Vermont Food Education Every Day (VTFEED)

2003 Annual Report for LNE03-187

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $131,547.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Federal Funds: $46,528.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $51,724.00
Grant Recipient: Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Abbie Nelson
Northeast Organic Farming Association of VT

Vermont Food Education Every Day (VTFEED)


This proposal seeks to support the expansion of the Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) model to 10 elementary schools in Vermont, by partnering directly with 30 local farmers and developing secondary purchasing relationships through other mechanisms including local food distributors and cooperative marketing. Having successfully completed a pilot program in two schools in Vermont, the expansion of the program will establish models in each county in Vermont.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Performance Target: Ten schools in Vermont will purchase at least $150,000 in new sales from 30 local farms.
VT FEED will reach its performance target by connecting the three “C’s” of our model – Community, Cafeteria and Classroom. The Community will be reached through a school newsletter, community meals featuring local farmers and stakeholder meetings. The Cafeteria relationship is developed by school cooks developing relationships with local food producers, training for school cooks in using fresh foods, and designing menus that incorporate seasonal food while meeting USDA dietary guidelines. The Classroom goals are met through a summer institute where teachers will design a standards-based 10 week farm and food curriculum that integrates field studies with local farms and school gardens. In our experience, all three components – Community, Cafeteria and Classroom – must coexist for a successful farm-to-school project.


Milestones Accomplished
  • (320 public elementary schools in Vermont receive a “call for schools” detailing the FEED program.) We found that the prior work and press coverage of VT FEED has been enough to promote FEED and we have not sent a mass mailing to all schools in VT this year (we did do one in 2002). For the first time kitchen managers, nurses, health committees, and principals are calling to get information, rather than just parents or teachers are making the contacts.

    (60 schools per year express an interest in the program and ask for additional information.) 33 Schools contacted the FEED Coordinator to get information about FEED.
    100 farmers attend a farm to school purchasing conference detailing the challenges and successes of marketing directly to schools. A Local Purchasing Conference was held Nov. 2003 attracting over 200 people-twice the anticipated number! Almost half of the participants were directly involved in school food purchasing: food service directors, food service staff, catering groups, food distributors. About 25 farmers attended. The rest were teachers, government, organizations, and students! From this kitchen managers have connected to more farmers and are looking into direct purchasing or into asking their food distributors to provide local products when they order. While these changes are significant for each kitchen manager, they are not developed enough to analyze yet.

    (FEED staff present to the faculty, school board and interested community members at 8 schools that submitted FEED applications.
    2 schools/yr. are selected to be FEED schools.) From May to December, FEED staff have presented to 4 schools, with 3 more scheduled for January 2004. When these schools officially apply to be a FEED school, we will pick two new schools. Another round of teacher training and mentoring will occur at Edmunds Elementary and Middle Schools in 2004 as we have a 2 year commitment to both these schools.
    (32 farmers (4 per applicant school) confirm their interest in being part of the project.
    In year one, 4 farms are involved with each participating school in developing “field studies” and analyzing the opportunities to sell food directly to the school.)
    5-day teacher training institute with 2 rural VT schools: Orange Central and Alburg Elementary, both K-8th grades. Also training occurred with teachers from two city schools: Edmunds Elementary and Edmunds Middle Schools. This training included on-farm field studies—3 for Orange, and 2 for Alburg, and 3 for Edmunds. In Orange and the Edmunds schools teachers took students to repeat or expand on the field studies they learned. 6 class trips occurred in Orange and 16 Burlington classes went to farms, orchards, or food-based businesses.•

    (Within the three years of working with each school, 3 farms will develop purchasing relationships of at least $5,000/farm/school.) Our knowledge and appreciation of the complexities of the school food system continues to evolve. Schools vary dramatically in terms of distributor contracts, kitchen managers cooking style, pricing, and food preparation abilities, tools, and space. What is similar are kitchen managers eagerness to please, that many students prefer processed foods over fresh, and school food budgets have very little margin for breaking even. Given this, the work we do for local purchasing is very individualistic for each school. In summer 2003 3 of 4 former FEED schools began or doubled their local food purchasing. One current FEED school, Orange Center did not, due to change over of kitchen staff, however, new kitchen manager visited local farm, parent has volunteered to pick up potatoes and onions at the farm and deliver to kitchen starting Jan. 2004. In Alburg, the kitchen manager was so inspired by FEED’s kitchen manager training, and because she is not tied to distributor contracts, she changed her purchasing immediately. She developed a relationship with a local farmer who delivered fresh produce all fall. A berry farmer sold her berries through the fall and she connected to a local orchard for apples and cider. She is researching local goat cheese just to expose the students to it. She will be meeting with local farmers to tell them what her school of 300 students will need for this spring and next fall to work out quantities and purchasing agreements.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Outcomes for 2003
  • One day food service training institute for kitchen manager. 8 attended from all over VT and participated in the workshop, but 60 ate the lunch these participants prepared using vegetable protein, local produce, and featuring various grain dishes with a presentation by FEED’s Local Purchasing Coordinator.

    Farm to School Mentors have been working in 5 regions in Vermont. Each region is taking on it’s own identity to meet the needs of the communities. One mentor is working with a catering group to develop a buy-local policy that they will try out in 6 of their northern schools with 3-4 different vegetable farmers. Two are developing on-farm and garden activities for summer programs which result in cooking with fresh and healthy foods from gardens and farms.
    Several mentors have linked up with other agriculturally or food related organizations, particularly historic societies to conduct teacher and farmer training and workshops for children. We piloted activities for children at a farmer’s market which introduced them to new vegetables and fruits, as well as helped them learn about the vendors at the market. This will be replicated in every region in 2004.

    Fall 2003 weekly mentoring of Orange Central, Edmunds Elementary and Middle Schools with their FEED curriculum. Alburg begins in March 2004. Teachers have developed food, farm, and nutrition units, FEED folios, and some are continuing weekly topics all year.
    Planning for an Orange Community Food Council to develop school food goals has begun and will set up the first meeting in January 2004. The first meeting of an ad hoc food committee for the Edmunds schools occurred in December and monthly new food taste tests are being set up for classrooms and cafeteria.
    Past FEED Schools: visited 3 out of 4 to continue the cafeteria to classroom connections and increase the local products purchased, and fresh food served. For example, this Fall they all purchased local salad bar produce, apples, and cider. As a connection to the classroom, Milton’s kitchen manager will share her commodity fruits and vegetables for teachers to try in classrooms. A food/health/garden committee is also being formed there.

    Evaluation of the 2002 FEED school results has just been completed. In two of the former FEED schools from 2002, Antonia Demas reported:81% of parents reported positive changes in their child’s eating behavior and the mean improvement between pre-FEED curriculum and post curriculum knowledge of food, farm and nutrition was 35%. . Evaluation of our 2003 schools: Edmunds Elementary, Edmunds Middle, and Orange Center School is complete, however the results have not been analyzed and reported. However, in a letter to FEED, Rich Jacobs, Orange Center School Principal, wrote:

    “If you ask students, staff members, and community members why we participate in FEED you will get several answers. The food service personnel may talk about how we are bringing in locally grown produce for consumption by students. The coordinator of our garden club may talk about how use of the school/community gardens are now recognized by more people than has been customary in the past. Staff members may explain how it is now an expectation that foods bought or brought to school are of a nutritious nature. The Superintendent of Schools or School Board Chair may talk about the positive reviews from parents and community regarding FEED as it relates to our instructional programs. Students may speak about the visits to local farms, and how their community is involved in this program.”

    Another outcome to mention is the first draft of the Local Purchasing Manual – a guide for kitchen managers to use to help them purchase and use local products. It has been sent out for review by our consultant, Dr. Demas. It will contain a list of Vermont farmers and distributors who will sell local products to schools and their requirements, recipes featuring healthy and seasonal Vermont produce and USDA commodity foods, and methods for preserving Vermont fresh foods for winter use.