Tag Archives: farm to school

CALLING ALL JUNIOR IRON CHEFS

Statewide youth culinary competition now accepting teams….early bird registration deadline is December 16, 2015

Applications are now being accepted for the 9th annual Jr Iron Chef Vermont, a culinary competition for Vermont middle and high school students who are looking to show off their skills in the kitchen. Jr Iron Chef Vermont challenges teams of students to create healthy and delicious dishes made from local ingredients, which will ultimately inspire the menus of school meal programs.

“This competition is a really fun and exciting way to get kids excited about food,” says Jr. Iron Chef coordinator, Amy Gifford. “The tweens and teens who participate learn so much…not just about cooking, but about working together and tapping their own creativity!”

Applications will be accepted until January 16, 2016 on a first-come, first-serve basis. The early bird registration fee is $130.00 until December 16, 2015. After that, the registration fee increases to $150.00. Registration is limited to the first 75 teams, consisting of three to five students in 6th-8th grade, or 9th-12th grade. Applications are available online at www.jrironchefvt.org.

The Jr Iron Chef VT 2016 competition will be held on March 19, 2016 at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. The contest guidelines are rigorous, intended to demonstrate the real-life challenges that food services face in creating healthy meals for schools. Two heats will be held the day of the competition, with 90 minutes of cooking time per heat. Winning teams receive prize packages, and have an opportunity to feature their recipes in the Vermont Statehouse Cafeteria.

Jr Iron Chef VT is hosted by Vermont FEED, a collaborative Farm to School Project of NOFA-VT and Shelburne Farms. From the start, the event has been committed to providing middle and high school students with a hands-on experience cooking nutritious, farm-fresh foods. When the event began in 2008, 35 teams participated. Last year, 260 students from every corner of the state competed on 61 teams.

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Agency of Ag Announces More than $50,000 of Farm to School Grant Funding Available to VT Schools

Information about the Vermont Farm to School Program and a downloadable grant application »

All Vermont schools, consortium of schools, and school districts are eligible to apply for funding.  Program applications must be received by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture no later than 4:30 pm on Friday, November 6, 2015.


State leaders gathered together on October 13th, 2015 at Sustainability Academy in Burlington to recognize Farm to School Awareness Month, a statewide celebration of the Farm to School (FTS) Program that connects thousands of Vermont students with fresh, healthy, local foods every year.  Among the celebrants were Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, Health Commissioner Harry Chen, Burlington Schools Superintendent Yaw Obeng, Vermont state legislators, as well as representatives from the office of Senator Leahy, and other important Farm to School stakeholders.

Vermont Agency of Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross announced more than $50,000 in funding available to all Vermont schools for the purpose of developing or expanding Farm to School programming for Vermont students in 2016.

Vermont is a national leader in Farm to School programming; our schools spend a larger percentage of their food budgets on locally sourced foods than any other state.

“Farm to School programs are a vital tool we can use to promote agricultural literacy in schools so that, from an early age, students understand the value of nutrition, develop healthy eating habits, and appreciate where their food comes from,” said  Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross.  “Farm to School programming helps build a culture of ‘Ag Literacy’ in our schools and communities. These programs are an essential part of building the connection between agriculture and the next generation of Vermonters, while also teaching our students to make healthy choices and ensuring food access for all.”

Since 2007, the state of Vermont has appropriated more than $800,000 in support of Farm to School programming.  The Vermont Farm to School Grant Program has awarded funds to 70 schools and supervisory unions throughout the state to facilitate the integration of local foods in school cafeterias, classrooms and communities, impacting roughly 30% of all schools in Vermont.

Today’s event also served as an opportunity to highlight several new developments in Vermont’s Farm to School landscape, including:

  • The newly established inter-agency strategic partnership between the Agency of Agriculture and the Departments of Education and Health focused on developing Farm to School programs throughout the state.
  • New School Wellness Policy Guidelines which now more strongly incorporate FTS programming and recommendations for local food in school nutrition standards and education.
  • Recently released Vermont Farm to School Network Goals to engage 75% of Vermont Schools in Farm to School programming and purchases at least 50% of food regionally by 2025.

2015 Farm to School Awareness Month Press Event

Following the celebratory remarks, the Sustainability Academy’s 4th and 5th grade garden club treated event guests to a taste test of fresh kale pesto made with kale harvested from school gardens in Burlington – a fitting choice of vegetable as today, October 7th, is also National Kale Day.  Taste tests, a popular tool used to encourage students to try new foods, are the official theme of Farm to School Awareness month in Vermont.  Students participating in FTS programs will be conducting various taste tests for their classmates using fresh, local food throughout the month of October.

Vermont Farm to School program grant program is made possible by collaboration between the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Agency of Education, VT FEED (Food Education Every Day) and the Vermont Farm to School Network.

If  you have questions about Vermont’s Farm to School program or the 2016 funding, contact Ali Zipparo at 802-505-1822, or Alexandra.Zipparo@vermont.gov.

New Funding for VT FEED

Vermont Food Education Every Day ( VT FEED) just received word that “Building Demand for Fruits and Vegetables in Vermont Schools” will be funded by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program!

The goal of this 18-month pilot project is to explore increasing the viability of schools as a consistent market for Vermont fruits and vegetables by providing tools, training, and technical assistance to school food programs, teachers, and farmers.

Specifically we’ll be focusing on USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), promoting use of the program in classrooms and facilitating the process for using Vermont fruits and vegetables in the program. The FFVP allotment of funds for Vermont schools is over 1.8 million dollars. If schools used only 10% of the FFVP dollars to purchase Vermont produce each year, Vermont specialty crop producers would receive an additional $180,000 annually.

For more information, please contact Amy Gifford at amy@nofavt.org or call (802) 434-4122

2015-2016 Farm to School Institute schools chosen

The  VT FEED Farm to School Institute is a unique year-long professional development opportunity being offered to ten diverse school teams from Vermont and, this year thanks to an USDA Farm to School Grant, the Northeast.

FEED Farm to School InstituteThrough 3 days of immersed training and planning this summer, participants will have time and support to develop a comprehensive Farm to School action plan and receive in-school mentoring to guide the implementation of their plan over the 2015-2016 academic year.

See what St. Albans City School, who participated 2013-2014, is doing in their farm to school program by watching this video.

Vermont schools that have been accepted are: South Burlington HS, Milton HS, Bradford Elementary, Essex Town Middle School, Guilford Elementary, Hardwick Elementary,  Manchester Elementary, Champlain Elementary.

More about FEED »

Jr Iron Chef VT

Do you know any aspiring young chefs? Are you an avid cook who would like to share your talents with local students? Are you a farmer who’d like to develop a relationship with a nearby school? If so, then the 8th Annual Jr Iron Chef VT is where you need to be!

Jr Iron Chef VT is a statewide culinary competition that provides middle and high school students with the opportunity to have hands-on experience cooking nutritious, farm-fresh foods. Students source local ingredients and design, test, and practice recipes in preparation for the 90-minute cooking competition. Their dishes are critiqued by a panel of hand-selected judges, and prize packages are awarded.

Register your team by January 15th to get in on the action.

“The energy at the competition is amazing and students are able to see other food ideas, how other groups work together, how they perform under pressure, and deal with unexpected consequences. They inspire me.” –Dawn Fuller-Ball, Coach, Whitcomb Middle/High School

74 teams will square off at the 2015 event on March 21 at the Champlain Valley Exposition. Learn more at www.jrironchefvt.org or check out our Facebook page.

Sodexo’s local move

At NOFA-VT, we’ve been working with food service giant Sodexo for four years now during the Winter Conference at UVM, and we’ve seen their capacity for and commitment to using local foods improve each year. We’re glad to see the change formalized in the company’s new “Vermont First” campaign.

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VT Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross applauded Sodexo’s move during a press conference on September 4. Photo by Abbie Nelson, NOFA-VT.

Sodexo is undeniably a multi-national corporation, and the move is certainly based off of market pressure rather than pure goodwill. Rather than seeing that as cause for suspicion, however, it can be considered a victory: Vermont’s support of and demand for local foods is strong enough to sway the purchasing decisions of a company that operates in 90 countries.

And while many Vermont producers do not currently operate at the scale Sodexo requires, an increase in institutional purchasing such as that done by Sodexo represents an opportunity for growth in a state already hip-deep in farmers’ markets and CSAs. New farmers or farmer cooperatives may be able to succeed in areas that otherwise would be saturated or, alternatively, may lack the population to support them through traditional direct marketing means.

Additionally, institutional purchasing makes local food immediately available to more people, including those who may not be otherwise engaged in the local foods movement.

It remains to be seen how much Sodexo will dedicate to the change — according to VTDigger, no official benchmarks have been set, though the company has hired a local foods coordinator. We hope to see real increases in local purchasing, which could fuel both the local and regional food economy. Even an incremental change in Sodexo’s Vermont purchasing habits will show up on 34,000 plates each day. That represents a great opportunity for farmers and consumers alike, as well as a potential model for other institutional buyers.

Farmers interested in selling to institutional markets are encouraged to fill out the Wholesale and Institutional Markets Survey, and to contact NOFA-VT if you would like technical assistance in business planning, creating contracts, or production.

(More information from VPR or VTDigger.)

Wholesale and Institutional Markets – a quick survey for producers

Hey farmers! We’re partnering with the Agency of Ag on a project to help determine the level of interest from producers in institutional and wholesale markets.

We’re hoping you can take about 10 minutes out of this busy season to fill out a short survey, which will help us understand the current supply and demand in this market, the level of interest amongst producers, the room for growth, and what kinds of support and technical assistance would be most useful.

We see wholesale and institutional sales (such as those to grocery stores, schools, and hospitals) as a key market for future local foods growth. These markets reach large numbers of customers, many of whom may not be seeking out local products or participating in direct-market channels such as farmers’ markets and CSAs. By making local foods more accessible to more people, we can increase awareness and create demand.

We hope that you’ll help us analyze and understand this market, your participation in it, and how best we can work with producers and other partners to make wholesale and institutional sales successful for Vermont farmers and processors.

Click here to take the survey now!

 

New School Cuisine finds its way to the White House

While visiting school kitchens around the state, representatives from the School Nutrition Association of Vermont (SNA-VT) and Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED, a program of NOFA-VT and Shelburne Farms) took note of the delicious offerings being served to Vermont schoolchildren by talented school nutrition professionals.

Cookbook-Cover-DraftHow could they share these ideas, techniques, and recipes with other school food service? New School Cuisine: Nutritious and Seasonal Recipes for School Cooks by School Cooks is the result of their wondering, fundraising, and collaborating. With support from a USDA Team Nutrition grant, SNA-VT and VT FEED together with the Vermont Agency of Education began a year-long culinary adventure. Fourteen school chefs were invited to submit innovative cafeteria creations and worked closely with professional recipe developers and testers to learn how to modify and standardize their recipes. Each recipe underwent thorough testing—by the school chefs in their own cafeterias and students at the New England Culinary Institute.

Called “groundbreaking” by Ann Cooper, a powerful voice for school food reform, New School Cuisine is the only cookbook created by school nutrition professionals that meets the 2012 USDA guidelines, is kid-tested, and features farm-fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.

The cookbook, available as a free download from VT FEED  and for purchase through the Shelburne Farms online store, is being put to use in schools across the country, at last count in 25 states.

07.17.14 PJL letter to S. KassAnd now, thanks to Senator Patrick Leahy, it’s in the hands of Sam Kass, President Barack Obama’s Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy and Let’s Move Executive Director. Here’s an excerpt from the letter that Senator Leahy sent with the cookbook:

New School Cuisine represents Vermont’s commitment to transforming school meal programs by offering healthy and nutritious options that still taste good. By educating students about the local food found in their cafeteria, Vermonters not only gain an understanding about the origin of each ingredient, but they also cultivate a relationship with their local farmers and greater agricultural community. As nationwide problems such as obesity and malnutrition continue to rise, school cafeterias struggle to find options that are both healthy and delicious for children who rely on school meal programs. New School Cuisine offers school cafeterias recipes that prioritize the health and wellbeing of students, while educating them about the importance of where their food comes from.”

By sharing this first-of-its-kind resource with the White House Senator Leahy is providing Mr. Kass and First Lady Michelle Obama with a powerful tool they can use to advance their mission of changing the way we feed children across the country. We hope they will come to regard it as a valuable resource in their work toward improving the health of our nation’s youth.

 

Talking Farm to School

This pasphotot Saturday, Bear Pond Books in Montpelier hosted author Gail Gibbons and NOFA’s own Education Coordinator, Abbie Nelson, for a short discussion on local foods and their role in schools.

The two women discussed the incorporation of healthy practices into school systems and the importance of agricultural education for our youth. Amongst the crowd were several teachers from Barre Town School, and other educators across Washington County.

Throughout the talk, Abbie focused on the ways that Vermont FEED (a partnership between NOFA Vermont, Shelburne Farms, and Food Works) has worked statewide to get local food into schools. She discussed the importance of young students associating a fruit or vegetable on their plate with where it came from on a farm or in a garden.

Abbie also introduced the New School Cuisine cookbook, which will be released within the month to every school in Vermont as well as every Childhood Nutrition program throughout the nation. This cookbook includes a wide variety of farm fresh, healthy recipes in large serving sizes for cafeteria use. It allows students to associate with healthy foods on a daily basis in the classroom. Lastly, Abbie discussed the Nutrition Education Guide for schools. The Nutrition Education Guide serves as an educational tool for teachers to assess where they can incorporate nutrition education and the best ways to make it work.

BPBGail Gibbons, author and illustrator of over 150 children’s books, also spoke about her influence on child nutrition education. Originally in the film industry, Gail recognized the need for nutrition awareness while working with NBC television programs. After traveling to many different cities across the country for research, she acknowledged that many children did not know where their food came from. Her first book based on agriculture titled The Milk Makers goes into the development of milk in a cow and the processing it must go through to make it to the refrigerator. Other books include The Vegetables We Eat, Apples, Corn, and The Honey Makers. Check out Gail’s website and list of publications at http://www.gailgibbons.com/.

>> For more upcoming events that connect Vermont’s communities and farms, check out the second annual Agricultural Literacy Week, November 18-24.

[Post by NOFA Vermont intern Maggie Callahan]

Growing in the NOFA Garden

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The 10 raised beds that constitute the NOFA office garden were installed last fall. The garden’s first summer season has been very successful; the garden has proved itself to be a valuable gathering and learning place for community members of all ages. Its most frequent visitors have been local day cares: Gretchen Paulsen’s Childcare Center, the Beary Country School, and the PlayCare Center of Richmond have all come on a weekly or biweekly basis to read books, plant seeds, harvest peas, and sample the garden’s numerous offerings. Some of the produce the preschoolers examined was harvested and brought across the street to the Food Shelf of Richmond.

Slightly older students trooped down the hill from the YMCA camp based at Richmond Elementary School. These students explored the culinary possibilities the garden offers, making strawberry dip to devour with snap peas.  They also saw production on a larger scale during a field trip to Freedom and Unity Farm, where they helped farmer Gary Bressor with chores.

Finally, and on the other side of the age spectrum, senior citizens participated in a series of culinary workshops that took place further down Bridge St in the Richmond Congregational Church.  Master Gardener Margaret Lowe taught a jam-making workshop with the late June strawberries, and cooking teacher Adele Dienno taught a “Cooking for One” class later in the summer.  These workshops were a valuable opportunity for seniors to socialize and swap old Richmond stories.

The garden has had a wonderful first summer, despite the debilitating June rain, and we invite community members to come learn and play as we move in to autumn and reap the bounty of the summer’s harvest.

[Guest post by Emily Hill, NOFA-VT summer intern]