October Is National Farm to School Month

— Written By tessa thraves and last updated by
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National Farm to School Logo

Congress designated October as national farm to school month in 2010, making this year the 10 year anniversary. This October, however, as the pandemic continues, numerous schools are holding classes virtually or in hybrid formats, school meals and regulations around them shift back and forth from congregant to pick-up lines or yellow bus delivery, food supply chains are still disrupted, our communities are struggling under health, racial, and economic stresses, our focus is squarely with recognition and honoring. We who are dedicated to farm to school recognize the partners who have worked tirelessly in both local food and education: keeping North Carolina food growing and harvested, sourcing to school kitchens and food banks, ensuring our children were fed, supporting educational classrooms both online and in person, and in so many ways attending to the physical, mental, and economic health of our communities.

Cooperative Extension agents have responsibilities across all these touchpoints and so are also privileged to help strengthen partnerships among all these people and groups. This month we celebrate connections between kids, families, and their communities and all those who have steadily kept focus and risen to meet the endless challenges in supporting our communities and our kids.

4-H Starter Garden Kit

4-H Starter Garden Kit
Photo: Tess Thraves

In March, in early response to COVID-19, the Farm to School Local Foods Program team launched a small seed distribution project to support kids and their families to grow home gardens during school closures. Redistributing grant funds from Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of NC, agents across North Carolina partnered with local School Nutrition Professionals, local teachers and school staff, local farmers, and local organizations and agencies to encourage home gardening and enhance kids educational activities while school was disrupted.

Like all farm to school work, projects were place-based so varied and made the most of assets, resources, and relationships that were strong in the local community. Projects ranged from distributing seed kits through school meal distribution on yellow busses and in pick up lines, to distributing plants and kits through educational packet pick-ups, to distributing growing information through food banks, to pick-up of plant starts and guides at Extension offices, to delivering weekly online video classes on how to start your garden. Thirty-eight counties, stretching from border to border, participated in this Seed Distribution project, reaching over 15,500 families.

And this was one small project. Our farm to school local foods team is honored to forge strong ties with folks across the food and educational system who are so dedicated to kids and communities. We thank you each for all the ways you support NC local foods and ask you to engage in one or all of the below actions to help us continue supporting and building capacity in farm to school in North Carolina!

A student at their garden plot

Andre’s Mini Garden
Photo: Tess Thraves

How to Participate in Farm to School Month

North Carolina Actions:

  • Join the NC Crunch! Celebrate National Farm to School Month by crunching into a locally North Carolina-grown apple on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, at noon. Participants of all ages are invited to crunch: school classes, businesses, organizations, families, individuals! This event is about uniting together to celebrate North Carolina agriculture, apples grown by local farmers, and healthy eating. Registration form and lots of ideas and guidance online!
  • Like the NC farm to school coalition Facebook page, and check it regularly for resources/grant/opportunities, plus share and tag your own October farm to school month posts with #NCCrunch.
  • Join the Farm to School Coalition of NC listserve by writing Arneisha Smallwood <ansmallw@ncsu.edu> and check out  NC Farm to School Coalition for resources and
  • Share your story! Have you and partners been doing work that both responded to COVID-19 urgent need and builds farm to school capacity? Write tes thraves <tes_thraves@ncsu.edu> so we can highlight YOUR efforts.

National Actions:

  • Nominate a Community Food Champion: Who are your community members – farmers, cafeteria workers, teachers, gardeners, bus drivers, volunteers, advocates, and others – that are feeding children and families, supporting local food systems, and going above and beyond in 2020? Nominate them to receive a $500 honorarium and be named a National Farm to School Network Community Food Champion. Nominate your Champions.
  • Participate in our Virtual Movement Meeting, October 14: Join National Farm to School Network for a virtual Movement Meeting on Wednesday, October 14 from 1–3 p.m. ET, featuring Karen Washington, food justice activist, for deep conversation and action-oriented reflection on racial justice in the farm to school movement and wider food system. Learn more and register.