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Getting Started

Get Started NSLP

1. Check out available resources on our Garden Based Learning Page.

2. Develop Community Partnerships

Your busy schedule may not allow you to devote all the time necessary to successfully oversee an entire new program. Enlist the help of the community by organizing a committee, task force or work group. Many parents and community members are willing to support efforts to improve child nutrition.

3. Make communication a centerpiece

  • Communicate the benefits of locally grown foods to school nutrition staff, teachers, school administrators, students and community members.
  • Ask for input from people who might be knowledgeable about local-food initiatives and monitor local media reports for news of organizations that might provide food or assistance.
  • Build the Farm Fresh Initiative into the tapestry of your program to ensure long-term sustainability!


4. Start slowly and plan carefully

Talk to local producers or your distributor about supplying locally grown products.Begin planning several months before you expect to serve a food item. Check out our Farm Fresh Network to connect directly to a Texas producer. The following "to do" list will help you get started.

  • Develop a plan for promoting the local food to your school community.
  • Decide how the food item will be served and find good recipes.
  • Train staff if the item is new and they are not familiar with handling, preparation and serving techniques.




5. Strengthen children’s connection to Texas foods

Go beyond simply adding a local food to the lunch menu — engage students with classroom announcements, school newsletters, farm visits and hands-on activities such as gardening and cooking.

Participate in the annual Farm Fresh Challenge and earn statewide recognition for your efforts to strengthen this connection!

6. Ask for advice

There are people across Texas dedicated to connecting young people with fresh, locally grown, healthy foods in school lunchrooms. The Farm Fresh team can help you navigate through the exciting Farm Fresh world!

Email us at FarmFresh@SquareMeals.org (link to FarmFresh@SquareMeals.org email address)



USDA Memos for NSLP

(SP 06-2015) Farm to School and School Garden Expenses memo 

How to use funds from the nonprofit school food service account to cover expenditures related to farm to school activities and school gardens.

SP 32-2009 School Garden Frequently Asked Questions memo

How school garden and cafeteria programs can partner to create a campus or district garden program.


History of the Interagency Farm to School Task Force

During the 81st Texas Legislative Session, SB 1027 established the Interagency Farm to School Task Force to develop and implement a plan to facilitate the availability of locally grown food products in all Texas schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program. The task force included representation from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), the Texas Education Agency, the Department of State Health Services and stakeholders representing farmers, school nutrition professionals, distributors, health advocates, parents and representatives from higher education. 


A copy of the full Task Force report can be found here


Get Started CACFP

The objective of farm to child care activities is to connect children in early child care settings — preschools, Head Start, center-based programs, programs in K-12 schools and family child care programs — to local food and agriculture, by serving local products in meals and snacks, garden-based learning and agriculture and nutrition education and activities. 


Birth- to 4- years is a great time to start exposing children to new foods. This is a time many children are more apt to try new foods, especially if a peer or a teacher is modeling the behavior of eating the item. Farm to child care activities offer a great way to introduce children to foods available from Texas farmers and ranchers and ensuring that incorporating new ingredients into a child’s diet is not a chore.

5 tips to consider when starting a farm to child care program 

Evaluate where you currently are and set realistic expectations.
Some potential topics to focus on:
 -- Purchasing local food
 -- Garden-based learning
 -- Cooking classes, community partnerships and nutrition education

Form a strong team of collaborators.
 -- Different people have different strengths.
 -- Make sure to include the educators and staff outside of your direct team if you want to have the greatest success and buy-in.

Establish attainable goals to get started
Example goals include:
 -- Identify a snack or meal item that can transition to a local item
 -- Find a farmers market, producer or distributor that can connect you to local foods
 -- Identify if any resources already developed for farm to school are relevant to your farm to child care programs
 -- Plan an activity focused around local products
 -- Plan a field trip to a farm, farmers market or have a farmer visit the classroom

Collaborate with your community
If you are running into a barrier you are likely not the first one to encounter it. Communicate with other child care centers in your area to find out what they’re doing to bring farm to child care to their students.

Promote farm to child care to parents and your community

  -- Make sure to include your new initiatives in newsletters and other communications
 -- Recruit volunteers through these communication channels






Child Care centers can use their unique qualities to their advantage:

  • Local food procurement: child care settings tend to have lower food volume needs. Farmers and ranchers with smaller production capacity may be able to accommodate the needs of a preschool or family care site when they cannot accommodate an entire school district. 
  • Class size: child care settings tend to have smaller class sizes; allowing greater flexibility in the types of curriculum an educator can offer.
  • More flexible curriculum: Experiential education is the preferred learning model for child care centers. Garden-based learning and field trips to farms and farmers markets are great learning opportunities for children to connect with local food.
  • Parent participation: Parent and family involvement can be a huge asset for farm to child care programming. Include upcoming farm to child care opportunities in your communication to see if parents would like to participate. 


Resources
  

Many great farm to child care resources already exist and can help you get started. Visit our Map of Farm Fresh Activities to see if centers located near you are already implementing farm to child care activities.

USDA Farm to Preschool Fact Sheet
This USDA-developed fact sheet provides an overview of farm to child care and how it can be incorporated at a facility operating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

National Farm to School Network Farm to Preschool Fact Sheet
This fact sheet offers steps for incorporating farm to child care and outlines the differences between school districts and early child care settings.


Growing Head Start Success with Farm to Child Care

Aligning the Head Start Program Performance Standards and the Early Learning Outcomes Framework with Farm to Child Care is a win-win for Head Start Programs and their participants. This resource aims to highlight how different elements of Farm to Child Care, implemented individually or in combination, address many of the Head Start standards and provide significant benefits for children, families and communities.

Get Started SFSP/SSO

Farm to Summer initiatives help bring local agriculture to meals in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO). Participating SFSP and SSO sites connect children with agriculture by purchasing local foods and offering activities such as garden-based learning, enrichment activities focused on nutrition or agriculture, or trips to a farm or farmers market. Farm to Summer activities enable SFSP and SSO program operators to enhance the quality of their programs. 

Benefits of Farm to Summer:

  • Fruits and vegetables are served at their peak growing and harvesting season.
  • Children taste fruits and vegetables that may not be available during the school year.
  • Farmers and ranchers find new markets for products.
  • Community members become engaged in agriculture-based activities.  
  • Consistent, year-round farm to school programming increases enjoyment of school gardens.

 
Summer meal sites can introduce farm to site activities by using locally sourced ingredients in meals and snacks, creating garden-based learning environments, including nutrition education in enrichment activities, and connecting children with local farmers and ranchers.

Together, all these benefits of Farm to Summer activities establish lifelong healthy habits for children while building strong communities and enhancing local economies.

Some simple steps can help you launch a successful program at any time:

  1. Start small and grow: Offer one or two locally grown items.
  2. Highlight local food: Use posters, fliers or an educational lesson to introduce and educate children about local food. Send information home for parents too!
  3. Connect with community partners: Partners are key to success and may have resources that will help create a sustainable project.
  4. Share your success: Community members and partner organizations, including TDA, love to hear about successful farm to site activities.




USDA Fact Sheet 
This document provides an overview of the Summer Food Service Program, a list of benefits of farm to summer activities and ideas for engaging kids throughout the summer months.

Additional Resources to Take Advantage of the Great Summer Produce
Texas is ripe with fresh produce during summer months. Learn how to take advantage of the timing and serve fresh fruits, vegetables and other Texas agriculture products in summer meal programs. Bring the farm to your summer site to boost meal appeal and encourage increased participation.

Growing Farm to Site in Summer Meal Programs brochure 
Published by TDA, May 2015


Fresh from the Farm: Using Local Foods in the Afterschool and Summer Nutrition Programs
Published by the Food Research and Action Center, August 2016

Summer Meals: Incorporating Local Foods

Webinar from USDA, February 2015

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