May 2016
A Focus on Seasonality
 
What is it?
Every fruit and vegetable has a season - the time of the year when locally grown options are easier to find and when fresh flavors are at their peak. Texas is a big state with many diverse growing seasons and environments. Understanding which fresh products are typically available each month will help you purchase more locally grown products and connect young Texans to the food they enjoy in cafeteria meals.
 
Planning menus based on seasonal availability
TDA has created an interactive seasonality wheel to help identify the availability of Texas grown fruits and vegetables. This tool is fun to use and can help you learn more about growing seasons in Texas and how the different climates and soil types influence what is available in your region.
 
You can also visit TDA's Boost Meal Appeal for Schools and Boost Meal Appeal for Child Care Web pages to connect with menus and recipes that can help streamline menu planning and development.
 
What is happening near you?
Many schools and child care centers across Texas are taking advantage of seasonality and hosting regular Harvest of the Month activities. This is a fun way to introduce students and parents alike to the benefits of having a diet focused on Texas products, by highlighting a different product each month.
 
Tell us how you take advantage of the many great growing seasons and regions in Texas to best feed and educate your students. Please send information about your innovative and successful activities to LocalProducts.SquareMeals@TexasAgriculture.gov .

Spotlights of the Month
2016 Local Products Challenge Registration Open!
Each year, TDA's Local Products Challenge recognizes schools that use more Texas products in cafeteria meals and complete the challenge. This year's challenge will take place in October and it is open to all Contracting Entities (CEs) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in Texas. Go here to learn more about the challenge, participation benefits and sign up today!
 
 
Spotlights from Around Texas
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Named a USDA "One in a Melon" School
USDA recently announced the winners of the "One in a Melon" farm to school award. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD is located in Harris County.

One voter responded "Many schools in our district have gardens used to teach about plant growth but also spread a love for cultivating our own food. And eating healthy food, daily! The school where I am employed has a vegetable and butterfly garden. Easy on the eyes AND educational!"
 
 
Farmers and School Nutrition Directors Connect to Amplify their Communities
Recently, Education Service Center-Region 13's Child Nutrition Department teamed up with TDA to offer a Farm to School: Amplifying Communities workshop. It focused on maximizing local foods on school menus, launching school gardens and local food procurement. Read the full story here.
 
Perfect Peach Celebrations
School Districts are celebrating their Perfect Peach Awards. Find out what they are doing to commemorate their successes! Read the full story here.
 
Summer Spotlight
The summer months in Texas represent the peak harvest time for many fruits and vegetables and the timing is ideal for garden-based learning. Fresh harvests offer children the opportunity to taste just-picked picked items while learning what a fruit or vegetable looks like in a natural, unprocessed state.
 
Summer Food Service Program sponsors and sites can plan to use current school campus gardens throughout the summer months, offering participants the opportunity to plant, tend and harvest fruits and vegetables. Non-school sponsors and sites can partner with local school or community gardens to offer enrichment activities.
 
Tending school gardens during the summer vacation offers a great learning opportunity. Learn more by visiting TDA's Farm to Summer Site online toolkit.
 
New Funding Opportunities
The mission of the Urban Schools Agricultural Grant Program is to improve urban students' understanding and appreciation of agriculture. This program provides funding for hands-on projects to teach children the role that agriculture plays in their daily lives. Teachers utilize these projects to enhance science, math and writing programs at their schools.  Many projects extend beyond the classroom and incorporate community involvement with the students' families, agricultural professionals and/or agriculture associations. Eligible applicants includeTexas public elementary or middle schools in school districts with a student enrollment of 49,000 or more, and nonprofit organizations applying with the support of a Texas public elementary or middle school in a district with a student enrollment of 49,000 or more. Learn more about the grant and download a copy of the application here . Grant applications are due at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, 2016.
 
New Capital For Texas Program Expands Opportunities For Small Businesses in Texas
The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has announced a partnership between three Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) - PeopleFund, LiftFund, and Business and Community Lenders (BCL) of Texas - and the agency for the new Capital For Texas (C4T) small business loan program. Through C4T, TDA will work with PeopleFund, LiftFund and BCL of Texas to increase access to capital for small businesses in rural communities and enable private entrepreneurs to make market-driven decisions to grow jobs. C4T was created as a result of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's State Small Business Credit Initiative. This program supports TDA's goals of empowering rural communities to cultivate winning strategies for economic growth by providing financing options to creditworthy small businesses and manufacturers that are not getting the loans they need to expand and create jobs. Loans for the C4T program will range from $5,000 to $350,000, with an average investment of less than $100,000. Learn more about the program here .

This year, USDA has a new initiative with the National Football League and National Dairy Council's Fuel Up to Play 60 program to offer school nutrition equipment grants of up to $5,000 in total value for the 2016-2017 school year. The online application is now open. The deadline to apply is Thursday, June 30, 2016 . For more information about the $5 million in grant funding available through the Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative, please visit  www.FuelUptoPlay60.com.

The Chef Ann Foundation, in partnership with Skoop, is accepting applications for Project Produce: Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools, a program that aims to expand students' palates and encourage increased consumption of and exposure to fresh produce. Grants of up $2,500 will be awarded to school districts for programs that engage students in lunchroom education activities that encourage students to taste new vegetables and fruits offered either in a dish, cooked or raw. Grant funds must be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables to support each school's planned Project Produce programming. In addition, the majority of the produce must be locally accessible and at a price point affordable to all households.

Any district or independent school participating in the National School Lunch Program is eligible to apply. Applications must be submitted by the school district's food-service director. Districts may apply for up to 10 schools at $2,500 per school. The foundation accepts applications on an ongoing basis. For complete program guidelines and application instructions, go to www.thelunchbox.org/programs/grants.

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

Email
(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.