August 2016
Schools: Participate in the Local Products Challenge!

Each year, TDA challenges schools to use more Texas products in cafeteria meals, with the Local Products Challenge and recognizes participants that complete the challenge. This year's challenge will take place the month of October 2016, as part of celebrations for Farm Fresh Fridays and National Farm to School Month. Participation is open to all school food authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program in Texas. Go here to learn more about the challenge along with participation benefits and sign up today!
Connecting with Local Partners and Experts
One of the main tenets of farm fresh activities is to connect young Texans to agriculture through local foods, but there are many other opportunities to build on that mission. Students tend to be more willing to try and like new foods if they have had previous exposures. Schools, child care centers and summer meal program sites in Texas have come up with many creative ways to connect students back to Texas agriculture.
You do not have to be the expert on every topic; you simply need to know where to look to connect with someone who has the answer. If you are new to farm fresh and looking to expand your program, peer to peer sharing is a great place to start. Many nutrition directors are going above and beyond to connect children to agriculture through local purchasing, field trips, farmer visits and garden based learning. Visit TDA's map of farm fresh activities to see if there is an existing model you can learn from.
*Insider tip: be sure to read the farm to school unique success stories and farm to child care grantee highlights
If you would like to see your program highlighted on the map please contact us at .
Inspiration from around the nation
While Texas offers a wealth of resources, perhaps you're not finding what you're looking for. The USDA census is a survey of what's happening in farm to school nationwide. The survey includes ample data you can use to highlight the benefits of additional farm to school programs. Reach out to TDA if you are interested in analyzing the raw data for further insights. 

Spotlights of the Month
New Farm to Child Care Report
Results from a national survey of early care and education providers has been released by the National Farm to School Network (NFSN). Results include information from nearly 1,500 providers in 49 states and Washington, D.C. Read the full report of survey results here . NFSN also published this one-page fact shee t and infographic with overview information.
It's time to celebrate!
National Farmers Market Week (NFMW) is an annual celebration sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture that highlights the important role farmer's markets play in the nation's food system. Now in its 17th season, NFMW always lands on the first full week of August, with this year's celebration running August 7-13. Show support for farmers and farmers markets in your community using the hashtag #FarmersMarketWeek. Let TDA know how your programs take advantage of farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs by tagging us in your posts on Instagram (TexasAgriculture), Twitter (@TexasDeptofAg), and Facebook. We are always interested in sharing the success of our farm fresh advocates throughout the state. 

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.
Funding Opportunities
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

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 .

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.