Blog Archive

Friday, July 31, 2015

MI Farm to School News

Happy Friday network!

I hope you all are having a fabulous last day of July.  I'm having trouble remembering where the summer went, but looking forward to the new school year to come and to opportunities to visit Farm to School programming around the state!  Do you have innovative and exciting programming you want to showcase?  Shoot me an email, I'd love to hear about it!


Improved financing options for produce farmers
Having food safety plans is an important aspect of many farm to school programs, and the ability to wash, package, and store on-farm products is critical for farmers wanting to reach institutional markets.  This week, the US Department of Agriculture announced its intention to improve federal financing options available for cold storage and handling facilities and equipment.  Check out the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's coverage of this new advancement

If you haven't heard about the Oregon legislature's move to expand farm to school throughout the state, now's the time!  The legislature has expanded the Farm to School and School Garden programs by $4.5 million, with the majority going directly towards reimbursing the costs of getting Oregon foods into school meals.  20% of these funds will be used to support agricultural and farm education.


This decision tree is a simple tool to figure out how local foods can fit into your school food purchasing, highlighting different methods of procuring food including the new micro purchase threshold!  Did you know that you can purchase products up to this threshold without obtaining bids?  A great tool to use in your Farm to School procurement strategy!


Webinar: Pilot Project for the Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables (UFP)
On August 13, the USDA is hosting a webinar on how to become a UFP Pilot Project vendor.  If you haven't heard about the UFV Pilot, you need to check out the USDA's website!  Michigan is one of eight states selected to participate in this program, which aims to develop additional opportunities for schools to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables with entitlement funding.  

FoodCorps is hiring!
FoodCorps has a variety of administrative positions open.  Food corps places motivated leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service transforming school food.  Visit for more information.  Did you know we have nine FoodCorps members here in Michigan?

And don't forget, if you have any tips, news, exciting projects, or meetings you would like me to know about or highlight in future updates, send them my way!  Have a great weekend Michiganders!  

Stay swell,

Abby Harper
Farm to School Specialist
Center for Regional Food Systems | Michigan State University
480 Wilson Rd | Rm 309 Natural Resources Building East Lansing, MI 48824
(p) 517.432.4525 (c) 857.600.6921

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Michigan School Garden newsletter July 2015


July 2015




Explore Farm to School at Tollgate Education Farm Center

Educational site in southeastern Michigan offers youth the opportunity to experience farm to table in action.

by Kaitlin Koch, Extension Educator

Community Foods Systems



Cool Weather Crops in the Fall School Garden

By Kristine Hahn, Community Foods Systems Educator


Gardening is not typically thought of as an autumn activity, but it is a chance to teach students (and some adults!) about the value of cool weather crops.  It is an opportunity to cash in on the novelty of an extended gardening season and the enthusiasm of returning students (and teachers). 


Many crops such as lettuces, spinach, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower grow better in the cool temperatures of autumn.  These vegetable crops are prone to "bolting" during hot weather.  Bolting is when the plant sends up a tall shoot to produce a flower and ultimately seeds in response to hotter temperatures.  The bolting process usually spoils the taste of the desired crop, especially in leafy vegetables where the leaves will acquire a bitter taste.  Conversely, fall frosts can have a sweetening effect on Cole crops such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Seeds of lettuces often will not germinate in hot temperatures.  These examples illustrate the adaptation of Cole crops to cooler temperatures that allow them to avoid competing with the more familiar hot crops of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.  These crops work well with the curriculum subject of adaptation.   


Other crops that often perform well in the fall garden have shorter growing periods, such as radishes that are often ready for harvest within three to four weeks of planting.  Other root crops such as carrots and beets fare well in the fall garden as long as you choose varieties that will mature fast enough, and are planted early enough.  Please contact your local Michigan State University Extension office for further information about fall or cool weather vegetable crops. 


It is usually recommended that fall crops be planted by September 10 in Michigan so that they have enough time to mature.  That early of a planting date can be a challenge during the beginning of the school year when there is such a flurry of activity.  Planning the fall garden in the previous spring before school ends can help the fall garden be more successful.  Also partnering with other teachers and after-school clubs can lighten the load of establishing a fall school garden. 


So take this unique learning opportunity and get out there and expand your school's horizons with a fall vegetable garden!_



School Garden Grant Information

We would love to hear about your garden grant stories, awards or applications! Please feel welcome to write us with them so we can highlight your experience in the newsletter.


American Honda Foundation


Due dates quarterly, next two are August 1 and November 1


Schools, nonprofits classified as 501(c) (3) s and private or public schools (elementary and secondary) are eligible.


Award range: $20,000 - $75,000 for one year


Apply online at this link


 Captain Planet Foundation


Due date: September 30th


Schools, nonprofits and other organizations are eligible, as long as they are exempt from federal taxation. Proposals must include three considerations: be project-based, be performed by youth and have real environmental outcomes.


Apply online at this link


CHS Classroom Grant


Due date: September 15th


Certified, core academic teachers for grades K-12 that are interested in using agricultural concepts to teach core subject areas and enhance students' understanding of agriculture.


Award: Five $1,500 grants


More information and the application are available at this link.


The Herb Society of America


Due date: December 31


Formal or informal educators who are using innovative projects to enhance herbal education in school systems, communities or in any public forum.


Award: One or two $5,000 grants


More information and online application available at this link


The Home Depot Foundation


Community Impact Grants currently open


Schools and 501(c) (3) organizations are eligible.


Awards are up to $5,000


Apply online at this link


The Home Depot also has opportunities to match donations from local stores with nonprofits. Follow this link for more information on how to request a match.


Jamba Juice "It's all about the Fruits and Veggies" Garden Grant


Open date: June 1, 2015


Due date: October 2, 2015


Schools, nonprofits and community organizations are eligible with at least 15 children between the ages of 3-18. Proposed projects must be within a 50 mile radius of a Jamba Juice store. Awards consist of $100 in soil amendments and plants and $400 in gardening supplies. Apply online at this link


Project Produce Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools


Open: February 1, 2015


Due date: None, distributed on a rolling basis


Any district or independent school participating in the National School Lunch Program is eligible. Must be submitted by district food service director.


These grants are $2,500 and can assist with offering educational activities in the lunchroom, encouraging students to try new veggies and fruits. Read more and apply online at this link.



Sow it Forward Garden Grants


2016 Grant currently open


Due date: January 8, 2016


Nonprofit organizations, schools, 501(c) (3) organizations, food banks, community gardens (and more!) are eligible.


Projects are to focus on food garden projects that benefit their community.


Awards are full or partial. Full grants are $300-400 in cash and remainder in seeds and garden supplies. Partial grants are $300 cash and $25 one year subscription to Kitchen Gardeners International garden planner.


Apply online at this link.








Kristine Hahn

Michigan State University Extension Educator

Community Food Systems

Eastern Market Office

1445 Adelaide

Detroit, MI 48207


248-802-4590 (CELL)

313-567-8726 (FAX)

NEW LOCATION and phone number


"We are what we repeatedly do.  Therefore, excellence is not an act, but a habit."  Aristotle


Friday, July 24, 2015

MI Farm to School News

Happy Friday!


This week we announced the recipients of our MI Farm to School Grant Program!  Are any schools in your area participating?  If you missed the announcement, check out the full list of current and previous grantees here:


If your in the Capital City area this week, the first of three Farmers Market at the Capital events will take place this Thursday, July 30!  Shoppers can enjoy goods from more than 70 vendors from across the state selling Michigan-grown and produced products ranging from fresh fruit and vegetables to flowers, meat, cheese, baked goods, prepared foods and much more, and it's a great opportunity to get to know Michigan farmers from all across the state.



Op-ed: Don't reverse progress toward healthier school lunches

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged Congress not to roll back the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act healthier school meal standards in an opinion piece this week. The Salt Lake Tribune


Oregon to drastically change the way children get their school lunches

Oregon is taking its farm-to-schools statewide. As part of a spending bill, lawmakers agreed to pour $3.3 million of general fund money toward expanding the program, from the 19 school districts that currently enjoy farm-to-school benefits to every K-12 in the state. Portland Business Journal


Ige Signs Law Creating Farm-to-School Program in Hawaii

Last week, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a bill that is intended to increase the amount of local food students eat in Hawaii's public school system. The bill creates a state-wide farm to school program, and funds a full-time farm to school coordinator position. Civil Beat


Washington County Public Schools workers prep and process produce

A school district in Maryland is working this summer to develop new systems for prepping and processing produce so that local food can be served year-round. Herald Mail Media




New USDA farm to preschool resource

USDA Farm to School team has published a new two-page fact sheet focused on preschool settings. Farm to Preschool: Local Food and Learning in Early Child Care and Education Settings presents basic information about farm to preschool efforts, including tips and resources. The fact sheet is available here


School Food Focus released a video of the culinary boot camp hosted by the in December.  This program brought school chefs from around the region, including from Detroit, MI, focusing on training participants and in incorporating fresh food items into school meals and providing a platform for collaboration amongst chefs.  


Advancing Farm to School: Lessons from the Field

This "Farm to School 2.0" resource is meant for those that are hoping to expand or fine-tune farm to school programming in their community. The contents reflect the experience of fourteen Wisconsin communities, as they worked to establish and strengthen farm to school efforts in their respective regions. Chapter topics range from designing a successful Harvest of the Month program to strategies for fostering farm to school program sustainability. Actionable tips and insight are provided through case studies, distilled 'lessons learned', and field-tested resource recommendations. View the resource here


Running a Food Hub

Food Hubs could be an important piece in tackling the supply chain challenges some schools face in expanding farm to school programs.  The USDA has launched a new report series, Running a Food Hub, offering food hubs "valuable information on how to plan for success, address challenges, and achieve viability.  Check out the first in the series: Lessons Learned from the Field.


Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

USDA has released a new newsletter in accordance with their Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, providing periodic updates on relevant resources and opportunities from the USDA.  You can read the inaugural edition here and make sure you get future editions by emailing and replying "YES."


Journal of School Health: School Gardens Enhance Academic Performance and Dietary Outcomes in Children

Schools face increasing demands to provide education on healthy living and improve core academic performance. Although these appear to be competing concerns, they may interact beneficially. This article focuses on school garden programs and their effects on students' academic and dietary outcomes. This small set of studies offers evidence that garden-based learning does not negatively impact academic performance or FV consumption and may favorably impact both. Additional studies with more robust experimental designs and outcome measures are necessary to understand the effects of experiential garden-based learning on children's academic and dietary outcomes. Read the article here




The All About Food conference committee is seeking proposals for the 2016 conference on March 15th hosted by the Macomb Food Collaborative. Representatives from all sectors of the food system are encouraged to submit a proposal for a 45 or 60-minute session. Please see the attached Call for Session Proposals for more information.  Proposals should be submitted to by close of business on August 21, 2015.  For more information, check out their website.


Project Produce: Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools

The Chef Ann Foundation has teamed up with Skoop, a superfoods company committed to bringing the health benefits of superfoods to every American. Together they have launched Project Produce: Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools. These $2,500 grants assist in expanding students' palates, and encouraging increased consumption of and exposure to fresh produce through engagement in lunchroom education activities that encourage students to taste new vegetables and fruits offered either in a dish, cooked, or raw. Learn more about the grant and find details to apply on The Lunch Box


CHS Classroom Grant

CHS and National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO) are offering five $1,500 classroom grants to teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade. The funds can be used for schoolyard or classroom gardens, animal science and other projects that educate K-12 students in general education classrooms about the source of their food, fiber and fuel. The deadline for applications is Sept. 15, 2015. Learn more and apply here


Captain Planet Foundation Grant

Captain Planet Foundation provides grants between $500 and $2,500 to school and community groups to support hands-on environmental projects. The objective of the foundation is to encourage innovative programs that empower children and youth around the world to work individually and collectively to solve environmental problems in their neighborhoods and communities. The next deadline is September 30, 2015. Learn more here



Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!


Abby Harper
Farm to School Specialist
Center for Regional Food Systems | Michigan State University
480 Wilson Rd | Rm 309 Natural Resources Building East Lansing, MI 48824
(p) 517.432.4525 (c) 857.600.6921

Seeking presentation proposals for 2016 All About Food: From Farm to Fork Conference

Greetings All,


Apologies for any cross postings.


The All About Food conference committee is seeking proposals for the 2016 conference on March 15th. Representatives from all sectors of the food system are encouraged to submit a proposal for a 45 or 60 minute session. Please see the attached Call for Session Proposals for more information.


Proposals should be submitted to me, at, by close of business on August 21, 2015. Notifications will be sent out by September 30, 2015.


You can find more information on the host of this conference, the Macomb Food Collaborative, at our website.


Please share widely with your networks.


Thank you,


Kaitlin Koch

Michigan State University Extension Educator

Community Food Systems

21885 Dunham, Suite 12

Clinton Township, MI 48036

Work: 586-469-6088

Cell: 313-695-7746


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Announcement: MI Farm to School Grantees - 2015-2016

We at CRFS are excited to announce this year's grantees for the MI Farm to School Grant Program

This year, the 20 grantees from 12 counties across Michigan will be planning and implementing farm to school programming with nearly 25,000 students!  We have an especially diverse pool of applicants this year spanning both early education and K-12 programming in schools serving anywhere from 25 students to districts serving over 13,000!

Though all grantees are at different stages of the Farm to School program development, all are initiating innovative efforts this coming year to expand and strengthen their programming.  In addition to purchasing more fruits and vegetables from local farms, efforts include:
  • Building stronger planning commissions to ensure sustainability of farm to school efforts
  • Developing systems for freezing and preserving summer harvests to use in winter meals
  • Building community connections with local farmers through field trips and school education
  • Increasing staff capacity to serve local produce through knife skills and seasonal menu planning training
  • Working with Cultivate Michigan as a tool for tracking local purchasing
Check out the full list of current and previous grantees:

For more information on our MI Farm to School Grant Program, you can view this year's webinar outlining the program, expectations, and eligibility here:

I'll be highlighting the various initiatives of our farm to school grantees throughout the year, so stay tuned!

Abby Harper
Farm to School Specialist
Center for Regional Food Systems | Michigan State University
480 Wilson Rd | Rm 309 Natural Resources Building East Lansing, MI 48824
(p) 517.432.4525 (c) 857.600.6921

Friday, July 17, 2015

MI Farm to School Updates

Happy Friday MI Farm to School Network!

This week has been especially exciting for Michigan Farm to School, as for the past two days folks from all across the state met for the joint Michigan Farm to Institution and Food Hub Network convening in Flint.  As schools move towards increased volume of local purchasing, more attention is being turned towards developing the supply chain needed to aggregate and distribute local food, and Food Hubs could have an interesting role to play.  This convening provided an opportunity for farmers, food hub operators, and institutional purchasers and staff to get together to discuss challenges and strategies for increasing the amount of Michigan grown produce in Michigan schools – all working towards the Good Food Charter goal of reaching 20% by 2020!

Here are some other updates on the Farm to School front:


MSU researchers study 'Beef to School' benefits with new grant

A team of researchers at MSU is working on a way to get more local beef into Montana schools. The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave MSU a three-year, $220,000 grant to help Montana beef producers and meat processors increase the use of local meat in K-12 schools. NBC Montana

Oregon legislature votes to expand state farm-to-school program, providing 3.3 million dollars to the Farm to School Program, 80% of which will be provided to any school district for procurement, while the other 20% will be grants for food, farm, and garden based education

The WK Kellogg Foundation announced a grant to FoodLab Detroit to support local food businesses and entrepreneurs in Detroit and southeast Michigan.  The press release is attached.


Case study of the Group GAP Pilot Project based in the UP.
  • National GAPS website has also added a farm food safety "decision trees" to help farmers identify risks and implement food-safe practices

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) featured a blogpost on Dexter Community Schools – highlighting the great Farm to School work happening in Michigan.

In support of serving traditional foods and locally grown and raised foods in Tribal communities, the USDA released  this memorandum to clarify that traditional foods may be served in CNPs and to provide examples of how several traditional foods may contribute towards a reimbursable meal.

Selling your crop to Michigan institutions this summer

Connect the dots between the three pillars of Farm to School by encouraging local producers to sell their produce to summer food service programs.  Click on the title/link to read the entire article.


School Food FOCUS is seeking a Research, Data & Evaluation Manager.  

REAP is recruiting AmeriCorps members for Farm to School Educator positions for the 2015-2016 school year.

Applications are due July 10, and are attached to this e-mail.

Local Foods, Local Places 2015-2016 Technical Assistance OpportunityThe Center for Disease Control's Local Foods, Local Places opened their application period as part of the White House Rural Council's "Rural Impact" project.  This aims to help community members develop action plans that use local foods to support healthy families and communities.

Grants available for promoting nutrition in Native American Populations: The Seeds of Native Health Grant program aims to fund capacity building, education, and research projects targeting healthy nutrition programs in Native American communities.  Deadline is July 20, 2015 at 5 pm!

Voices for Healthy Kids Grant: The American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has grant funding available up to $100,000 for projects that advance public policy that positively impacts healthy weight and living among children.  One of the target areas is "Smart School Foods", so a great opportunity!


I'm going to continue plugging this because it sounds like a great event:

H.E.A.L Our Food System Gathering

Sep 25-27, 2015, Chicago, IL 

The Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative (GFJI) 2015 Gathering will be held in Chicago, IL in partnership with Growing Power, Inc. The Growing Food and Justice for All (GFJI) is a comprehensive network that views dismantling racism as a core principle which brings together social change agents from diverse sectors who are working to bring about new, healthy, and impoverished communities throughout the world. Learn more and register here.

Hope everyone has plans to stay cool this weekend!  It's supposed to be a scorcher.

Abby Harper
Farm to School Specialist
Center for Regional Food Systems | Michigan State University
480 Wilson Rd | Rm 309 Natural Resources Building East Lansing, MI 48824
(p) 517.432.4525 (c) 857.600.6921