchases via the Real Food Challenge Calculator. However, lack of cooperation from food service providers, high turnover in the university dining, and lack of transparency in the food service ordering systems continue to be a hurdles in collecting local food purchasing data for the universities.

 

YEAR 3 (2018 Report)

In the third and final year, the Local Food Ambassador (LFA) project has completed all the outputs associated with the farm to university programming. The LFA project has been successful in statewide networking of additional student Ambassadors, completed a full program evaluation, developed a farm to university guide for Cooperative Extension agents, and highlighted the farm-to-university work of Cooperative Extension agents and local farmers through multi-media profiles.

The following outputs and outcomes resulted from the final months of the project:

Objective 1: Extension educators, Local Food Ambassadors, and University Dining Service representatives are equipped to identify the structure and components of the university community dining system and can explain the benefits and challenges of university procurement of local food to a variety of audiences.

  1. Student Learning

Student Ambassador evaluations from the statewide June 2018 Summer Gathering resulted in the following:

  1. 100% of the students agreed that they had a good understanding of the benefits to students and other people in the university community when a university buys food from local farmers.
  2. 100% of the students agreed that they felt confident in their ability to explain to other students how the dining system operates at a university.
  3. 100% of the students agreed that they felt more confident in promoting local foods on their campus and felt they had a better connection with their fellow student Ambassadors from across the state.

Based on Program Evaluation of 2015-2016 (Y1) and 2016-2017 (Y2)

  1. 80% of the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 student Ambassadors agreed that they had a good understanding of the benefits to students and other people in the university community when a university buys food from local farmers
  2. Majority of the LFA students (80% avg.: 60% YR 1, 100% YR 2) indicated that the training they received before working on the program was excellent.
  3. Majority of the LFA students (75% avg.: 50% YR 1, 100% YR 2) of the respondents indicated that the goals and expectations of the program were clear.
  4. Improvements were seen in training effectiveness and communication of program expectations between Y1 and Y2.

 

  1. University Dining Learning

Based on Program Evaluation of 2015-2016 (Y1) and 2016-2017 (Y2)

  1. Food service providers ranked their challenges associated with purchasing local foods. The most frequently-indicated challenge was uncertainty of purchasing policy for local foods.
  2. Additional University Dining feedback was grouped with other University Local Food Team member types (farmers, sustainability office, ).
    1. Majority of team members agreed that the LFA Program had a positive impact on the student body (70% avg.: 60% Y1, 80% Y2).
    2. Majority of teams members agreed that the LFA Program had a positive impact on the campus sustainability efforts (75% Y1, Y2).

 

  1. Cooperative Extension Educator Learning

Based on phone interviews with three of the six participating Cooperative Extension agents completed in Fall 2018, the following were expressed with respect to the Local Food Ambassador Program:

  1. Lessons Learned:
    1. Farm to university programming is important because it builds awareness and may increase sales for farmers at nearby farmers markets or through a local food box delivery program on campus.
    2. Food hubs or other aggregation facilities may be needed to enable small-scale local farmers to meet the high volume demands of a university.
    3. The process of becoming an approved vendor at a university, with all of the needed certifications, is time-consuming and may be too prohibitive for small farmers.
  2. Impacts:
    1. The LFA Program makes our food system more inclusive to connect young people, and specifically minority young people, with their local food system.
    2. The LFA Program helps farmers think about universities as a market channel.
    3. The LFA Program can encourage new markets for the 10 farmers that were supported during this program timeframe to receive Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification.
    4. Farm to university programming encourages and provides markets for crop diversification and season extension.

 

Farmer and Cooperative Extension Profiles

Photo and video interviews were created to highlight how agents can support local farmers in farm-to-university programming. These profiles can be found at www.nc10percent.com/lfaprogram.

 

Objective 2: Extension educators are equipped with the knowledge and training materials to lead a collaborative and participatory process of building local food supply chains to university dining. Extension participates in an effective university dining-student- producer partnership.

  1. Farm to University Guide for Extension Agents Extension Publication

This Extension Publication was developed in collaboration with the UFoods (University Food Systems) project and is currently awaiting final review. The completed guide will be available at www.nc10percent.com/ncceresources.

 

  1. A comprehensive program evaluation was completed by Freda Dorbu, graduate student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, under the guidance of Dr. Kathleen Liang (Professor of Agribusiness, Applied Economics, and Agriscience Education) and Robyn Stout (NC 10% Campaign State Coordinator).

 

Objective 3: Increase the amount of local food procured by university dining partners.

  1. Analysis of local food procurement data has been limited to a small set of data provided by the universities and includes orders from only one food vendor, for one school year (2015-2016), from five of the six universities. This data is mostly for food procured for dining hall service.
    1. The five universities purchased local food from 7-10 different farmers in one year.
    2. The amount spent by the five universities on local foods ordered (from the one vendor included in the data) ranged from around $2,000 to $4,500.
    3. The top 10 most frequently-purchased local foods were identified and ranked. However, additional data should be collected in order to make production recommendations to farmers.
        1. Sweet potato
        2. Tomato, grape
        3. Squash, yellow
        4. Cucumber
        5. Zucchini
        6. Watermelon
        7. Pepper, green bell
        8. Strawberry
        9. Cantaloupe
        10. Collards

2. Food service managers and Cooperative Extension agents have indicated that small-scale local farmers should focus on season extension for traditional vegetable and fruit varieties as well as unique specialty products when considering university markets.

3. Additional data needs to be transparently provided by the food service companies for a comprehensive review of the local food purchasing practices at the six participating universities. It is recommended that each university secure funds to work with a third-party organization (e.g. The Good Food Purchasing Program) to accurately assess baseline purchasing amounts and review recommended steps for increasing purchases to desired goals.

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.