May 2018 Action Team Updates

While schools and communities around the state have been cooking up great Farm to School activities all year, our Farm to School Network Action Teams have been busy tackling strategic projects that will help us reach our statewide goal. Read on for updates about the high impact projects our teams are taking on, and how you can get involved.

Our System Goal: By 2025, 75% of Vermont Schools will lead the cultural shift to a values-based food system that engages 75% of our Students in integrated food system education; community-based learning; nourishing universal meals; and the experience of self-efficacy; purchasing at least 50% from a socially just and environmentally and financially sustainable regional food system.

Read below for the May 2018 update. For further updates on projects, studies, events, and campaigns, sign up to join our Vermont Farm to School listserv!

Demonstrating the Economic Value of Farm to School

Goal: Build the data, evidence, and compelling case to show the relative value of Farm to School vs. non-Farm to School for legislators and decision-makers.

Strategy: By June of 2018, 10 legislators and 20 school decision-makers will make more informed decisions about their investment in FTS based on improved knowledge of the its economic value and the relative return on that investment.

Action Project: Together with the Supply Innovation Team, we’re developing a series of five case studies of successful FTS initiatives around the state (including one Farm to ECE initiative). So far, school interviews are complete, drafts of the case studies have been written,  and final products will be ready by July.

Demonstrating the Educational Value of Farm to School

Goal: Build a strong commitment for Farm to School from key leaders in education, and create a stronger alignment between FTS and current priority initiatives in education. 

Strategy: Develop a campaign to secure FTS support (endorsements and action commitments) from school administrators.

Action Project: We’ve been focused on developing an outreach campaign targeting school administrators to directly make the case to decision-makers for the value of FTS programming to secure their support. The working campaign concept is to ask schools to officially sign on to a simple challenge to improve their 3C FTS work, thereby advancing along the FTS phases of development. We’ve worked to finalize a qualitative report on the needs and perceptions of school administrators, developed a campaign concept and strategy, and are now working to align said campaign with other Network Action Team efforts.

Improving Farm to School Ease of Use

Goal: By June 2018, 50% of current Farm to School Coordinators will report that they have advanced the growth of their FTS program, and five schools in Vermont will create a new FTS Coordinator position.

Strategy: Build a community of practice to increase capacity for FTS coordination through professional development and efficient access to resources.

Action Projects: We currently have three projects:

  1. We’re continuing our regional, in-person gatherings to allow for learning and sharing. The mini-grant recipients for 2018 Farm to School Regional Gatherings have been selected; congratulations to: Lakeview Elementary, Orange Southwest Supervisory Union, Paine Mountain Supervisory Union, St. Albans Town Educational Center, Barnard Academy, and Oak Grove and Putney Schools. Keep an eye out for a Farm to School Regional Gathering in your area this fall!

  2. We’re publishing and disseminating a quarterly coordinator newsletter focused on providing information on professional development opportunities; regional, state and national highlights; sharing FTS trends; and promoting FTS resources and tools from Network Action Teams.

  3. We’ve gathered data to identify at least five new coordinator roles in Vermont schools.  

Creating Policy Demand for Farm to School

Goal: Convince decision makers, state legislators ,and school boards/administrators to invest in Farm to School and universal meals.

Strategy: Pass a bill in the Vermont State Legislature that would: support schools in Vermont that want to provide universal school meals; expand FTS grants program to early care providers; increase state funding of FTS; and support sustainability of FTS programs and local purchasing.

Action project: We’re working on several initiatives related to demand policy in close collaboration with other Action Teams:

  1. Last year’s FTS legislative campaign was very successful, and we’re continuing our efforts in the 2018 legislative session to pursue our goal of $500,000 in base funding for Farm to School and ECE. We have moved from $56,000 allocated in 2014 to $231,000 in this year’s state budget.

  2. We’re developing a two-layer “toolkit” for school administrators, school boards, and parent/community leaders to help them understand child nutrition programs and how to take action to make their school nutrition programs with FTS sustainable and effective.

  3. We’re working with the Supply Innovation Action Team to explore viable pricing for ground beef in order to boost local purchasing in schools for a popular product. 

Innovating in Local Food Supply & Distribution

Goal: Forty schools in Vermont will define their local food purchasing values and increase annual local purchasing by 5% in 2017-18.

Strategy: Help schools define their local food purchasing values and goals and document local food purchasing; develop case studies to be used to inspire change in other schools; and focus on pursuing the idea of “Beef to School”.

Action Projects:  We currently have two projects:

  1. Together with the Economic Value team, we’re developing a series of five case studies of successful FTS initiatives around the state.

  2. We’re researching potential strategies for a “Beef to School” focus, including researching past Vermont and Montana beef studies and talking to experts in Vermont and Burlington School Food Project about their specific beef projects.

Farm to School Evaluation

Goal: Create a monitoring system to regularly collect and visualize through an online dashboard, statewide data about progress in Vermont public schools toward the overarching Vermont Farm to School Network goal.

Action Project: We’re focusing on the Vermont Farm to School Data Harvest: a large-scale census of FTS data in Vermont. So far, the survey, with the support of the Vermont Department of Health, has been distributed statewide, with nearly a 60% participation rate. The survey has recently closed and the analysis and preliminary summary is underway.