California Farm to School Program
Farm to school programs are a vital way to improve the health and well-being of California schoolchildren through integrated food-based education and healthy food access. California schools serve hundreds of millions of meals each year, and expanding opportunities for local food procurement that is tied to food-based education is essential for establishing healthy eating habits that children can carry into adulthood. Procurement of more California grown or produced food also supports connecting California's agriculture and food production to California consumers.
Building on her commitment to ensuring California children have the best start in life, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom announced the release of a new report, Planting the Seed: Farm to School Roadmap for Success on February 24, 2022. The report highlights policy goals to advance child well-being, economic growth, environmental resilience, and racial equity through farm to school systems that connect children to locally sourced, whole foods and produce in cafeterias, classrooms, and gardens.
The report and its recommendations are the result of a collaboration -- led by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross -- among a number of state agency leaders, education professionals, and farm to school experts and practitioners.
While individual farm to school programs vary based on their unique vision, community, and geographic region, the CDFA broadly considers farm to school programs as combining: (1) schools and early care and education programs buying California grown or produced foods from California food producers for school meal programs, (2) educational activities that connect classroom learning with cafeteria meals, and (3) hands–on food education opportunities in school gardens, on farms, in culinary classes, in settings that celebrate traditional foodways and cultivate food sovereignty, and through other experiential learning pathways. Programs may include forest–to–school, river-to-school, and ocean–to–school.
The Budget Act of 2020 included a $10 million one-time General Fund allocation for the 2020-21 fiscal year and $1.5 million annually thereafter for the CDFA to establish a Farm to School Incubator Grant Program and provide ongoing support for the California Farm to School Network. The 2021 grant program awarded 60 grants to innovative local and regional farm to school projects that promote innovation in nutrition education, sustainable production and procurement, and high-quality student experience. This 2020 funding also supported the Farm to School Working Group to advance farm to school implementation and explore how to create a more resilient and climate-smart food supply in California.
The Budget Act of 2021 includes a $60 million one-time General Fund allocation for the CDFA to sustain and expand the California Farm to School Incubator Grant Program, with $30 million allocated for fiscal year 2021-22 and $30 million allocated for fiscal year 2022-23. The 2022 grant program will award competitive grants to support projects that cultivate equity, nurture students, build climate resilience, and create scalable and sustainable change.
The CDFA Office of Farm to Fork hosts the California Farm to School Network (CFSN), which functions as a communications hub and a convener across many organizations and regions in the state. The Network aligns farm to school efforts, shares resources, and brings food producers, school nutrition services departments, educators, distributors, and advocates together to collaborate and engage in peer-to-peer learning.
The California Farm to School Network originated as the California Farm to School Taskforce, which formed in 2004 to provide coordination and leadership around farm to school programming. In 2013, the Taskforce broadened its work and transitioned to a network open to everyone in the state of California who is working on farm to school programs and projects. In 2017 the California Farm to School Network transitioned to the CDFA Office of Farm to Fork.
The 2022 California Farm to School Incubator Grant Program will award competitive grants to support projects that cultivate equity, nurture students, build climate resilience, and create scalable and sustainable change.
The 2021 California Farm to School Incubator Grant Program awarded 60 grants to innovative local and regional farm to school projects that promote innovation in nutrition education, sustainable production and procurement, and high-quality student experience.
The California Farm to School Network is hosting a Community of Practice event series via Zoom! Each event will provide the opportunity for peer-to-peer learning, relationship building, and collaborative solution-building. Registration is free and open to all.
Community of Practice #4: Thursday, August 11, 2022 @ 1:30 PM PT
Thank you to all who participated in the 2021 California Farm to School Conference!