Network Update

The Vermont Farm to School Network has had an ambitious vision for spreading FTS to every community in VT, but we didn’t have a concrete plan to get to our goal until last year when we used a “systems mapping” approach to set a course and organized ourselves for taking collaborative action. We identified four critical leverage points to help us reach a tipping point to scale up FTS. We involved 60 stakeholders, 35 organizations and Network members, and created five Action Teams organized around strategies for change. You can read more about the process and Network goal here.

June 2016 Update

Vermont’s Farm to School Network Action Teams came together on May 25th to celebrate progress, share what we have learned to date, and plan activities for the next five months. It’s been one year since we launched our Strategic Action Teams, and we continue to evolve the Network and measure progress toward our Network 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.

Here are some of the progress highlights:

1. The Economic Value Team completed a report on the economic contribution and potential impact of schools’ purchase of local foods in Vermont with a two-page infographic. Findings include:

  • Vermont schools spent a total of $16 million on food in a single school year. For every dollar spent on local, an additional 60¢ went back into the local economy.
  • If Vermont schools doubled their current local food spending (from 5.6% to 11.2%), the contribution to the Vermont economy would be $2.1 million.

2. The Educational Value Team completed a series of digital stories that highlight how farm to school helps schools achieve their educational priorities.

3. The Making Farm to School Easy to Use Team created a Community of Practice for farm to school coordinators to improve communication around professional development opportunities and resources. They held a meeting with farm to school practitioners in Northern Vermont at Sterling College on November 4, 2015 and in Southern Vermont in Manchester, VT on December 2, 2015. This presentation provides a brief overview of their efforts to develop a Community of Practice for farm to school coordinators in the state of Vermont and a summary of the data and recommendations collected from their surveys and focus groups to date. 

4. The Policy/Demand Team succeeded in securing an additional $75,000 from the Vermont Legislature to add a component to Vermont’s Farm to School grant program that will support more schools moving to universal school meals. Currently, 53 Vermont schools are providing universal breakfast and lunch at no cost to students using federal nutrition programs. Data shows that 99% of schools providing universal meals have strengthened their meal program finances. One of our goals is to simultaneously encourage schools to move forward with farm to school and expand access to and participation in their meal programs.

A bill that would have expanded the farm to school grants program to licensed childcare centers and raise the threshold for formal bidding for school food purchases never reached a final vote in the Legislature.

5. The Supply Innovation Team identified ten key products currently purchased by schools that can be grown and supplied locally. They collected distributor and school purchase data to determine the size of opportunity for the food products using a tracking tool developed for school use. Results have been shared with supply chain facilitators, T.A. providers, food hubs, and others.

This fall, the Network will be launching a farm to school campaign to increase support from school leadership and Legislators. Stay tuned to hear how you can participate in this campaign!