July 2017

Spotlight on Summer Garden Support
Gardening in Texas is a full time job. Here are three strategies for transitioning between the school year and summer months:
Strategy one: Entrust volunteers to care for the garden in exchange for the fruits and vegetables it produces over the break.
The Graham Elementary '3 Sisters' garden thrived during the summer months thanks to a group of parent and student volunteers associated with the Austin Independent School District school. They kept the garden growing and producing yellow and green squash, okra, herbs, and a few other summer vegetables. During the school year, excess produce that could not be used by the child nutrition team was donated to students, teachers, or staff. The summer garden was so bountiful volunteers  were able to supply a local food pantry with 40 pounds of fresh produce.  
Strategy two: Partner with a nearby summer meal program to bring enrichment to summer meal participants.
A summer meal site in Fort Concho partners with a community garden to teach students about where the food comes from and provides families with fresh vegetables and herbs through an adopt-a-plot program. It is a win-win because the garden thrives during the summer months and summer meals participants get to continue to engage in the tenets of the Farm Fresh Initiative.
Strategy three: Put the garden "to sleep"
This strategy is the solution if man-power is the greatest issue. Pull out plants and heavily mulch beds - using three or four inches of mulch - or plant a cover crop. A cover crop is a plant that requires little to no maintenance and completely covers the planting bed. Both strategies prevent weeds from taking over and build the quality of the soil in preparation for the following planting season.

Farm to School Spotlight
Congratulations to IDEA Public Schools and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District for receiving 2017 USDA Farm to School Grants!
Both will use the funds to strengthen connections between students and Texas agriculture. More information here {this link will go to the news section of SquareMeals where the following will also be posted}
Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District received a USDA Farm to School planning grant of $44,646. The funds will be used for the "Improving Student Achievement through Nutrition" project. The project will enable the district to cultivate local partnerships and purchase fresh produce from local farmers. This is the first USDA Farm to School Grant for Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD.
IDEA Public Schools in Weslaco received a USDA Farm to School implementation grant of $93,058. IDEA Public Schools will build systems to standardize academic instruction while continuing to grow and expand farm production capacity and increase access to farms for more than 30,000 students in three Texas regions. IDEA will also create the "Garden in a Box," toolkit to assist schools in promoting the Healthy Kids Here initiative and increase participation in IDEA's farms and gardens. This is the second grant for IDEA.

Participate in the 2017 Local Products Challenge!
TDA challenges schools to use more Texas products in cafeteria meals during October, and will recognize participants that complete the challenge. 

Participating schools will receive a toolkit of Farm Fresh Fridays supportive materials, including buttons, stickers and static clings. There are many resources available online to help you plan and implement successful Farm Fresh Fridays activities and participate in the Local Products Challenge. 

Register by July 15 to ensure you receive your Farm Fresh Fridays materials before September 1. 

Farm to Child Care Spotlight
This training is for child care program team members and others who are interested in bringing farm to child care activities to their center, site or day care home. This introductory training lays the groundwork for more advanced training and discussion about farm to child care activities.

Farm to Summer Spotlight
Seasonal Recipes for Summer Months
Seasonal summer produce is entering the market as farmers harvest the crops that grew during the spring. The following recipes from What's Cooking USDA Mixing Bowl will help you that celebrate fresh Texas produce in season now :
TDA's newest Farm Fresh resource,  Cooking for the Seasons: Summer , provides more than 30 recipes that celebrate ingredients in season during the summer months.
Fresh Foods and Fitness Resources
USDA Team Nutrition Summer Food, Summer Moves resources are designed to help kids and families get active and enjoy healthy foods during the summer months. The resources help summer sponsors and sites plan healthy enrichment activities and can be used in both school and community settings. All USDA Team Nutrition summer resources are available in English and Spanish.

Farm Fresh for Producers Spotlight
Dig Deep: A Conference for Growers!
July 22, 2017, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth
Please join Tarrant Area Food Bank's Community Garden Program for an exciting and educational event - Dig Deep: A Conference for Growers! This year's theme is "Learning as We Grow." Growers of all kinds are invited to attend the conference as a means to network with other growers, learn more about important aspects of growing and participate in an event that will highlight the positive work being done in Texas to end hunger and promote a healthier community. Do not miss the opportunity to network with growers from different fields and share your experiences, knowledge and resources. All topics and materials are suitable for beginner and intermediate level growers. 

Contact TDA
Alyssa Herold
Coordinator for Farm Fresh Initiatives
Emilee Case
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.