MI Farm to School Grant Program Information Webinar
April 15, 2016 - Author: Abby Harper
This webinar was an information session for prospective applicants for the 2016/2017 MI Farm to School Grant Program. It covers key information like eligibility, expectations, and the grant calendar as well as examples of previous grantee activities.
Abby Harper: Hello, everyone, welcome to the webinar today. Just for your own knowledge, this webinar will be recorded and available on our website mifarmtoschool, that's www.mifarmtoschool.msu.edu after the fact for future reference. This will be an informational webinar on the MI farm to school grant program for the 2016 to 2017 year. My name is Abby Harper, I'm the farm to school specialist here at the Center for Regional Food Systems, and I manage the program as well as provide technical assistance throughout the course of the year. So, we're going to jump right in. The agenda today, I'm going to spend a little bit of time just doing an overview of farm to school and the elements of it and opportunities within, as well as an overview of what we in Michigan focus on in farm to school. This is just for those who may be new and just hearing about and learning about farm to school, just to give a little bit of background on our work. And then I'm going to spend the bulk of the webinar talking about the MI farm to school grant program in particular, we'll go over eligibility criteria, expectations, a calendar year of things, application requirements, I'll give you some examples of ways that grantees this year have used their funds, and then we'll have plenty of time for question and answers afterwards.
And if you have questions throughout the webinar you can feel free to type them in box on the top right side of your screen, if I don't answer them throughout, we'll get back to them at the end.
So for those who may be new to farm to school, it's a broad term that encompasses a wide variety of activities, all of which center around efforts to purchase and serve local foods in K through 12 schools and early childhood programs. A big piece of this is the procurement piece. Actually using and purchasing local foods in your meal programs, but there are additional components that could support these efforts, including school gardens, education or curriculum developments, taking field trips to local farms, bringing farmers in for visits, and a whole host of activities that all come under that umbrella of farm to school. At the Center for Regional Food Systems, we focus largely on providing technical support on that procurement piece, because we see it not only as a chance to increase good food access for Michigan children, but also a means to provide economic development for Michigan's farmers. You may have heard recently the term farm to early care and education, sometimes it's referred to as farm to preschool, but this term came about in recent years after recognizing that healthy habits and food access are equally if not more important for the 0 to 6 crowd. So farm to school is starting to be more broad to encompass early childhood programs as well, but farm to early care and education is a way of really specifically calling out those programs that serve 0 to 6 children and including them in the conversation. So the term farm to ECE includes any and all programs serving children in the 0 to 6 range, including preschools, day care homes and family childcare programs, head starts, great start readiness program, early head start, MI grant seasonal head start, American Indian and Alaska native head start, as well as center-based programs. And what really makes farm to school great are the benefits it brings not only to schools and children, but also to farmers. So those in the food program may see the opportunities for increased variety, increased access to fresher food, and the ability to specify needs and desires for products, increased access to fresh produce, the opportunity for hands-on teaching tools that sometimes come with increased purchasing from farms. And it really also provides an opportunity to engage the community as a whole in the work, and then many folks see benefits in supporting the local economy and keeping their purchasing dollars local. There are equally as many benefits on the farm side of things, there's an opportunity to expand and diversify markets for farmers so that they're not just focusing on direct to consumer CSAs, or farm stand sales, they're also tapping into institutional markets.
This also provides a market for seconds and seconds don't necessarily have to mean less, less high quality product, but typically it can be products that just may not be suitable for specialty markets. So, a carrot that has two legs, or tomatoes that might be a little nobby, perfectly fine product that especially if you're processing, can be as good as the first. And then, for a lot of farmers it's an opportunity to create loyal customers and cultivate the next generation, and that kind of gets at that free promotion piece, that farmers are able to promote their product through schools getting families more aware of the local resources and creating that next generation of consumers. So there's a variety of both state and national resources that can aid you in developing your farm to school program. The MI farm to school website is a great resource at your disposal and you can see the web address, mifarmtoschool.msu.edu, there on the bottom of the screen. All the resources I'm going to talk about from here on out are available on that page as well.
At the Center for Regional Food Systems, we engage in a variety of farm to school support services. We focus on research and conduct surveys on farm to school activity throughout the state to track the growing movement and demonstrated demand for local products and schools. We've also developed a lot of resources to support folks in their farm to school effort, so that comes with some guides on different steps in the procurement process. We've created some briefs, some fact sheets, as well as the MI farm to school listserv, if you go on our website mifarmtoschool.msu.edu you can sign up for our listserv where we keep communication coming about opportunities and resources that might be available, as well as send out news items. We also collaborate with a variety of partners in order to expand our outreach. We work closely with our MSU extension community food systems workgroup. They really provide technical experience in the field and helping folks interested in local purchasing and have more access to those localized knowledge. And then we work with some of our state agency partners, such as the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, as well as a variety of nonprofits throughout the state. And lastly, what we're here to talk about today are the funding opportunities we provide, Hoophouses for Health is one you may have heard of, I won't be going into detail about that today, but you can find out more information at hoophousesforhealth.org, and then the MI farm to school grant program.