March 2017

Expect the Unexpected (benefits) in an Outdoor Learning Environment
Gardens and garden-based learning are pillars of the Farm Fresh initiative for two reasons: they help students bridge the knowledge gap between food growing on the farm and food appearing on their plate, and they provide out-of-the-box learning opportunities.
While studies on this topic are limited, a compelling research paper released in 2015 showed that gardens and outdoor classrooms have an even greater, lasting impact than previously thought. A study of 2,500 elementary students showed a positive relationship between increased outdoor learning exposure with attentiveness and working memory over a 12-month study period. Some unanticipated and hard to measure soft skills were also seen to improve with more access to unconventional classroom settings. These included:  
  • Cooperation skills,
  • Conflict management skills and
  • Communication skills.
Don't feel discouraged if you don't have a garden yet or your gardens are not on every campus. Simple, unstructured exposure to nature also has many of the same great benefits found in a structured garden environment. Exposure to nature in general or as a garden was seen to contribute to:  
  • Emotional restoration,
  • Decreased stress,
  • Decreased symptoms of anxiety, and
  • Elevated mood.
Kids who get to experience this type of play and learning are happier, healthier, and smarter.
Farm Fresh Spotlight

TDA Unveils Updates to Farm Fresh Network
Recently completed updates to the Farm Fresh Network improve usability and make it easier to identify whether a producer is a good fit for your program based on geography. Hover your cursor over any red icon representing a network member to see a visual representation of their distribution radius.
Other updates include a new shelf stable product category and additional contact and product information when you click on any of the red icons from the map screen.
With nearly 70 Farm Fresh Network members all over the state of Texas, there is sure to be one in your neck of the woods. Visit the network today to start connecting children to local products. 
Farm to Child Care Spotlight

This guide is for early-childhood education and design professionals, and explains how Texas standards, laws and guidelines affect the design and management of play and learning settings. The guide aims to explain what is possible under the major policies affecting outdoor learning environments.
Recording Now Available: January National Farm to School Network Farm to Child Care Webinar
Exploring the Good Food, Great Kids Project
If you missed the Good Food, Great Kids Project webinar when it was live on Jan. 11, you can now access the recording here . The webinar explores lessons learned and best practices from the pfc Social Impact Advisors' new series of Farm to Child Care case studies and policy report. The Good Food, Great Kids Project helped Farm to Child Care participants identify their recipe for success that included the following:
  • Diverse partnerships in Farm to Child Care
  • Collaboration between individuals and the community
  • Shared values between farmers, food service team members, educators, parents, kids and the community

Watch the recording here to learn about all of the transformative projects undertaken in the Good Food, Great Kids Project.    

Farm to Summer Spotlight
Planning for Garden Support during Summer Months

Plans for 2017 Summer Programs are in full swing and that includes considering what will happen in the garden. Making plans now will help ensure your garden is available for young Texans throughout the summer and when students return in August.
Two Texas communities utilized a "single day of service" event to engage volunteers.
  • Bayless Elementary in the Dallas Independent School District exemplifies the keys to a successful single day of service. Providing service to others is not just about helping the recipient, it also provides enrichment for those providing the service.
  • At a Summer Meals site on the grounds of historic Fort Concho in San Angela, an on-site community garden helps kids learn where produce comes from and provides families with fresh vegetables and herbs through an adopt-a-plot program. An article written by the Texas Hunger Initiative outlines how a single day of service touched every member of the community in a positive way.
For more information and resources about planning and implementing a success Farm to Summer activity within your community, visit TDA's online Farm to Summer toolkit .

Grant Spotlight
Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) School Grants Now Available for Texas Schools

AFHK has opened two grant applications for the 2017-2018 school year:
  • Game On Grant: Funds physical activity, nutrition and parent engagement initiatives ($500 or $1,000).
Contact Michelle Smith, Texas state coordinator for Action for Healthy Kids. Application deadline is April 7, 2017.

Contact TDA
Alyssa Herold
Coordinator for Farm Fresh Initiatives
Emilee Feldhausen
Farm Fresh Specialist

Email us or call
(877) TEX-MEAL
Connect with Others
Texas Statewide Network
This LinkedIn Group is an online network connecting schools, child and adult care centers, producers, support organizations and community members with important information about expanding local food efforts in Texas.
Join Today!

Texas Farm Fresh Network
Use this tool to connect with Texas food companies that currently sell or are interested in selling to schools, child care centers and summer meal programs. Company listings include contact information, product availability and distribution radius.
Funding Opportunities
Financial support from organizations may help establish or advance local Farm Fresh initiatives.
Go here  for a list of opportunities from TDA, USDA and other organizations.