Farm to School Resources

Last Modified: 07/07/2014

The USDA Farm to School team has compiled resources from across the country to assist schools and school districts in implementing farm to school programs. Be sure to check back often as we frequently update the information we share here.

 

Farm to School Team
Below is a list of resources for assembling and growing a farm to school team and leading farm to school planning meetings.

Vision, Goals, and Context
Below is a list of resources for establishing visions and goals for farm to school programs. Along with the “Farm to School Team” resources, these resources provide guidance for forming the foundation of a farm to school implementation plan.

Local Foods Procurement
Below is a list of resources for establishing a plan for procuring, or procuring more, local foods to serve to students through Federal Child Nutrition Programs.

Menu Planning
Below is a list of resources for developing menus that feature more locally produced foods.

  • The Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs, from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service – A guide (updated to reflect the new meal patterns) meant to help schools determine how much food to purchase and how to prepare it.
  • First Choice: A Purchasing Systems Manual for School Food Service, from the National Food Service Management Institute – Includes a section on menu systems and planning.
  • Menu Planning Resources, from the Food and Nutrition Service’s Healthy Meals Resource System – A compilation of menu planning tools, fact sheets, guides, and more.
  • Pecks to Pounds, from the Maryland Department of Agriculture – Translates the typical farm measurements (pecks, bushels, crates, etc.) to pounds. This chart is useful for both farmers and school food service staff to communicate effectively with each other and enables school food service staff to convert farm measurements into serving sizes.
  • Great Trays™ Toolkit for School Foodservice, from Great Trays™ partnership in Minnesota – A host of menu planning resources including worksheets, sample menus, and recipes.
  • Fresh from the Farm: The Massachusetts Farm to School Cookbook, from the Massachusetts Farm to School Project – Countless recipes that use fruits and vegetables that grow locally in New England, complete with nutritional analyses.
  • Recommended Kitchen Equipment for From-Scratch Cooking, from the Wisconsin Farm to School Program – A list of equipment you might need to start incorporating scratch recipes into menus..
  • Kidchen Expedition, from the Oklahoma Farm to School Program – Time and cost efficient, healthful, and local recipes that use Oklahoma-grown produce; recipes are relevant wherever similar foods are grown.
  • Menus that Move, from the Ohio Department of Education – Seasonal menus that meet USDA’s new meal requirements.
  • The Lunchbox, from the Food Family Farming Foundation – Recipes, tips, tools, and tutorials on incorporating healthful foods into school meals.
  • Sample Cycle Menus, from Great Trays™ partnership in Minnesota – Part of the Great Trays™ Toolkit referenced above, these sample cycle menus adhere to the new meal guidelines and show which foods can be procured locally in Minnesota.
  • A Guide to Taste Testing Local Food in Schools, from Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) – A comprehensive guide to implementing a taste testing program in your school, including a sample timeline, case studies from taste tests in the cafeteria, classroom, and through afterschool programs.
  • Farm to School Taste Tests in School Cafeterias, from the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Coalition – A quick-start taste-testing guide for chefs, parents, and cafeteria and school staff.
  • Tasting Lesson – Fruits and Vegetables, from the University of Minnesota Extension Program – A sample lesson that can be offered along with a taste test.
  • Free Tasting Lessons, from Cooking with Kids, Inc. – Free and fun bilingual produce tasting lessons.
  • Fish to Schools Resource Guide, from the Sitka Conservation Society – The Sitka Conservation Society developed a “how-to” guide to serving fish in schools. Using Sitka as a case study, it outlines procurement and processing strategies, legalities, tips, and recipes.

Food Safety
Below is a list of resources that address food safety in the context of serving locally sourced products, whether directly from the farm, from a distributor, or even from the school garden.

  • Farm to School Food Safety FAQs, from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service – Answers to common questions about food safety rules, working with local farmers, and handling fresh produce.
  • Produce Safety Resources, from USDA and the National Food Service Management Institute – Includes videos, fact sheets, presentations, and talking points on produce safety topics for school foodservice professionals ranging from schools gardens, to food preparation and handling, to produce quality.
  • Food Safety Resources, from the University of Minnesota – An array of resources that includes information about food safety and salad bars, canned products, and locally produced eggs. Some of the information presented is specific to Minnesota’s state laws.
  • Tips, Tools, and Guidelines for Food Distribution and Food Safety, from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry – Provides helpful food safety information on everything from developing a food safety plan, to handling fresh produce, to safely serving produce from the school garden.
  • Best Practices for Handling Fresh Produce in Schools, from USDA and the National Food Service Management Institute – Recommendations for reducing the risks of foodborne illness and minimizing the chances for fruits and vegetables to become contaminated.
  • Sources and Impacts of Contaminants in Soil, from the Cornell Waste Management Institute – Introduces common sources of soil contaminants relevant for school gardens.
  • Growing Safer Gardens, from North Carolina State University – School garden recommendations based on Good Agricultural Principles.
  • Food Safety Tips for School Gardens, from the National Food Service Management Institute – School gardening tips regarding site selection, materials, and water use; chemical, fertilizer, compost, and manure use; growing and harvesting; and serving school garden produce through school meal programs.
  • Garden to Cafeteria Program Protocol, from Denver Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services – An example one district’s protocols for school gardening, many of which address food safety.
  • Denver School Garden Coalition Operating Manual, from the Denver School Garden Coalition – An in-depth manual for school gardening in Denver that includes sections addressing food safety.
  • USDA Good Agricultural Practices Audit Programs, from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – Information about USDA’s independent voluntary agricultural practice audit program.
  • The On-Farm Food Safety Project, from FamilyFarmed.org – A host of food safety resources including tools, customizable forms, and templates to help farmers get organized about on-farm food safety. (Some areas of the site require registration to access).
  • Food Safety Begins on the Farm: A Grower Self Assessment of Food Safety Risks, from Cornell University’s Department of Food Science – A detailed self-assessment to help farmers evaluate on-farm food safety risks, from worker hygiene to post-harvest handling.
  • Good Agricultural Practices and Food Safety, from the Washington Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Program – A compilation of food safety resources, including a Request for Proposals that incorporates food safety specifications.
  • A Checklist for Purchasing Local Produce, from Iowa State University Extension and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture – A checklist of questions for school food purchasers to ask local farmers before they buy their products.
  • Checklist for Producers Selling Produce to Local K-12 Schools, from the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition – A checklist meant to facilitate communication about farming practices and food safety between farmers and school food service directors.
  • Verifying On-Farm Food Safety Fact Sheet, from USDA and the National Food Service Management, provides tips to help the school foodservice professionals plan and conduct farm visits to discuss food safety practices.
  • Food Safety and Liability Insurance: Emerging Issues for Farmers and Institutions, from the Community Food Security Coalition and USDA’s Risk Management Agency – An assessment of the liability coverage held by 25 farmers across the nation and the liability and food safety barriers that small farmers may encounter when selling to schools.
  • Insurance Coverage Options for Fresh Produce Growers, from North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension – A summary of the insurance coverage options available for growers of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Promotion and Outreach
Below is a list of farm to school promotional resources and examples for marketing farm to school programs.

Resources

  • National Farm to School Month Resources, from the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) – Every year, schools across the county celebrate National Farm to School Month in October. The NFSN makes it easy with a host of resources from fun logos to press release templates to daily themes.
  • Promoting Your Farm to School Items, from the University of Minnesota Extension Program – A video geared towards food service directors that addresses promoting farm to school menu items. See also their tips for promoting food.
  • Interview with Communications Consultant Andy Goodman, from the Center for Ecoliteracy – Andy Goodman provides advice on communicating about school lunch initiatives, holding effective focus groups, and choosing the right messages and mediums for communicating with different groups.

Examples of Farm to School Promotional Materials and Websites

  • Farmer Trading Cards, from the Massachusetts Farm to School Project – Reminiscent of baseball cards, these farmer trading cards provide the stats on the local producers who provide food for school meal programs.
  • Local Food is Good Food Poster, from the Massachusetts Farm to School Project – A colorful poster that features local food and local farmers.
  • Harvest of the Month Materials, from Portland Public Schools – Educational activity sheets and other Harvest of the Month resources.
  • Meet Your Producers, from Kent School District in Washington State – A district-level farm to school website that includes an interactive map that allows students and parents to learn more about where their school food comes from.
  • Elementary School Lunch Menu (for parents), from the Berkeley Unified School District – Monthly menus that include a letter home to parents, the district’s wellness policy, recipes, and more.

School Gardens

Below is a list of resources for planning and maintaining a school garden, as well as ways to incorporate school garden lessons into the classroom.

  • School Garden Q&As: Memo SP 32-2009, from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service – This memo clarifies, among other things, that funds from the nonprofit school food service account can be used to purchase seeds and other supplies for starting and maintaining school gardens.
  • Getting Started: A Guide for Creating School Gardens as Outdoor Classrooms, from the Center for Ecoliteracy – A comprehensive, step-by-step guide to starting a school garden, from selecting and preparing a site, to raising funds, to involving a diverse set of stakeholders.
  • School Garden Checklist, from Let’s Move – A list of considerations for starting a garden, including site and plant selection, soil health, and design.
  • Webinar: Design Ideas for a Fun, Successful Instructional School Garden, from LifeLab and the National Farm to School Network – LifeLab Director John Fisher discusses the importance of good garden design and demonstrates many garden design concepts with more than 100 photographs.
  • Resources for Creating and Sustaining School Gardens, from the California School Garden Network – Free handouts, videos, and other resources, including information on planning, designing, prepping, seeding, and maintaining a garden.
  • School Gardening Resources, from KidsGardening, a project of the National Gardening Association – Articles, lesson and activity ideas, classroom projects, and how-to-guides.
  • The Edible Schoolyard Project, an organization dedicated to building and sharing edible education curricula, supporting an online network and resource center, and offering professional development opportunities.
  • Growing a Better School Lunch, from Community Blueprint – A video documenting one of Minnesota’s largest school garden projects, which spans 3.5 acres. About 300 high school students tend a garden that provides fresh food to the school cafeteria, grow food for and operate a community supported agriculture program, and learn valuable lessons.
  • The USDA People’s Garden Initiative – A collaborative effort of more than 700 local and national organizations all working together to establish community and school gardens across the country.
  • A Step-by-Step School Garden Guide, from Grow NYC – A checklist for building community support, creating a shared vision, planning and designing the garden, securing materials and supplies, and keeping the garden growing.

Education/Curriculum Integration

Below is a list of resources for developing farm to school educational efforts.

  • Lesson Plans, from the National Organization for Agriculture in the Classroom – An extensive list of agriculture-related lesson plans and other resources organized by grade level.
  • Resources and Tools Database, from the Edible Schoolyard Project – Educational resources for the garden classroom, kitchen classroom, academic classroom, and cafeteria, organized by type, grade level, and season!
  • Farm to School Lesson Plans, from Growing Minds – Farm to school activities that incorporate both National and North Carolina State curriculum standards.
  • Dig In!, from USDA’s Team Nutrition – Ten inquiry-based lessons that engage 5th and 6th graders in growing, harvesting, tasting, and learning about fruits and vegetables.
  • The Great Garden Detective Adventure, from USDA’s Team Nutrition – This eleven-lesson curriculum for 3rd and 4th grades includes bulletin board materials, veggie dice, fruit and vegetable flash cards, and ten issues of Garden Detective News for parents/caregivers.
  • Farm to School Knowledge Base: For Educators, from Food Hub – A list of farm to school educational resources organized by grade level.
  • Sustainable Agriculture Resources and Programs for K-12 Youth, from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education – A guide to sustainable agriculture-oriented educational programs and curricula that includes direct links as well as program contact information.
  • Making the Farm Connection: A Guide to Field Trips for Farmers, from the Community Alliance with Family Farmers – A guide to planning and conducting farm visits for school groups, for farmers.
  • A Farm Field Trip Guide, from Green Mountain Farm to School – A set of lesson plans for visits to various types of farmers and other agriculture-related destinations; includes tips for farmers and teachers, and sample forms.
  • Team Nutrition Resource Library, from USDA’s Team Nutrition – A comprehensive listing of free resources (curricula, posters, toolkits, recipes, etc.) available to schools that participate in the Federal Child Nutrition Programs.
  • Fish to Schools Classroom Lessons, from the Sitka Conservation Society – In addition to the Fish to Schools Resource Guide, the Sitka Conservation Society developed a “Steam to Plate” curriculum, a unit of seven lessons that connect salmon to the classroom.

Evaluation

Below is a list of resources for developing farm to school evaluation efforts.

Program Sustainability

Below is a list of resources for sustaining your farm to school program.

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