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Getting Started with Farm to School

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Taste Tests are a great way to start. Bremerton students sample squash soup made by a local chef. - Photo courtesy of Kitsap Sun

Getting started with farm to school

Whether you're an agricultural producer, a school nutrition professional, a teacher, concerned community member, student or other advocate, if you're interested in the farm-to-school movement you will find there are many resources available as you begin to interact with your local school-based feeding program. For some basic information on the history of school food and operational models, refer to our School Food Basics page, and for recipe inspiration, refer to our Farm to School Cookbooks page and Washington Grown Food Kit.

WSDA Farm to School Start-Up Kit

WSDA created this Farm to School Start-Up Kit in partnership with Kent School District to assist schools as they consider their options and begin farm to school efforts. In 2010, Kent School District’s commitment to providing tasty, affordable, healthy meal programs was recognized and they were selected to participate in Public Health-Seattle & King County Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant. The grant provided funding to launch a farm to school program in the district, and WSDA worked with the district to increase the use of seasonal, fresh, Washington-grown foods in the meal and snack programs. The project team developed documents, templates and resources to use in Kent School District. The Start-Up Kit is designed to share those tools and resources for use in other districts.

The Start-Up Kit provides step-by-step guidance, with links to open the individual tools and resources along the way. Whether you're new to farm to school, or are interested in resources to support specific aspects of your existing program, it's worth taking a look. The kit is organized by topic for ease of use.

Click the image below to view the Start-Up Kit. 

                         Start-Up Kit Image and Link

The kit was created to provide a clear way to present the process and tools used in the Kent School District project, and as such, is not intended to be your sole source of information for starting farm to school.

WSDA Farm to School Calendar provides a monthly list of menu ideas, promotion and educational opportunities with links to relevant pages of WSDA Farm to School Toolkit.

Additional farm to school resources and information

There are many resources available, and you may find that certain resources are more or less applicable to your school food service program.  For a basic primer on taking the first steps toward a farm-to-school program, check out this checklist, created by the National Farm to School Network.

1. Organize: Coordinate a group of cross-sector stakeholders in the community for a meeting to discuss farm to school (food service directors, parents, teachers, farmers, students, school administration, local nonprofits, etc.)

2. Assess: Facilitate conversations with various stakeholders to determine the feasibility of the program in your area—discuss where to buy local foods, assess how to serve them at school, identify staff or volunteers to support the program, and determine what the budget for your program can be. Inspire potential supporters with an activity such as a farm tour or a farm-fresh taste test.

3. Research: Read the publication Going Local to acquaint yourself with model farm to school programs from across the country. As Farm to School programs come in many shapes and sizes, it's important to begin to identify what you want and what would work best in your school. Visit www.farmtoschool.org to learn if there is a program in your area.

4. Plan: Create a short description of your ideal program and then list specific first steps. Tip: start with easy wins! Try to limit this to five steps to help you organize and communicate your goals to others.

5. Start: Take small steps such as working with one or two whole products that are easy to process and popular among kids. Local apples, carrots, pears  or cherry tomatoes are all good ways to start. Also, check out the resources at the bottom of of the page to see what foods are in season in Washington, and the produce calculator to get a sense of how much to order.

 

Here are two on-line networks where you can get connected to farms in your area.

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FoodHub is a dynamic marketplace and online directory that makes it easy and efficient for professional food buyers and sellers in the greater Northwest to research, connect, and do business. It’s easy to use and a great place to meet and do business over food.

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Puget Sound Food Network (PSFN)
is a regional network of food businesses who are working together to bring great locally produced food from farm to market. In collaboration they are farmers, ranchers, fishermen, processors, distributors, schools, grocery stores, and restaurants.

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Last Updated: 12/16/2013