April 2017

Building on last month's excitement surrounding  the benefits for children participating in an outdoor learning environment - this month we look at the three simple steps to start a garden, and two resources available from USDA to support your efforts.

Gardening is a great way to learn about how food is grown and it can count toward children's daily physical activity!

Three tips for starting a successful garden:
  1. Start small if gardening is new to you. You can always expand the garden later. 
  2. Find an area that gets a lot of sun. Sun + water = happy plants!
  3. Test the soil. Take a sample to your local cooperative extension office and ask for a soil test.

Check out these resources for more information about gardening and the benefits of Farm to School:
Farm to School Spotlight

Local Eggs in School Meals
Local foods can span the meal tray, and that includes protein sources! The American Egg Board has recently released a new website with information specific for schools. A few facts about eggs in schools:  
  • One large egg has 6 grams of high-quality protein and is nutrient rich. Kick-starting the day with protein for breakfast gives children the mental and physical energy they need to focus and learn.
  • Hard-boiled eggs without added fat can now be sold as a Smart Snack in schools, providing a perfect snacking opportunity. Merchandise this new offering in portable packaging and pair with veggies.
  • Eggs are versatile. They can be the star or play a supporting role in breakfast, lunch, snack, and supper programs.
When you are ready to take the next step to incorporate local eggs into your meal service, check out these resources:  
  • How-To Videos - A five-video series on how to use eggs in school nutrition programs has just been released by the American Egg Board. These videos are instructional, inspirational, and can serve as egg-cellent training tools for your staff.
  • Tools for Schools - Using eggs in schools just got easier with a new webpage full of downloadable resources. Download posters, logos, labels, and use to promote eggs to your students.
  • Shell Egg Safety and Handling - Are you sourcing shell eggs locally, or considering it? We've got tips on shell egg handling best practices and safety requirements.
Farm to Child Care Spotlight

Regulatory Framework for Outdoor Learning Environments in Texas child care facilities
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.
Download a copy of the guide today.  (this link is updated from the March newsletter)

Farm to Early Child Care Mini Webinar Series

Introducing healthy foods into a child's life as early as possible creates healthy habits for a lifetime. In celebration of National CACFP Week, learn about how to incorporate local foods into early child care programs by watching the Michigan State Center for Regional Food Systems' Farm to Early Child Care Mini Webinar Series.
This series contains 12 webinars on various topics including strategies for introducing new foods, local procurement and purchasing from farmers. Each webinar is only 15 minutes. 
Farm to Summer Spotlight

Summer Meal Programs are Ripe for Local Foods and Agriculture-Based Activities!
Participation in Farm to Summer can help to increase quality and appeal of meals served and keep kids engaged with fun, hands-on activities. USDA's Farm to Summer Fact sheet provides more tangible evidence on why Farm to Summer is a best practice for you and your summer meal program, and provides examples of activities that might comprise your Farm to Summer program as well as links to find out more information about procuring local products for your summer meal program. 

Grant Spotlight

TDA Accepting Applications for Grants to Fund Farm Fresh and Farm to Child Care Activities
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller asks participants in the Child and Adult Care Food Program to apply for the Establishing the 3E's grant before the deadline of May 17, 2017. Grant funds may be used for activities that supplement or extend Farm to Child Care programs including, but not limited to gardens based enrichment and serving local foods in meals and snacks.
Check out these spotlight stories to see how past grantees and award winners have used funds in the past to connect their participants back to Texas agriculture!

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.