| Turning up the heat
Summer is finally here! We're welcoming the warm weather -- and the seasonal abundance at farmers' markets -- with open arms.
We'd also like to welcome our newest FOCUS stakeholders
: Minneapolis Public Schools
, and the Center for Ecoliteracy
, a district partner for Oakland Unified School District!
It's been a while since our last issue, and we're excited to share all sorts of good news with you:
- A look back at the 2012 National Gathering
- FOCUS participation in an educational briefing on Capitol Hill about wholesome school food and antibiotic overuse in livestock
- An update on the progress of the Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab
- A way to help more hungry children and families in the months when school's out
- Accomplishments from stakeholders across the country
...and more, plus the usual updates on policy (including the Farm Bill), news, and upcoming events.
National Gathering: Transforming School Food 2012
As the sun set on another FOCUS National Gathering
, which took place May 3-5 in Chicago, we knew our hard work and near-exhaustion was well worth it. The meeting was, simply put, chock full of both information and inspiration
The National Gathering covered a lot
, as always -- but if we had to pick one way to describe the overarching theme of this year's Transforming School Food
conference, it would be understanding the way food systems, the environment, economics, and equity
are fully interrelated
and, indeed, that they are completely inseparable from one another
. Dan Carmody of Detroit Eastern Market opened the conference with an energizing keynote (to view, go here and click "Opening Session" under Friday, May 4)
that covered these topics beautifully.Over 200 participants
included progressive school food service professionals from 25 districts, engaged district partners, USDA and CDC representatives, innovative school food vendors and business contacts, national allies, funders, and more. They came to Chicago from all over the nation, looking for ways to make changing school food for the better more effective, efficient, and sustainable.
As Rodney Taylor, Director of Nutrition Services for Riverside Unified School District said, "I recall looking around at all who were in attendance and thinking, 'WOW!' All the major organizations across the country seem to be represented."
There was a definite feeling that we were moving toward the next level
in terms of thinking, process, and session topics. We focused on details at micro as well as macro scales
-- from workshops that covered the nitty-gritty of chicken specs
, geographic preference
(GP), and evaluating the upcoming Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab
, to big-picture discussions of participants' "grand vision" for school meals
and understanding labor, social, and racial justice issues
across the food supply chain. For a complete look at the meeting program, click here
[PDF]. To read more about what went down in Chicago, click here to jump to the blog >>
|Chicago student chefs serve chicken raised without antibiotics on Capitol Hill|
Following our National Gathering, our Learning Lab Manager Laura Stanley traveled to Washington DC on May 10 to accompany partners from Chicago Public Schools, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, Healthy Schools Campaign, and the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming in an educational briefing on Capitol Hill.
High school student chefs from Chicago Vocational Career Academy (CVCA), the Chicago area winners of the Cooking up Change contest, served samples of their winning recipes: oven "fried" chicken raised without antibiotics, cabbage and collard greens, and a sweet potato salad. The meal was so popular that it sold out in the Congressional cafeteria.
CVCA student chefs at the Capitol
The event, which raised awareness about the overuse of antibiotics in livestock and the dangers of antibiotic resistance, was also a great way to spotlight the achievements of Diamonte B., Sheanice D., Kaliah H., Ciara L., Tytionna R., and Jerome S., and their understanding of wholesome, healthful school food.
In attendance were House and Senate staffers, representatives from health-focused nonprofit organizations, and members of the media, including Food Safety News and the Washington Post.
Laura also authored a guest post for Bettina Siegel's blog The Lunch Tray, titled, "Is the Press Chicken About Chicken?" The post centers around a recent study that found traces of antibiotics -- including fluoroquinolones, outlawed in poultry production since 2005 -- plus antidepressants, antihistamines, and other alarming substances in chicken feather meal fed to livestock. She touches on FOCUS Learning Lab work in Chicago and calls on the media to cover this important story, especially now that the publicity explosion over LFTB has died down.
|Dispatch from Milwaukee: latest from the Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab|
The selection process for the primary school districts that will take part in the Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab (UMRLL) is under way! Excitement and enthusiasm for the project continues to grow. Here's our timeline for next steps in the UMRLL.
- FOCUS identifies candidate districts within the region. (Currently in process)
- Project Director Kymm Mutch sends Save the Date notices to candidate districts and their partners. (June 22)
- Kymm invites candidates to complete the official UMRLL Readiness Assessment. (June 29)
- Districts complete Readiness Assessments and return them to FOCUS. (July 13)
- FOCUS team conducts site visit and district partnership evaluations; develops Memorandum of Understanding and Scope of Work with UMRLL participating districts. (July 16 - September 30)
- FOCUS staff, UMRLL districts, and partners convene in their first regional meeting. (November)
Are you wondering what this is all about? You can read a detailed description of the UMRLL here [PDF]. Stay tuned for more soon!
|Students deserve healthful meals in summertime, too|
Summer brings the highest rates of childhood hunger in the US, with more children going without adequate nutrition, skipping meals, and eating less food than during the school year. Our colleagues at WhyHunger are spreading the word about how to help these kids throughout the summer months.
WhyHunger partners with USDA to ensure that more children and their families have access to free, nutritious food during the summer months by registering and promoting the Summer Food Service Program through an online database and the National Hunger Hotline, 1-866-3 HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479). Once a site is registered, it's accessible to the thousands of Hotline callers and online visitors looking to find summer meals for their children.
Registering your summer feeding site is easy:
- If you are a sponsor organization with multiple feeding sites, please fill out the Excel file located on the Summer Food Service Program website and then email the file to NHC@whyhunger.org. WhyHunger will upload your list to the database so you don't have to enter each site manually. Please include the name of the feeding site, address (especially the zip code), and phone number in each entry.
There are promotional materials for the Hotline, including posters and web banners, available here.
|Food chain workers convene for justice, release new report|
On June 6, the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), coordinating with the Alliance for a Greater New York and UFCW Local 1500, presented the Food Workers and Food Justice Conference in New York City. FOCUS Research & Operations Manager Amy Rosenthal was in attendance, as well as author Jan Poppendieck, member of the FOCUS Leadership Council.
At the conference, FCWA released its report The Hands that Feed Us: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers Along the Food Chain, a detailed look at conditions for workers in all segments of the food system, from production to retail.The report offers thoughtful suggestions for policymakers, employers, and consumers to work for change alongside those affected.
Panels at the conference explored effective implementation of these suggestions, including advice particularly applicable to the FOCUS community to "ensure that institutional procurement policies, governmental subsidies, and loan programs include labor standards and worker protections."
USDA compliance rule incentivizes new meal standards
USDA has issued its proposed rule on what districts must do to receive the additional six-cent reimbursement for every meal served that meets the new meal pattern. Comments will be accepted until July 26, and FOCUS will be seeking stakeholder input to develop model comments; please contact Sheilah Davidson if you'd like to be involved in this process. More information on the rule and comment submission is here, and other resources can be found here. SNA is developing an implementation guide and is accepting comments here; the organization also presented a webinar on the topic.
New states named for community eligibility option for school meals
USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon announced that the agency selected New York, Ohio, Washington D.C., and West Virginia for participation in the school meal community eligibility option, one of the reforms contained in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The option uses the number of households in a community that are using SNAP (food stamps) to automatically sign up students for free school breakfast and lunch. Community eligibility reduces paperwork burden and administrative costs by eliminating the need for families to fill out separate applications.
Understanding the Farm Bill
Many people who care deeply about our food system shy away from involvement in the Farm Bill debate because of the complexity of the policies. We encourage you to use three new resources that can help demystify the Farm Bill:
- The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a FOCUS stakeholder, has created a series of short pieces under the heading 2012 Farm Bill: What's at Stake? which clearly outline farm and food policy issues that affect all of us. Readers may find the brief on local foods particularly interesting.
- Food Fight translates the complex policies of the Farm Bill for the everyday citizen and makes the case about why we all should care about it. The book is a primer for anyone who cares about the future of our food and farming policies in the 21st century. Public health, land stewardship, national security, local food movements, ecosystem-based farming, and energy are just a few of the many topics addressed. The website features an excellent video that lays out the issues in a simple and compelling manner.
- The Center for a Livable Future, a FOCUS stakeholder, has updated its Farm Bill Budget Visualizer which shows how spending in the Farm Bill currently under debate in the Senate compares with the current Farm Bill. Cuts are indicated in shades of red, and expansions are noted in shades of blue. We hope you will use this updated application as an aid for understanding the changes proposed by the Senate and for priority next steps.
Farm Bill passes the Senate
The Farm Bill is an important opportunity to develop policies that can help deliver affordable regional food to our nation's schools. On May 24, the bill (S. 3240) was formally introduced in the Senate, and debate began the week of June 11, with final passage on June 21 at a vote of 64-35. The bill saves about $23 billion over 10 years, with most cuts coming from commodity programs and conservation. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has posted a blog series, which includes an analysis of the bill, amendments, and final outcome. For more must-read details on the Farm Bill, click here to jump to the blog >>
|Notable news & resources
>> Farm-to-school effort growing (Statesman Journal)
: FOCUS stakeholder Michelle Markesteyn Ratcliffe of the Oregon Department of Agriculture
penned this piece on market expansion for Oregon agriculture as farm to school programs mature to include foods for the whole tray. Included is an overview of the FOCUS School Food Showcase that took place at this year's National Gathering in Chicago, and a rundown of the two regional companies, Truitt Brothers and Fairlight Bakery, that were featured in the Showcase. "Our participation in the FOCUS Showcase has reaped great dividends and positioned our company in the epicenter of the nutrition conversation surrounding school food service," said Rod Friesen, Director of Market Development at Truitt Brothers.
>> Real food and Minneapolis Public Schools (IATP's Think Forward blog): Bertrand Weber, the Director of Nutrition and Culinary Services at Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) -- our newest FOCUS district
-- has set exciting new goals to improve food quality and to support local farmers and the local economy by expanding the MPS farm to school program. Over 20 locally grown foods are being integrated into menus starting this fall, which means more fresh fruits and vegetables, along with high quality, sustainably raised beef and turkey from Thousand Hills Cattle Company
and Ferndale Market
. MPS also plans to introduce salad bars at all high schools.
>> Connecting the Dots: the Journey from Farm to Cafeteria Tray (NRDC's OnEarth blog)
: FOCUS stakeholder Andrea Northup
(right) has been recognized as a Young Food Leader for the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC)'s Growing Green Awards. Her piece on their blog is a personal look at her journey from a study abroad trip to France igniting her passion for food issues to today, as her work with the Washington DC Public Schools
through her organization DC Farm to School Network
has made serious progress in providing more healthful options for kids in cafeterias. Congratulations to Andrea!
>> Antibiotics are widely used by U.S. meat industry (Consumer Reports)
: Consumer Reports has released the results of a nationwide poll about antibiotics use in food animals. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said they wanted to see meat and poultry raised without antibiotics sold in their local supermarkets. Results of the survey, which was conducted in connection with an important new report
[PDF] on the growing market for sustainably raised animal protein, also demonstrates a high level of public awareness about the perils of routine, non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock production. Seventy-two percent of respondents indicated that they are "very concerned" or "extremely concerned" about agriculture's contribution to the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant disease.
>> Americans eat more fresh food than they did five years ago (Washington Post's All We Can Eat blog)
: A new survey conducted by FOCUS funder the W.K. Kellogg Foundation shows that three-quarters of respondents support doubling SNAP benefits at farmers markets, and 68 percent said that they eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables than they did five years ago. Ninety-three percent of those surveyed agreed that it's "very important" or "somewhat important" to "make sure all Americans have equal access to fresh fruits and vegetables."
>> Report: Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? (USDA)
: A new report
[PDF] from USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) investigates the common assumption that healthier foods are more expensive than unhealthy foods. The authors compared prices of healthy and less healthy foods using three metrics: price of food energy ($/calorie), price of edible weight ($/100 edible grams), and price of an average portion ($/average portion). The price of food energy is the only metric in which healthy foods cost more than less healthy foods.
>> The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities (Will Allen and Growing Power): This new book is a ca
ll to action for the cultivation, production, and delivery of healthy foods for underserved, urban populations. Interwoven is the story of Will Allen's personal transformation from a young man who fought to leave behind the life of working the land to an urban farmer who realized the potential of fresh food to change the lives of young people in Milwaukee's poorest neighborhoods.
>> USDA Foods Toolkit (USDA)
: The USDA Foods Toolkit is a collection of valuable resources to assist school nutrition professionals and educate students, school staff, and the community about the healthy and nutritious contributions that USDA Foods provide to school meal programs.
>> Moving Food Along the Value Chain: Innovations in Regional Food Distribution (USDA): This report shows how producer networks -- or food hubs -- and their partners help local and regional producers overcome barriers in the food marketing system through collaborative and transparent planning. By sharing lessons learned and best practices, it serves as a resource for producers, food processors, and marketers organizing to supply local and regional food products to commercial customers.
>> Kidchen Expedition (Oklahoma Farm to School): This new packet of educational materials promotes healthful eating by emphasizing creative ways to use Oklahoma-grown produce, including a series of five videos to use in the classroom to educate students in Grades 2-5. Accompanying its release is a new Farm to School cookbook, developed especially for use in school kitchens and focusing on healthful recipes that incorporate Oklahoma-grown produce.
>> Bringing Legislators to the Table: Addressing Hunger Through Public-Private Partnerships (National Conference of State Legislatures): This new report describes innovative approaches to improving the availability of SNAP, child nutrition programs, food distribution, and healthy food access.
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) Forum
SAFSF's 10th Anniversary Forum, titled Bounty For All? The Challenge of Creating an Equitable Food System, will explore inequities of the global food system, including issues around water, environmental health, and labor. FOCUS Director of Strategic Development Kathy Lawrence will be in attendance, moderating a workshop centered on the future of healthy school food. FOCUS stakeholder Rodney Taylor, Director of Nutrition Services at Riverside Unified School District, and FOCUS School Food Showcase vendor Marco Abarca of Ready Foods will participate as speakers along with Christine James of the John Merck Fund.
Santa Barbara, CA
Agriculture, Food & Human Values Society Meeting
This year's conference is produced in conjunction with New York University and The New School. The theme, Global Gateways and Local Connections: Cities, Agriculture, and the Future of Food Systems, will examine the need for more equitable, sustainable distribution of power and resources among a diverse set of stakeholders. FOCUS Learning Lab Manager Laura Stanley will present in a session on school food procurement change and FOCUS Research & Operations Manager Amy Rosenthal, and FOCUS stakeholder Amy Yaroch of the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition will participate in a session focused on farm to school efforts.
New York, NY
Webinar -What's at Stake in the Farm Bill: Health, Innovation, and Equity
As debate over the 2012 Farm Bill continues, this webinar from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) will highlight three key issues: health, equity, and publicly funded research. Speakers include Jennifer Billig and Mark Muller of IATP and Don Bustos, Food & Community Fellow and New Mexico farmer.
School Nutrition Association Annual National Conference
This annual four-day learning experience brings SNA members together for educational sessions, workshops, general sessions, demonstrations, and other events designed to enhance the knowledge of school food and nutrition workers. FOCUS stakeholders Marilyn Moody of Wake County Public Schools and Carol Chong of Miami-Dade County Public Schools are presenting a workshop with USDA's Laura Walter called "Making the Most of USDA Foods for Healthier Meals," and FOCUS stakeholder Brent Craig of Douglas County (CO) Public Schools will conduct a workshop about using social media to develop positive publicity for school meals.
National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
This annual conference will bring together food service professionals, farmers, educators, policy makers, representatives from government agencies and nonprofits, entrepreneurs, students, and others who are breaking down barriers and expanding the impact of Farm to Cafeteria. Laura Stanley will present in a short course called "The Protein Puzzle: Institutional Procurement of Local Meat and Seafood." Kathy Lawrence is presenting in two workshops: "Regional Partnerships & Approaches to Farm to Institution," and "Using Geographic Preference: What You Need to Know About Bringing More Local Food to Your School."
School Food FOCUS is a national collaborative that leverages the knowledge and procurement power of large school districts to make school meals nationwide more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced. FOCUS aims to transform food systems to support students' academic achievement and lifelong health, while directly benefiting farmers, regional economies, and the environment. School Food FOCUS is a program of Public Health Solutions. For more, visit www.schoolfoodfocus.org, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.