Category Archives: CA Farm To Fork website

Office of Farm to Fork will be the California Farm to School Network Lead, with support from a USDA Farm to School Grant

Children holding carrotsThe California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Office of Farm to Fork is pleased to announce that they are one of 65 USDA Farm to School grantees spanning 42 states and Puerto Rico receiving support this year through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program. The Grant Program is part of USDA’s effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers.

“Increasing the amount of local foods in America’s schools is a win-win for everyone,” USDA Secretary Perdue said in announcing the Farm to School grants. “Our children benefit from the fresh, local food served in their meals at school, and local economies are nourished, as well, when schools buy the food they provide close to home.”

CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork (Office) received the USDA Farm to School Grant to support its new leadership of the California Farm to School Network (Network). The Network is a “one-stop shop” for everything related to Farm to School in the state of California. As a communications hub and a convener across many organizations and regions in the state, the Network will align Farm to School efforts, share resources, and bring farmers, schools, distributors, and practitioners together. The Office was also selected as the 2017-2019 National Farm to School Network California Core Partner and looks forward to participating in national farm to school efforts.

The Network originally started in 2013 and led by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI), and LifeLab. As the new Network lead, the Office looks forward to strengthening the already robust movement built by these organizations and all farm to school stakeholders throughout California. Through this transition, the Office will continue partnerships with CAFF (which will lead procurement efforts), UEPI (which will lead early childhood education work), and Lifelab (which will lead school garden efforts).

The USDA Farm to School Grant recognizes the Office’s leadership in the farm to school and farm to early care and education movements, and will provide new opportunities for the Office to continue building capacity and support for farm to school programs in California. In the coming months the Office looks forward to hearing from farm to school stakeholders in California and sharing new resources and tools to further advance the movement.

Together, the Office and the many farm to school practitioners in California will support the development of new information and resources, grow awareness of farm to school benefits, and provide vision for the growth and evolution of the program.

Wrapping up the Farm to Fork Ambassadors

Handful of dirt

As Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture students finish up the intense 6 week course, many prepare for the next steps after the program – presenting their business plan to potential investors, thinking out the final details of their business, and reviewing the vast amounts of information they have absorbed over the program. For their final blog post Farm to Fork Ambassador’s share their thoughts as they make this big step and prepare to start off their farming career.

Alyssa Ponce

Alyssa Ponce Farm to Fork Ambassador
Karen and Colin Archipley pose with Alyssa Ponce, Farm to Fork Ambassador, after completing her capstone presentation at the San Diego Farm Bureau.

In our last week at Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (AiSA) we focused on developing a detailed business plan to prepare for our presentations for the Farm Bureau. We also completed and became certified in ServSafe Food Safety Program for Managers.
At the Farm Bureau Outreach event 30 people attended, watched and critiqued my business model and included any additional notes that can benefit me in the future. Every survey I received back provided great feedback and believed my business model is surely to succeed. It was a great experience and definitely provided insight of what I must do to get my farm out there and an idea of what I need to do if my farm needs financial assistance. I also realized when you have a certain amount of time to present to people you want to get the best information and make it as short as possible to get the point across. I’m thankful for everyone that showed up and provided assistance to help my farm become successful.
Servsafe was an intense course but provided useful information on how to properly handle food and how to ensure you’re doing it correctly. This is especially useful in the farming industry when handling food. By ensuring servsafe compliance you can ensure your business won’t fall into an outbreak and make you an easy target for lawsuits. We covered everything from the importance of food safety, good personal hygiene, time and temperature controls, preventing cross contamination, receiving and storing food, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and other food safety regulations. This class has tons of information I plan to continue learning as I complete my course to ensure proper handling of food. This will come in handy when I create daily task guides for employees and audits.
For our final field exam, it included the different types of hydroponic medias, how to check the greenhouse by shutting down and checking PH and PPM, how to properly clean the filter, restart the system, check for leaks and/ or clogs and how to troubleshoot if problems continue. It also included how to work with a fertigation loop in a greenhouse. We discussed how to assemble fertigation in working order, identify each role of the sprinkler valve, bypass, venturi valve and how to operate it. And lastly, we had to identify the main ingredients in compost tea, identify all working part of a tea brewer and learned how to calculate ingredients for different gallon brews.
For all final tests, I received an A and I feel confident I know how to set up and manage a green house facility ranging from a small 100 plant site greenhouse to a 5,000-plant site greenhouse. After the course on my own time I plan to further my research into how to make a great business plan, servsafe requirements and guidelines, hydroponic medias and different types of compost methods.

Joe Laguna

Getting to work in a greenhouse environment showed me the many aspects and considerations to choose from. The different crops and benefits of growing organic put a new prospective on it for me. I have always grown naturally and now I know the things we can add to the soil to grow organically. I really enjoy growing in many different methods, mediums and being able to grow organically makes food taste so much better and the nutritional benefits that go along with that.

Dara Morgen

CDFA Office of Farm to Fork Ambassadors
Michael Lupacchino and Dara Morgen after presenting their business plans to local farmers at Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.

As we reach the end of this course and are then off to begin our own individual farming businesses, I plan to get in contact with Jessica Molina in order to identify potential alternative lending opportunities. Additionally, I will use the material from this week’s reading assignment to evaluate and determine which type of business will be the best fit for my needs. Moreover, and as stated in previous assignments, I will continue to try and identify key areas unique to my starting business so that I can set myself apart from other farming businesses. From this week’s reading material, I can begin thinking about whether it makes sense to obtain the USDA’s organic certification.
I plan to use the information learned this week to begin working on my business plan. I will continue researching a few of the operational costs associated with owning and operating a small sustainable farming operation. I will then use this information along with the “Liveplan” software to help construct a working business plan that I can use to present to the panel during this week’s schedule.

Michael Lupacchino

I chose the bitter melon for my business plan because I see the potential for economic benefit for the farmer. By targeting niche neighborhood and businesses that use the bitter melon, one can make this plant a profitable crop. Because I’m Filipino, I know how hard it is to find a constant supply of fresh bitter melon in commercial supermarkets in the United States. Bitter Melon is a niche crop that requires a niche consumer, but there is a growing Asian demographic in this country. Okinawans and Filipinos love this plant. The best way and most common way to prepare bitter melon is by frying the leaves and bitter melon with eggs.

Recipe for stir fried bitter melon with egg
Figure 1: Recipe for Bitter Melon with Egg is one of the many examples in how to prepare bitter melon.

This post is part of a series featuring Farm to Fork Ambassadors from Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. Students chosen by the Office of Farm to Fork share their stories and the journey many like them are taking to create a new career path in farming after leaving the military in three blog posts here on Tales from the Field. Many of the students are exploring niche markets in California by developing business plans to grow less traditional fruits and vegetables or to support often overlooked populations.

May is CalFresh Awareness Month

Salad with corn, tomato, lettuce, carrot and spinachCalifornia has the largest Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the nation. Our state’s farmers and ranchers are proud to play a critical role in reducing hunger and improving health. Throughout the month of May, our state is highlighting the importance of providing nutrition assistance to low income households through the CalFresh Program.

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is encouraging counties to focus CalFresh Awareness Month activities on alleviating childhood hunger and enrolling eligible families in CalFresh through partnerships with the Women, Infants, and Children program, school meals, First 5, and Medi-Cal.

These partnerships are the critical foundation in developing coordinated plans to connect children to all available nutrition and medical services. CDSS is also encouraging counties to continue to increase overall program participation by supporting public and private partnerships that work together to reduce food insecurity in our state.

Together we can increase the number of families that receive assistance to purchase the food they need and improve the health and wellbeing of children.

For information on agencies in your community that provide CalFresh Outreach application assistance please see the list on the CalFresh Outreach website.

Thanking Sue Sigler, CAFB for helping farmers double contributions to food banks

Sue-Sigler-Proclamation-CAFB-2017CDFA Secretary Karen Ross capped her luncheon address at the May 1 session of the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) conference in Sacramento by presenting a proclamation to CAFB Executive Director Sue Sigler. Several years ago during a presentation before the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, Sue helped plant the seed that grew into the goal of doubling farmers’ contributions to California food banks, from 100 million pounds of food per year to 200 million. In 2016, the state board’s goal was achieved: 214 million pounds of food donated by California farmers to food banks across the state. The proclamation acknowledges the role of Sue and her organization in facilitating those donations, from identifying communities in need to arranging transport from the farmers’ fields.

***This piece is cross-posted from CDFA’s Planting Seeds Blog***

Lessons Learned: An Update from the Farm to Fork Ambassadors

bee keeper


Students come to Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture with a passion for food, agriculture, and learning. The institute provides a 6 or 12 week course that teaches methods of organic and hydroponic specialty crop production. Many students also come with a future business plan in mind. During the course, the Office of Farm to Fork asked our Farm to Fork Ambassadors to share lessons learned and any new ideas or modifications they have made to their plans. This blog post shares their journey, as students review the materials they have learned, compare to their current project concepts, and prepare for the capstone event, where they present  to an evaluation panel, comprised of local farmers, nonprofit groups, and business incubators. Evaluators measure each student’s project viability, motivating students to work out budget kinks and practice their pitches for weeks ahead of time.

Michael Lupacchino

bitter melonOne of the lessons learned during the training is niche marketing and targeting for the type of product one is going to sell to his or her consumers. I chose the bitter melon for my business plan because I see the potential for economic benefit for the farmer. By targeting niche neighborhood and businesses that use the bitter melon, one can make this plant a profitable crop. Because I’m Filipino, I know how hard it is to find a constant supply of fresh bitter melon in commercial supermarkets in the United States. Bitter Melon is a niche crop that requires a niche consumer, but there is a growing Asian demographic in this country.
The state of California has one of the largest demographics of Filipinos within the United States. Based on the competition, bitter melon would be a profitable crop if grown in the farming areas of San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco regions of California. If grown in the Central Valley of California, crops could be sold in 4 regions with large Filipino communities (San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas). The state with surprising potential is Northern Alaska and Anchorage, Alaska regions. One or two green houses in Alaska could possibly supply the bitter melon demand and make a profit for the Anchorage region of Alaska. A feasibility study needs to be conducted before submitting a business plan for growing bitter melon in a climate controlled green house in Alaska. Bitter melon needs temperatures between 75 to 80 degrees to flourish. The short growing season and the Alaskan temperatures could prevent this crop from growing when exposed to the Alaskan weather and elements.

Joe Laguna

strawberries basketThis week I will be using the material I learned on how to grow berries, which I will grow. After going to the farmer’s market for months now, watching the vendor next to us, it is obvious the strawberry market is more than good. Fruit trees have always been very important to our family and way of life. We plan to have peach, apple, oranges, apricot and cherry to start with.
The business plan lessons can now take center stage. It is rather nerve racking, knowing that so much can be accomplished with a good business plan and the confidence in things I’m learning about the farming business.
We went to the OC conference today and the main message I received was sustainability and urban farming. I learned there are several high schools in the Orange County area that have a garden on campus. I think that is great. Kids should need to know where their food comes from. I also met with Dr. Nat Storey of Bright Agrotech. I have been watching his YOUTUBE channel for 4 or 5 years now. I think his aquaponics system is great and he is taking steps in teaching us all about closed loop sustainability.
With a week to go in the class and most of us chomping at the bit to get started, it’s good to know I’m running with the right crowd.

Dara Morgen

seedlingMy current studies have again helped to reshape my plans moving forward. As I mentioned in my first post, my plan changed from a therapy farm to a focus on raising seedings (aka plugs) and bee farming. Upon learning more, I am focusing towards the specialty crop of organic honey and products made with beeswax. There are two issues that I see as obstacles when raising honey farms. The first being predators. As discussed in class, there are many predators of the honeybee. The hunters are praying mantises, wasps, hornets, and aggressive parasites such as mites. Specific geographical locations have high populations of these predators, such as my home state of Texas, which is one of my secondary farm locations after proving the concept within California.

The second issue that I have learned about is the extensive record keeping required for beekeepers. There are bee brokers, owner-lessee, farm managers, pest control advisers, and pesticide applicators that need to be considered. Each year, beekeepers in California are required to register their hive locations with the county agriculture commissioners and should notify the commissioners of substantial movement to receive notifications for pesticide applications. This helps the grower to know of other hives within a one-mile radius of their farm. While this will help with collecting data on the supply/demand aspect of the farm and better forecast profits, this seems like a tremendous amount of work for a first time beekeeper. Hopefully, I am just letting my initial nerves of venturing out on my own get the best of me.

In regards to the best practices guide, I have also learned that the best way to learn beekeeping is to work with an experienced mentor who has successfully kept bees in your area for many years. Through Archi’s Acres, I have meet several classmates that are current beekeepers. This relationship has allowed me to learn from them, to better assess the needs of establishing a farm, as well as helping me to determine the best location within southern California to establish my farm. Murritea, Riverside or Temecula are at the tip of my list. I am also learning about “treatment free” beekeeping, which has an extremely low yield. In addition, I am also learning to practice good bee husbandry.

Alyssa Ponce

bok choy 625Throughout the four weeks of my six week course I’ve learned what hydroponic farming is, the types of systems used and the importance of understanding market demand. After multiple changes, I’ve finally decided to focus my business plan on organic baby bok choy cabbage and baby kale. For my production, I plan to build a hoop house utilizing an active nutrient film technique (NFT).

Hydroponic farming is the growing of plants in sand, gravel, or liquid with added nutrients but without soil. I’ve learned at Archi’s Acres on our Farm Days the first thing to do is check the water. By using an electric pen, it helps to provide us with the pH levels, electrical conductivity (ec) and temperatures in the water reservoirs. The next thing we do is enter the greenhouse and observe all the lines to ensure none are clogged. We check lines before and after class because any clogged lines can put a crop at risk.

Inside my hoop house I plan to grow organic baby bok choy, cabbage, and baby kale. Bok choy is ready in about 30 days and harvesting can be done all season long. Kale is ready 70 to 80 days from seed and can also be available all year round. Bok choy and kale are in high demand in local restaurants in San Diego County, so that might be a market I want to target. I have learned a lot in the last four weeks and will learn more to enhance my business plans.

This post is part of a series featuring Farm to Fork Ambassadors from Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. Students chosen by the Office of Farm to Fork will share their stories and the journey many like them are taking to create a new career path in farming after leaving the military in three blog posts here on Tales from the Field. Many of the students are exploring niche markets in California by developing business plans to grow less traditional fruits and vegetables or to support often overlooked populations.

Building Partnerships: Training Child Nutrition Directors on School Gardens, Local Produce, and Student Engagement

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The Office of Farm to Fork held its third and final Child Nutrition Director Training at Encinitas Unified School District last month. The training, hosted by Lea Bonelli, Director of Nutrition Services, shed light on techniques to incorporate more fresh local produce, including fast-scratch recipes, discussed working with school gardens, and shared strategies on creating student buy-in.

Bonelli focused the day on how she has trained staff to work with fresh produce, largely from the Farm Lab, a district run farm and student educational center. Purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables can be a daunting task for school districts. Items often require processing prior to serving, which presents a challenge for busy food service staff with often limited skillsets and time. Giving staff the correct skillset and protocols allows them to quickly, confidently, and safely prepare student meals.

During the training, attendees visited the district’s central kitchen and saw firsthand how staff prepare fresh student meals, including Farm Lab romaine for the salad bar and pizza made with sauce from last season’s tomatoes. During the summer months, Encinitas staff freeze large portions of fresh vegetables to be used throughout the school year. Staff also demonstrated techniques for preparing fast-scratch meals using commodity products, like corn and beef. Attendees were then served a typical student lunch that featured Farm Lab romaine, local kiwis, and pizza made with fresh dough.

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The day wrapped up with a visit to the Farm Lab for a chance to see the fields where the romaine was grown. Director Min Michelove welcomed the group and discussed how she and Bonelli have worked together to make the farm an integral part of Encinitas student meals and education.
“When you give students the opportunity to get their hands in the dirt, learn about the growing process and watch as the produce grows, they are much more likely to try these vegetables on the salad bar that they may typically not choose. Students are more invested in the food they are eating and I think this helps cultivate long term healthy eating habits,” remarked Bonelli.

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Learning from peers is key to advancing farm to school programs. A roadblock to one district, can be fixed with an applicable solution by another. Giving food service directors the opportunity to expand their knowledge base and network with other directors has long-term benefits for farm to school programs and students. CDFA was happy to coordinate these trainings and aid in improving farm to school communication throughout California.

Office of Farm to Fork Celebrates Ag Day with Family and Natomas Unified School District

Students on Ag Day
Natomas Unified School District culinary arts students dice kohlrabi for a kale, broccoli, and kohlrabi slaw they prepared for Ag Day attendees.

CDFA hosted Ag Day at the Capitol last week, despite heavy rain earlier that morning. The annual event presents an opportunity to showcase the diversity of California agriculture for state legislative members and the general public.

Geared toward education, some 50 booths exhibited a wide variety of agriculture, ranging from the California Beef Council serving tri-tip sandwiches to FFA students proudly displaying baby goats and chickens. Area school children also attended the event in hopes of learning about agriculture and the people who grow our food.

The Office of Farm to Fork teamed up with Natomas Unified School District’s Food Services to showcase fresh California produce at their booth. The culinary arts students served a broccoli and kohlrabi slaw – a recipe that could be served at school lunch – showing off their culinary skills as they prepared the dish on site. Their program strives to provide marketable training to students prior to high school graduation.

For CDFA staff, Ag Day is also an opportunity to bring our children to work and offer them a glimpse of what we do each day. Activities began at the department’s headquarters on N Street and included a story hour with Undersecretary Jim Houston and pictures with a giant tomato and the food pyramid.

California is the leading agricultural producer in the U.S. Because of this richness it is important to continually educate the public on the industries that support our state and feed our country.

Students interviewing classmates
Kohlrabi pamphlet and slaw
Mexican performers

Working with the Land and the Community: Fort Bragg Child Nutrition Director Training

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The Office of Farm to Fork held the second of three Child Nutrition Director Trainings in Fort Bragg, California last month. The training highlighted the small district’s unique relationship with local farmers and their commitment to providing regular garden education and training.

Rain and road closures did not stop the 17 attendees who traveled to Mendocino from as far away as Plumas to attend the full day training at Fort Bragg Unified School District. Pilar Gray, the district’s Child Nutrition Director, discussed past, present and future projects, including the challenges they often face as a remote district. Pilar takes advantage of their proximity to the sea and fertile coastal land to improve the variety of local products offered in their meal program, often serving produce from one of the four school gardens. In addition to Pilar’s presentation, a representative from the Mendo-Lake Food Hub presented on the nonprofit’s operation, which aggregates local produce in Ukiah and distributes to places like Fort Bragg. Districts that are off the beaten path are often limited to a few distributors who will deliver in their area. The food hub allows them to reach farms that might otherwise be out of reach.

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Pilar Gray, Fort Bragg Unified School District Child Nutrition Director

Fort Bragg student meals are also further enhanced by a connection to the Noyo Food Forest, a small farm located at the high school. The nonprofit works with students and the community to promote positive changes to Mendocino food systems. During the training, Kyra Rice, Noyo Garden Manager, led attendees through the site and described the ongoing projects and educational components of working in the garden, including the compost system, beehive, and various greenhouses. The site is able to sell produce directly to the schools for use in the school meals. In addition, Noyo also grows and sells some Harvest of the Month items to the local supermarket, Harvest Market, who then donates the produce back to the Garden Nutrition Education program for the Harvest of the Month activities.

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Kyra Rice, Noyo Food Forest Garden Manager

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Not only does the garden help students learn more about their own food, it also acts as a means of career education. Once a busy fishing town, Fort Bragg Unified School District looks to prepare students for the now bustling tourism industry which supports a large percentage of the population. Through robust agricultural and culinary arts programs, students leave school with a skillset to move them ahead in the local workforce. “In the Learning Garden at Fort Bragg High School, Noyo Food Forest provides paid internships for teens to learn hands-on the business of sustainable organic based agriculture. They are engaged in all aspects of crop production from seed to sales at the local farmers’ market. Fort Bragg High also has an amazing culinary arts program in which students prepare to fill the local demand for employees with culinary training, restaurant management, and event promotion & supervision skills,” remarked Gray. This program includes a full spectrum ‘Farm to Table’ class, which partners with the Future Farmers of America & Agriculture department. In the school’s Agriculture Department students study California agriculture, agricultural business, technologies, natural resources, and animal, plant & soil sciences.

After touring Noyo, attendees were treated to a high school lunchtime favorite: fish tacos, featuring “second catch” Grenadier or Arrowtooth topped with cabbage and cilantro grown at Noyo. Often caught along with ling and rock cod, who garner a higher market price, the fish were traditionally thrown back but now serve as a low priced protein for the school and a great way to further support the community.

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Staff preparing fish tacos topped with cilantro grown at the Noyo Food Forest.

As the day wound down, the group visited the school garden sites that have become an integral part of student life in Fort Bragg. Julie Castillo, Garden and Nutrition Teacher, presented her roadmap to garden development and the solutions to many of the challenges presented over the years. One major accomplishment was bringing Castillo on as a full time staff member. As a credentialed teacher, the district uses her time with students in the garden as teacher preparation time. She also described her active approach to applying for grants and working with the community to fundraise for garden improvements. One project involves students collecting, packaging, drawing, and labeling seed packages that are then sold at local businesses to support garden initiatives.

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Julie Castillo, Garden and Nutrition Teacher

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Seed packets designed by students are sold at local businesses to help support garden efforts.

Fort Bragg is testament to how districts adapt to their location, community, and local resources. While no district is exactly the same, districts can learn from one another’s successes and take ideas away to implement in their own programs for their own unique environments. The 17 attendees came away with new ideas that they are ready to adapt to their own districts and communities.








Building a Farm to School Program from Scratch: Turlock Child Nutrition Director Training

turlock 3 625Districts across California are improving not only the quality and variety of food served in school meals, but also the availability of local products and the messaging used to communicate regional products to students. Turlock Unified School District has forged the way for such efforts. The district hosted the first of three Child Nutrition Director Trainings on February 3rd to help other school districts follow suit. Organized by the Office of Farm to Fork, the trainings aim to highlight programs that have successfully increased their local fruit and vegetable purchasing and bring together food service directors looking to advance their farm to school programs.

Despite torrential rain, the training saw a strong turnout of food service professionals eager to learn from Scott Soiseth, Turlock’s Child Nutrition Director. Within the food service community, Soiseth is regarded as a pioneer in improving school meal service with his focus on procuring seasonal products for mainly scratch cooking. School districts in attendance, ranged in size from small districts, like Plumas Lake Elementary School with only 1,200 students and a 40% free and reduced population to large districts with high free and reduced priced populations, like Lodi Unified School District with 30,000 students of which 66% are free and reduced.


Turlock Unified School District’s Child Nutrition Director, Scott Soiseth, shares his vision for his district’s food service program.

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Fruit packaged and branded with the real.fresh logo

The day commenced with breakfast, including local fruit packaged with Turlock’s real.fresh brand and presentations featuring Soiseth’s wealth of knowledge of farm to school practices. Soiseth spoke specifically to the effort he placed on developing a successful marketing plan to properly communicate the hard work behind each meal. He also discussed his journey into locally procuring for his school meal program and how he relies heavily on the DoD Fresh program to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Soiseth reserved a portion of the day’s time to discuss his involvement in the USDA Pilot Project for Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables, which allows him to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from local producers. Addison Ford, part of the Office of Farm to Fork, also presented on the California Farmer Marketplace, a website developed to connect food service staff to California farmers and aid in the procurement of local produce.


Attendees visiting the future central kitchen for Turlock Unified School District.

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During the day, the group was able to visit the current central kitchen and view the machine that slices and packages fruit for school meals.

During the day, the group visited the current central kitchen and was able to see the machine that individually packages fruit and a cafeteria branded with real.fresh messaging. The group also drove outside town and visited the school’s 5 acre farm, where the district recently planted a one acre vegetable plot and fruit and nut trees. Produce from the farm will be served in school meals. Finally the group toured Turlock’s future central kitchen. Soiseth took the opportunity to explain his vision and the journey he has taken to achieving it. The site will include a space for an aggregation center and a dedicated space for teaching students, families, and food service staff about nutrition education and scratch cooking. Attendees were served a typical school lunch at the site which included local spinach, romaine, and kiwis. “It’s great to see the full breadth of what the district is doing to improve meal quality and participation numbers”, remarked one attendee.

As the day ended, attendees left with a newfound knowledge from the presentations and site visits, as well as many new connections within their professional field. The Office of Farm to Fork will host a final Child Nutrition Director training in Encinitas on February 24th.

California State Employees Donate more than 750,000 pounds

Employees from the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services present employees from the State Board of Equalization with the award for largest total poundage last night at the State Employees Food Drive wrap party.

Employees from the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services present employees from the State Board of Equalization with the award for largest total poundage last night at the State Employees Food Drive wrap party.

Totals are now in for the California State Employees Food Drive, which set the ambitious goal to raise 750,000 pounds of food for the 2016/17 food drive, knowing that employees are eager to help Californians in need during the holidays. Using the theme, Giving is in Season Year-Round, the drive kicked off in late September to help increase contributions and spanned until early February.

The Office of Farm to Fork coordinated the food drive from late September to early February, along with their partners at the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services and 94 different agencies statewide. Across the state over 764,000 pounds of food were donated, surpassing this year’s goal of 750,000 pounds and clearly demonstrating employees desire to give back to their communities. Outside of the Sacramento area over 100,000 pounds of food were donated to local food banks and pantries, eventually ending up on the tables of Californians throughout the state.

The need in California is substantial. According to the California Association of Food Banks, 5.4 million Californians contend with food insecurity, the occasional or constant lack of access to the food one needs for a healthy, active life. Of these Californians, more than two-million are children.

To continue momentum and remind employees of this need throughout the three and a half month drive, events were held periodically across the state, including a kickoff day in late September where employees donated over 450 pounds of fresh produce at the Capitol Mall Farmers Market in Sacramento to benefit the Reverse Food Truck, a project of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The event aimed to take advantage of the great produce items still available during the fall in California. As Thanksgiving rolled around 42,882 pounds of turkey (the equivalent of over 3,000 birds) were donated during the annual Turkey Drive and the Run to Feed the Hungry in Sacramento held on November 24th raised $18,127 in registrations and 10,869 pounds of food. Secretary Karen Ross also hosted two “Coffee with the Secretary” events which gave employees a chance to donate money or food, drink a cup of coffee, and chat with Ross in a relaxed festive environment.

“I am impressed each year with the level of compassion and commitment that employees display when they donate to the food drive,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, chair of the food drive. “Food brings people together, in particular during the holidays, when families and friends gather around the table. This effort is so important in helping to make that happen for families that may need a little boost.”

food drive 3Each year the State Employees Food Drive hosts a wrap up party and awards are given to highlight the commitment agencies have taken to make the drive a success. For the 2016/17 drive, the Board of Equalization received the award for the largest overall donation poundage totaling 166,889 pounds. Two new award categories were also added this year for most creative fundraiser and the biggest increase in donations from the previous year. CalEPA took home this first category with their Dream it, Built it, Give it competition, where employees built structures out of food donations. Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta Conservancy took home the award for the largest increase by upping donations from 18 pounds to 912 pounds since the 2015/16 drive.

Final weights and totals for the State Employees Food Drive will be posted to the website this week following the drive’s wrap up party. This year’s success is a testament to how hardworking and passionate our California State Employees are to helping those less fortunate in our communities.

Lodi Unified School District Hosts California Thursdays Celebration

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Members of the Lodi’s nutrition services team at Delta Sierra Middle School in Stockton

On Thursday, January 26th, a hearty and fragrant Italian soup, Pasta e Fagioli was on the lunch menu at Lodi Unified School District. It was freshly prepared and made with California-grown food, including whole grain pasta and heirloom beans grown at a ranch farmed continuously since 1855 by a California family. Students devoured it.

This tasty meal – like many other delicious, kid-tested recipes served across the state – is part of the California Thursdays program. A collaboration between the nonprofit Center for Ecoliteracy and a network of public school districts, the program supports improving school food by preparing meals using real ingredients sourced from California, including proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy.

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Nancy Rostomily, Lodi Unified School District’s Food Service Director, with her Nutrition Services team on Collective Action Day

It’s a big effort with a big network. With seventy-one districts, including more than 2,900 schools, 1.85 million students, and 11,600 nutrition service staff, the California Thursdays Network collectively serves over 309 million meals each year. That is almost one third of the state’s nearly one billion school meals.

Lunch on January 26th, however, was special. It was a “Collective Action Day,” where the network commits to serving their California Thursdays meals on the same day to demonstrate collective impact and to celebrate the abundance of California agriculture. On this particular Thursday, more than 500,000 students around the state enjoyed a tasty, healthy California Thursdays lunch.

Nancy Rostomily, Lodi Unified School District’s Director of Nutrition Services, and her team had been planning their Collective Action Day celebration for months. In addition to the procurement and menu development necessary to create a new dish that would be rolled out to 58 schools, Nancy also invited farmers, producers, and distributors to join them for the day. Many were directly responsible for providing the food on the lunchtime tray. Students had a chance to meet “their” farmers and understand exactly where their food had come from.

Special guests, from elected officials to celebrity chefs, also visited California Thursdays schools across the state. Lodi Unified School District was honored to host Jim Houston, Undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and Kamal Bagri, Assistant Agriculture Commissioner for San Joaquin County.

“It’s great to see the level of commitment everyone has taken to make California Thursdays a success. There is a lot of hard work that goes into scratch cooking, but it is worth the time and effort,” remarked Houston.

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Lodi Unified School District students celebrate California Thursdays in Stockton

The celebration was about more than local food and healthy students. “Freshly prepared, served with care” was the Collective Action Day theme, to honor the many dedicated nutrition services staff who have a hand in creating these meals. Nick La Mattina, a Regional Supervisor for the district, said, “It is amazing to be able to trace your food to the source. California has so much wonderful fresh food to offer. Why settle for something that was picked early, robbing essential nutrients, just to allow for time in transit?”

While developing their Pasta e Fagioli soup (pasta and beans), Nancy and her team certainly kept the source in mind. With whole grain pasta from Community Grains and heirloom beans from Mohr-Fry Ranch, just down the road in Lodi, it could hardly be more fresh and local. The dish embodied the multiple “wins” of California Thursdays: to nourish students, steward environmental sustainability, support the local economy, and connect students to their local food systems.

Like so many others around the state, students left Collective Action Day nourished, engaged, and excited about their next California Thursdays meal.

California’s commitment to reducing food waste

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Californians throw away nearly 6 million tons of food scraps or food waste each year. This represents about 18 percent of all the material that goes to landfills. In order for California to reach its goal of 75% source reduction, recycling and composting, food waste must be addressed.

California’s Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling law requires businesses to recycle their organic waste. The links below provide more information on food waste management as well as examples of how various business groups and public entities are managing food waste.

Everyone has a role in saving resources and wasting less food. Creative food rescue projects like the UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign work to save healthy fruits and vegetables from becoming waste. Rather than throwing away excess food, find ways to manage it more thoughtfully, such as working with groups to ensure that it goes to disadvantaged people, and composting for soil restoration. To further educate the public about food waste, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council have initiated a food waste reduction campaign known as Their web site offers a complete media kit with posters, videos, social media postings, and more.

CalRecycle conducted two workshops in support of a proposed Food Waste Prevention and Rescue grant program; follow the progress of that program.

CalRecycle has been working to reduce food waste since at least 2002, when its predecessor agency conducted a Food Diversion Summit.

Hotels/Restaurants – Information for restaurants on managing food scraps.

Households – Information for households on managing food scraps.

Schools – Information for colleges/universities and K-12 on managing food scraps.

US EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy – Ranks food donations to feed hungry people as a top priority to help reduce wasted food.

Stadiums/Special Events – Information for stadiums, fairs, festivals, and catered events on managing food scraps.

Health Care Industry – Information for the health care industry on managing food scraps.

Grocery Stores – Information for grocery stores on donating edible food to disadvantaged communities.

***Cross-posted from CDFA’s Planting Seeds Blog***