Monthly Archives: September 2015

Highlights from the Farm-to-Mouth Farm Stand

***This post is part of our series “Tales from the Specialty Crop Ambassadors” – blog posts written by farmers working with the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, CA. The Specialty Crop Ambassadors are spearheading projects that support consumption, education, and access to California specialty crops.***

By Anna-Ruth Crittenden

The garden continued to produce prolifically throughout August as we experienced many days with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees. We held one Farm Stand event in August and were able to market the produce to a few new customers. We reached out to previous customers and received some promotion through an announcement in the Davis Enterprise.

Below are some August highlights from Farm-to-Mouth.

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Kum Sun, a long-time F2M employee, showing a basket of summer squash she picked for the Farm Stand.

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David Lewis holding two Charleston Grey Watermelons.

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A F2M employee harvesting red and green okra pods. Here he is in the row of Okra at the F2M garden.

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Cheryl Meade displays a basket of cherry tomatoes she picked for the Farm Stand.

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Produce on display at the Farm Stand: Yellow crookneck squash, green patty pan squash, cherry tomatoes, and jalapeños.

Yolo High Students to Learn the Wonders of the Pineapple Guava

***This post is part of our series of “Tales from the Specialty Crop Ambassadors” – blog posts written by farmers working with the Center for Land-Based Learning  in Winters, CA. The Specialty Crop Ambassadors are spearheading projects that support consumption, education, and access to California specialty crops.***

By Shane Zurilgen of Flyaway Farms

When I first posted about my Feijoa (AKA Pineapple Guava) project I extolled the virtues of this unique drought tolerant and delicious fruit. I also mentioned a bit about where I intend to plant my two hedges of this wonderful plant. Initially I was planning to install them at Flyway Farm in Davis where I live and work. I have recently developed a new partnership with a mixed vegetable farm in West Sacramento called Fiery Ginger Farm (FGF). This is a brand new farm that is developing a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model for marketing its product. The best thing about FGF is that it is right next to Yolo High School opening all kinds of new doors for outreach. With Fiery Ginger Farm I am working to develop a relationship with schools in the Washington School District including Yolo High and the new Culinary and Farm to Fork Education (CAFFE) program. We are meeting with teachers about having their students come out to the farm to learn about farming in general and Feijoa specifically. We are also hoping to be able to bring Feijoa to the students at CAFFE to develop recipes that we can, in turn, give to our customers to use.

The other exciting aspect about this project is its experimental nature. While much is known about how to grow Feijoa here, very little is known about how to grow it commercially. There are commercial growers in Australia and New Zealand but none in the United States. We will be breaking new ground in developing best practices and opening markets for this crop. I think it would be exciting to work with high school students to develop a marketing plan and educational materials to spread the word about Feijoa. I taught science in public schools for fifteen years and I always found it really difficult to develop educational experiences that were immediately meaningful in the real world. We would be able to provide an opportunity for students to get in on developing a new business frontier. What better way to learn a thing or two?

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Yolo High students participate in the Culinary and Farm to Fork Education (CAFFE) program

Growing the Next Generation of Farmers

***This post is part of our series “Tales from the Specialty Crop Ambassadors” – blog posts written by farmers working with the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, CA. The Specialty Crop Ambassadors are spearheading projects that support consumption, education, and access to California specialty crops.***

By Aimee Sisson of Root Cause Farm

When I was a kid, I never thought about being a farmer. It’s not that I was opposed to the idea; I was just never exposed to the idea.  I’m hoping to change that through my efforts to recruit a new generation of farmers.  Farming is definitely not for everybody, but I’d like to at least have a career in farming be on the radar of young people so they can consider it as an option.

At a recent West Sacramento Farmers’ Market, I reached out to children and adults about a career as a fruit and vegetable farmer.  Despite the blazing 100-degree heat, over 35 people stopped by my booth to pot up a basil seedling and chat about life as a farmer.  Both young and old, first-time planters and experienced home gardeners alike, enjoyed the hands-on planting activity.   After getting over the initial shock that the plants were free, market-goers dug in, literally. Although gloves were available, everybody chose to get their hands dirty, digging in the dirt to fill their pot, make a hole for the seedling, and gently tuck a small plant into its new home before giving it a drink of water.  There’s just something about having your hands in soil that is calming and restorative, not to mention fun.  “Plants are a lot like people,” I told the participants.  “They get thirsty on a hot day, so be sure to give your plant water.”  After walking customers through the basics of caring for their basil plant, I also handed them a short set of written instructions to take home.  As the evening went on, I enjoyed seeing the tiny plants making their way around the market, gently carried in the hands of young growers.  I chose basil seedlings because they can be grown indoors or outdoors and don’t take up much space, making them ideal for apartment dwellers or those without an existing garden.sisson 2 sisson 1

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Participants gather around the table, waiting their turn to pot up a plant.

In addition to the basil planting, I also offered a Farmer-Aimee-themed coloring booklet to take home and/or color at the market.  Five pages long, the short book walks young readers through a few aspects of life as a fruit and vegetable farmer, including planting, weeding, harvesting, and selling at the farmers’ market.  Finally, I created a trifold brochure titled, “Thinking About Becoming a Vegetable Farmer?” that briefly describes the benefits of being a farmer, what is needed to get started, and my own story of how I became a farmer and the rewards of the job. The outreach materials are available for download at http://www.rootcausefarm.com/blog/recruiting-the-next-generation-of-farmers and can be used without any restrictions.  I hope that the materials prove useful to others in recruiting new farmers.

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Two participants take a break from coloring to smile for the camera.

As the coloring book states, “Being a farmer is hard work, but it’s also lots of fun.” It’s true: “Farmer Aimee loves being a fruit and vegetable farmer because she gets to work outside, move around, grow yummy food, and meet nice people at the market.”  Maybe some of those nice people will become farmers themselves someday, and think back on how it all started with a single basil plant.  This farmer sure hopes so.

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A young basil seedling, ready to go home with a future farmer.

McKenna Farms gets ready for fall crops and student visits

***This post is part of our series “Tales from the Specialty Crop Ambassadors” – blog posts written by farmers working with the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, CA. The Specialty Crop Ambassadors are spearheading projects that support consumption, education, and access to California specialty crops.***

By Shane McKenna of McKenna Farms

It has been a hot and productive summer on McKenna Farms!  Our specialty peppers were a big hit this year with local chefs, especially our sweet Hungarian varieties.  They are just about done for the season along with the Sheepsnose Pimentons and the Jimmy Nardello peppers.  The spicy peppers are still going strong though.  Both green and red vine ripened Jalapeno peppers, known as Fresno chiles, have been popular and are still producing thanks to the honey bees who continue to pollinate them.   Soon the superhot and prized Habanero chiles will be ready, ripening to a beautiful yellow.  These notorious chiles are sometimes fermented and turned into exquisite hot sauces.  The heat was hard on heirloom tomatoes this season affecting the Cherokee purples, but the Indigo Rose variety and the Sunrise Bumblebee cherries made up for it.

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McKenna Farms Peppers

Overall this is a transitional time on the farm when most of the summer crops are petering out and we begin to convert to field to fall and winter crops.  Soon our Charentais melons will be turned into the soil to make room for candy striped beets, golden beets, and classic Merlin red beets.  Following that we will seed rainbow carrots, arugula and spinach.  We will continue to maintain the field in a way that makes it accessible to students who are just now returning from summer vacation.  Students will most likely participate in the final harvest of summer crops and the planting of a new round of crops which will carry us through fall and winter.  This will help students learn about the cycles of food production on the farm and the importance of eating with the seasons.  We are looking forward to final growing season of 2015 and have learned a lot along the way.

Summer Harvest

Secretary Ross co-authors op-ed piece on the need for nutrition education in schools – from the Sacramento Bee

BY KAREN ROSS AND TAMMY ANDERSON-WISE

It’s morning at Fairbanks Elementary School in Twin Rivers Unified School District, and children are being served a healthy breakfast of fresh fruit, waffles, yogurt and milk. For some kids, eating breakfast at school is the only option they have for getting the needed nutrition to keep them focused and ready to learn.

In a recent survey, three out of four teachers and principals say they see kids who regularly come to school hungry. Hunger is known to negatively impact health, academic achievement and future economic prosperity. On the other hand, kids who eat breakfast get higher test scores, attend school more often, are more likely to graduate and typically earn more per year after graduation.

Access to healthy meals at school is part of the solution, but it isn’t enough. Importantly, we also need to arm our young people with nutrition education and food literacy to improve their health over the long run and break the cycle of food insecurity.

At the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s new Office of Farm to Fork, a collaborative effort with the state departments of Public Health and Education, there is a commitment to nutrition education opportunities and increasing access to healthy foods. An effort is underway to connect farmers to local school food service operations and, as a result, increase access to nutritious food in underserved schools and communities. The office recently launched the California Farmer Marketplace, an online tool to connect farmers to schools and other consumers.

Along with improving access to healthy agricultural products, nutrition education programs are equally important. When students are better educated and better fed, they make better students and citizens.

The Dairy Council of California provides nutrition education through print and digital curriculum that reaches 2.5 million students in California schools from kindergarten through high school. All programs focus on a balanced approach that includes foods from all five food groups.

The Mobile Dairy Classroom – an assembly in Sacramento-area schools and throughout the state – builds on nutrition education programs taught in the classroom by teaching students how milk and dairy foods get from the farm to the table, helping them understand where food comes from.

National initiatives also are essential. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Breakfast Program provides access to free or low-cost breakfast before the normal school day. Unfortunately, the program is underutilized. Many times, kids simply can’t get to school on time due to carpool or public transportation schedules. Providing access during the school day – such as through Breakfast in the Classroom programs – can significantly and positively impact participation.

The No Kid Hungry initiative, an effort to end childhood hunger in America, encourages more Breakfast in the Classroom programs, along with options such as: Grab n’ Go, a model that allows students to pick up breakfast through mobile carts; Second Chance Breakfast, where students eat breakfast during a break; and Breakfast Vending, which allows students to access foods through vending machines. Additionally, the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement is an effort to nudge students toward making better choices by changing the way food choices are presented. These are all valuable programs – but only pieces of the puzzle.

By educating kids and parents on healthy eating behaviors, food production and how to choose nutrient-rich healthy foods, we are providing a solution to hunger pangs and a solution to the negative, long-term individual and public health effects of poor nutrition. Few would argue that our children deserve to be free of hunger while at school. Few would dispute that skills in science, math and language arts are foundational to success. But, we often overlook something equally as valuable: teaching our young people and parents about how to eat and live healthfully, something that benefits not only individuals, but also society as a whole with a happier, healthier, more successful citizenship.

Karen Ross is secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Tammy Anderson-Wise is the CEO of the Dairy Council of California.

“Farmers in Training” Learn to Grow Specialty Crops

***This post is part of our series “Tales from the Specialty Crop Ambassadors” – blog posts written by farmers working with the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, CA. The Specialty Crop Ambassadors are spearheading projects that support consumption, education, and access to California specialty crops.***

By Aimee Sisson of Root Cause Farm

Although the average age of American farmers is nearly 60 years old, you wouldn’t know it by spending a day at West Sacramento’s Root Cause Farm, where farmer and Specialty Crop Ambassador Aimee Sisson runs an afterschool and summer farmer training program for grade school students.  On a sunny July day, Sisson was harvesting potatoes with two young farmers in training.  Despite the heat, the sixth-graders excitedly dug through the soil with their gloved hands, competing to find the biggest potato. “These kids love being on the farm,” says Sisson. “The farm offers a place for the neighborhood kids to be physically active and burn off steam, plus a chance to try fresh vegetables that they planted, cared for, and picked themselves.”

Jayla displays the yield from one seed potato.

Jayla displays the yield from one seed potato.

When the Farmers in Training program began in March, few of the participants could recognize the vegetables growing in the field. “I took the kids on a farm tour, and had them guess what each bed contained, giving them hints. They guessed tomato for every bed! In June, a new child came to the farm, and one of the regulars volunteered took her on a tour, pointing out each vegetable growing on the farm—lettuce, beets, carrots, green beans, and of course, tomatoes!  It’s amazing how much they have learned in just a few months.”

Farmers in Training are given a hands-on experience growing specialty crops at the ½-acre urban farm.  Activities have included planting beans from seed, transplanting basil, pulling weeds by hand, broadforking, digging Bermuda grass, and reaping the reward of all that hard work through harvesting. “As long as they don’t need a knife to harvest it, I let the kids help pick the veggies,” says a smiling Sisson. Sisson also has the kids participate in post-harvest processing such as washing and bunching vegetables, and weighing and recording daily yields. “One of their favorite activities, besides eating freshly picked watermelon, is running the farm stand.” Sisson watches with motherly pride as the young participants greet customers, weigh their purchases, add up the total, make change, bag the items, and thank each customer.  “The farm stand is a great opportunity for them to practice math in a real-world situation and learn important customer service skills,” says Sisson.

Victor concentrates while planting green beans

Victor concentrates while planting green beans

Emily uses the wheel hoe to weed a bed before planting.

Emily uses the wheel hoe to weed a bed before planting.

Nico shows off the beets he harvested.

Nico shows off the beets he harvested.

Sisson hopes that the Farmers in Training program will have a lasting impact on participants and their families.  “Not all of these kids are going to become farmers when they grow up, but several of them are at least thinking about farming as a career, which I consider a success.” At least two participants have commented that they want to be farmers when they grow up, and another has adopted the title of “Farmer Jayla,” emulating her mentor Sisson, who is known as “Farmer Aimee” around the neighborhood.  According to Farmer Aimee, the participants are eating more vegetables than ever and have a much better appreciation of what it takes to grow the food on their plates. “I am amazed at how willing the kids are to try the produce we are growing on the farm.  On farm tours, they want to sample everything, even the raw beets! I warn them that they might not like something, but they often surprise me.  Once the kids discovered that the raw beets color their mouths, lips, and teeth bright pinkish-
red, they can’t stop eating them and sticking out their tongues.”

Jose and Maria show off their beet juice teeth.

Jose and Maria show off their beet juice teeth.

After each day on the farm, participants are sent home with fresh vegetables. “It’s great when the kids come back the next day and tell me about the salad they made, or how they ate an entire cantaloupe by themselves,” Sisson notes.  “One of my kids loves lemon cucumbers so much that he even spends his own money to buy them at the farm stand. What kind of kid uses his allowance to buy vegetables?” marvels Sisson.  A Farmer in Training, that’s who!

Introducing the Pineapple Guava

***This post is part of our series of “Tales from the Specialty Crop Ambassadors” – blog posts written by farmers working with the Center for Land-Based Learning  in Winters, CA. The Specialty Crop Ambassadors are spearheading projects that support consumption, education, and access to California specialty crops.***

By Shane Zurilgen of Flyaway Farms

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The first time I tasted a pineapple guava I was blown away. Its flavor was totally unexpected. I had been growing them in my back yard purely as an ornament. They grow on a handsome evergreen shrub which has beautiful red and white flowers in the summer. I knew the shrub was supposed to produce fruit and had heard that it was “edible” but hadn’t yet seen any. Lots of plants are edible to the likes of Bear Grylls, but most people would not want to eat them except for in some kind of post-apocalyptic scenario. I myself have eaten pine needle tea but it isn’t going to happen again unless I am lost in the woods in desperate need of a vitamin C boost.

The scientific name for the pineapple guava is Feijoa sellowiana.  After a few years of growing my Feijoa plants I finally found them producing fruit around Halloween. I quickly went to the Google for information on how to tell if the small, green, egg-shaped fruit was ripe. It turned out they are ready to go when the fruit falls off the plant by itself or from a light touch. The next day I picked a couple freshly fallen fruits off the ground and gave them a taste.

It should be said that I have a terrible palate for taste. I attribute this to years of addiction to very spicy foods. I think that over time I just nuked my taste buds. I stopped going to wine tastings because I could never pick up any of the odd flavor notes that were supposed to be emanating from the particular vintage I was swilling. Nevertheless, the pineapple guava was a revelation. It tasted at once tropical and citrus-like with something like strawberry thrown in for good measure. I quickly consumed all of the fruit that was ripe.

Those plants became my first destination every morning until the fruit was gone.  I have never found pineapple guava in a store. I have heard that some folks have found them at farmers’ markets on occasion, but I certainly haven’t. When my subsequent research yielded no commercial producers for this specialty crop in California I knew I had to give it a try. When I bring it up to people who have actually tasted a pineapple guava before they get very excited. It has been suggested to me that it would add amazing flavor to a kombucha or mead blend.

In addition to its unique flavor, Feijoa is drought tolerant and virtually disease and pest free. At Flyway Farm in Davis I have decided to put in about 40 plants in two hedgerows and put it to the test.  I am prepping the ground and setting up irrigation while I seek out a source for some of the more productive varieties. I plan to get them in the ground this fall so that you too can soon share the unique experience that is pineapple guava.

Farm-to-Mouth in Yolo County

***This is the second post in our series “Tales from the Specialty Crop Ambassadors” – blog posts written by farmers working with the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, CA. The Specialty Crop Ambassadors are spearheading projects that support consumption, education, and access to California specialty crops.***

By Anna-Ruth Crittenden

It has been a very eventful month for Farm-to-Mouth as our ½ acre garden is producing more than in previous years. I have been running Farm-to-Mouth for about two years and was looking forward to this summer season because we had successfully gotten a cover crop in in the fall, made contact with a neighbor willing to do tractor work for us, and received an amazing donation of 60 yards of compost. In addition to that, we built a greenhouse in the springtime so we were able to start many of our transplants right here on site.

Here’s the garden on the day we received the compost donation, when we were spreading the compost, and right after transplanting:

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Farm-to-Mouth is a supported employment-training program for people with mental illness in Yolo County. We grow our produce on a ½ acre garden at the Farmhouse, a long-term residential care facility and part of the Yolo Community Care Continuum, a well-established non-profit based in Woodland that provides many services to this population.

This season Farm–to-Mouth has had about 12 employees and every week there is lots to do in the garden. The summer squash was the first crop to be ready for harvest and other crops were growing quite well so we planned the first Farm Stand for Wednesday July 1st.

Farm Stand harvest  Farm Stand F2M Cheryl Farm Stand

I asked two of Farm-to-Mouth’s longest standing and most consistent employees to work the first Farm Stand. It was a great start: we had four customers. There were mostly squash and quite a few lemon cucumbers available; the brown paper bags are full of dried tulsi, or Holy Basil. This herb gets a high price in the commercial market and is used to make a refreshing tea similar to chamomile. Many Farm-to-Mouth employees have never heard of tulsi when they start working in the garden but become fans of the herb as a tea and are encouraged to take it home with them.

I am glad that we have gotten started with the Farm Stands this season because it is the first time since Farm-to-Mouth started that the employees can be directly involved with marketing their produce. Although the attendance at the Farm Stand events has been low, I am optimistic that as word spreads people will tell others and we can get more of a buzz going for our efforts. As it is now, Farm-to-Mouth employees take home surplus produce after the event and we have connected with Davis Community Meals for donations of everything leftover after that.

We have received many positive responses to the Farm Stand but our biggest challenge is our location which is quite far off the beaten path for many people. However, I think that the more often people make the trip out to the Farm Stand, the more they will learn about the program which will be very beneficial in the long-term.

Group picture after harvest, before farm stand in the evening (not all employees pictured)

Group picture after harvest, before farm stand in the evening (not all employees pictured)

A customer selects a bunch of Italian basil

A customer selects a bunch of Italian basil

On the Farm at McKenna Farms

***This is the first in our series of “Tales from the Specialty Crop Ambassadors” – blog posts written by farmers working with the Center for Land-Based Learning  in Winters, CA. The Specialty Crop Ambassadors are spearheading projects that support consumption, education, and access to California specialty crops.***

By Shane and Katherine McKenna

July was an exciting month at McKenna Farms!  Our specialty watermelons looked great – the Black Tail Mountain variety came in first and the Sweet Siberian close behind.  The Moon and Stars watermelons were the last to ripen but their beautiful speckled rinds make them worth the wait and fun to watch grow. These watermelons are sure to make an impression on our student visitors!

moon and stars watermelonWe are excited to have local students out to the farm this season and prepared the field for these events.  To facilitate student visits we have created wide furrows between our beds of specialty crops, so that the students can easily walk through the field and make observations.  Our field was also designed with a wide path through the middle, so that we can accommodate a large class. This area will act as an outdoor classroom where students will gather before and after walking the field.  Here they can share their observations and any questions they have about growing specialty crops.

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In addition to the watermelons we have two varieties of cantaloupe, three gorgeous varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and several different sweet and hot peppers.  The sweet peppers are all Hungarian heirloom varieties and turn a bright lipstick red when they ripen.  The spicy peppers may not be as visually striking but they make up for it in flavor.  From the mild Poblanos (prized for Chile Relleno) to the super spicy Habanero, these peppers are delicious!

School children eating more fruits and vegetables – Fact Sheet from the USDA

***Cross-posted from Planting Seeds***

For the past three years, kids have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school thanks to the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which made the first meaningful improvements to the nutrition of foods and beverages served in cafeterias and sold in vending machines in 30 years. Thanks to the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and other strategies, the national obesity trend is slowly reversing, and our children have more energy to learn and grow, greater opportunity to thrive, and better overall health.

As Congress turns its attention to reauthorizing the Act this year, it is important to remember that our children are battling a national obesity epidemic that costs $190.2 billion per year to treat and, according to retired U.S. generals, threatens our national security by making almost one in three young adults unfit to serve in our nation’s military. If we don’t continue to invest in our children’s health, this generation will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents.

The Act has undoubtedly improved the quality of school meals as well as the health and wellbeing of our children and for those reasons is supported by parents, teachers, doctors and kids themselves. USDA continues to work with schools, listen carefully, and provide time, flexibility, guidance, and resources to help them serve the healthier meals. Now is not the time to backpedal on a healthier future for our kids—that is why Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is encouraging Congress to act quickly to reauthorize a strong Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and support the ongoing success of the healthier meals.

 Salad bar

  • Kids are eating more healthy food and throwing less food away. Plate waste is not increasing. study released in March 2015 by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity shows that students are eating more nutritious foods and discarding less of their lunches under the healthier standards. Kids ate 13 percent more of their entrees and nearly 20 percent more of their vegetables in 2014 than in 2012, which means that less food is ending up in the trash today than before the national standards were updated.
  • Americans agree that healthier meals are the right thing for our kids. poll released in mid-August by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation shows that 9 out of 10 Americans support national nutrition standards for school meals. Nearly 70% believe school meals are excellent or good, compared to just 26% in 2010, before the healthier school meals were implemented in schools.
  • Students like the taste of the healthier school meals. A 2015 study from the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health found that nearly 90 percent of surveyed students liked at least some school meal options. And according to an August 2014 survey by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 70 percent of elementary school leaders nationwide reported that students liked the new lunches.
  • Kids are eating more fruits and vegetables as a result of updated standards. A May 2014 Harvard School of Public Health study shows that, under the updated standards, kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at lunch.
  • Parents support the healthier school meals. A September 2014 poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association shows that 72 percent of parents favor strong nutrition standards for school meals and 91 percent support serving fruits or vegetables with every meal.
  • Support for healthier school meals is bipartisan. A September 2014 poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association found that 87 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and more than half of registered voters with kids in public schools surveyed were supportive of the new meals.
  • Over 95 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards. Students across the country are experiencing a healthier school environment with more nutritious options. The new meals are providing children more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium.
  • USDA continues to work with schools as they implement the new standards. USDA recently launched an initiative called Team Up for School Nutrition Success that allows the schools who still face challenges to pair up and learn best practices from schools that are already successfully serving healthier meals. The program has provided training for more than 3,500 individuals and has been enthusiastically received by schools and school officials.
  • School lunch revenue is up. Despite concerns raised about the impact of new standards on participation and costs, a USDA analysis suggests that last year, schools saw a net nationwide increase in revenue from school lunches of approximately $450 million. This includes the annual reimbursement rate adjustments, as well as increased revenue from paid meals and the additional 6 cents per meal for schools meeting the new meal standards.
  • Participation is increasing substantially in many areas of the country. Total breakfast participation increased by 380,000 students from FY2013 to FY2014 and has increased by more than 3 million students since 2008. USDA has also received reports from many schools indicating a positive response to healthier offerings and increased participation.
  • Virtually all schools continue to participate. Data from states indicated very few schools (only 0.51 percent of schools nationwide) reported dropping out of the programs due to struggles over providing kids healthy food. State agencies reported that the schools no longer participating in the NSLP were mainly residential child care institutions and smaller schools with very low percentages of children eligible for free and reduced price meals.
  • USDA has and will continue to listen to stakeholders and provide guidance and flexibilities, as appropriate, to help schools and students adapt to the updated requirements. Early in the implementation process for school meals, when schools asked for flexibility to serve larger servings of grains and proteins within the overall calorie caps, USDA responded. In January of 2014, that flexibility was made permanent. USDA is also phasing other requirements in over the next several years. And hearing schools concerns on the lack of availability of whole grain products, USDA is allowing schools that have demonstrated difficulty in obtaining adequate whole grain items to submit a request to the States to use some traditional products for an additional two years while industry works to create better whole grain products.

Link to fact sheet