The term “Farm to School” often suggests images of freshly picked produce waiting to be shipped to your local school district, but how these products actually get from field to cafeteria is another story. Districts must not only consider cost and convenience, but food safety and procurement regulations as well. That being said, Farm to School can seem a bit overwhelming. The Colorado Department of Education Office of School Nutrition (CDE OSN), has compiled some resources to assist districts in implementing a successful Farm to School program.
If it’s program operations information you’re looking for, the Colorado Farm to School Task Force has you covered. Started in 2010 through a grant funded by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the task force provides webinars, evaluation and marketing tools, food safety information and maps of surrounding schools participating in Farm to School. . They hold quarterly meetings open to all who are interested. Get inspired by checking out their Farm to School Champions webpage where you can read success stories from a variety of districts.
Do procurement regulations have you worried? Don’t fret. The USDA’s Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs guide contains ready-to-use information about menu planning and buying local. Speaking of buying local, Colorado Proud’s, Colorado Produce Calendar indicates what produce is in season during each month (an easy way to help decrease the cost of local produce). . Moreover, creating a bid for procuring local foods has been made simple with the Farm to School Bid Template.
Whether you are looking to revamp your school meals program with Farm to School or simply add more local options to your menu, we probably have the resource you’re looking for. If you call someplace other than Colorado home, be sure to check with your local state agency for any specific Farm to School regulations in your state. Additionally, The USDA Farm to School website contains great resources as well.