What does farm to school look like in native communities

Greetings. Hope all is well. I would like
to thank you for joining USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems first of a four part
webinar series focusing on integrating Farm to School strategies in native communities.
Each webinar will feature a guest speaker or speakers who will share tips, stories and
best practices for keeping local food traditions alive in Child Nutrition Programs that serve
tribal populations. My name is Samantha Benjamin-Kirk. I am USDA
Southeast region Farm to School Lead and Tribal Liaison. Joining me today is Pam Kingfisher
and Mark Sorensen. Pam Kingfisher has been a consultant to the non-profit field for the
past 16 years providing services to non-profits, tribes and foundations. Pam lives and works
on her grandmother’s allotted land growing organic foods and working to preserve and
utilize medicinal plants on 160 acres in Northeast Oklahoma. Pam is currently serving as the
South Regional Lead for the National Farm to School network through the Southern Sustainable
Agricultural Working Group. Her states include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi
and Texas. Also joining me today is Mark Sorensen. Dr. Sorensen is the Co-Founder and CEO of
The Star School which is an off-grid solar powered charter school serving Navajo students
and families. The Star School was recently selected as one of the 41st most innovative
schools in the country based in part on a very active Farm to School program. Before
we begin I’ll go over some simple housekeeping rules. To make comments or ask questions use
the chat function which is located in the left-hand corner of your screen. This webinar
will be recorded and available on our website. A PDF of the slides and any attachments will
be emailed to you after the webinar. Please take the survey after the webinar. Your feedback
is very important to us. I will start off by giving you a brief overview of the Farm
to School Program. Pretty much the Farm to School Program was created by the Healthy
Home for Freedom Kids Act of 2010, Section 243 which clearly means that the Farm to School
Program will disseminate grant funding to improve access to local foods in schools,
provide training and technical assistance and disseminate research and data on existing
programs and opportunities. Technical assistance in providing access. What does that look like?
That looks like local food and food education. We know that effective Farm to School Programs
include both of these elements; procuring local foods in the schools, creating economic
balance within small communities and also educating students on why it’s important for
them to eat healthier food items. The Farm to School Program works perfect in schools.
When you think about Farm to School of course you would think about schools but the will
just didn’t stop there. We also went and looked at daycare centers, CACFP, provided local
access to fresh fruits and vegetables and whatever is considered local within that community
and traditional foods within that community to CACFP. Farm to School is also educating
students on where their food comes from through the vehicle of having a school garden giving
kids hands-on education. In addition to bringing the farm into the classroom, providing nutritional
education, connecting the dots as to Farm to School where their foods come from. Know
your farmer, know your food programs. In addition to revitalizing local small farmers and producers,
doing farm field trips, taking the kids out there to actually work in the farm and meet
the farmer, and having taste tests. Farm to School is all those different components put
together when you think about what is Farm to School. We’re looking at school gardens.
We’re looking at procurement. We’re looking at hands-on education. Farm to School is in
the summer time so we’re looking at summer feeding programs, childcare centers, farmers
markets, adult facilities. When you start thinking about Farm to School really think
about a community food system that encompasses all of these different elements. Why Farm
to School? It’s very easy. It helps the local economy. It supports your local farmer. It
educates students on where their food comes from. It encourages students to try new foods.
It brings the community together. When you start thinking about local food systems and
community food systems it brings in local business partners, state Departments of Education,
parents, small markets, teachers. The Farm to School Program encompasses all of those
different avenues and partnerships that help strengthen local community food systems and
it just tastes better. It’s just a better way of providing our kids with foods and Child
Nutrition Programs that taste better. It cuts down on that carbon footprint. Everyone knows
that local foods taste much better than foods that have a longer higher carbon footprint.
When the program first began back in 1996, the data showed there were approximately around
two school districts really doing Farm to School. Since then, we have data on 2013,
over 4,000 school districts actually participated in Farm to School Programs which this number
has gone up since we just did our recent Census. What else has the program done? The program
has started a growth in legislation. To-date 46 states have proposed or enacted legislation
supporting Farm to School Programs. When we think about Farm to School we think about
local procurement. What are we talking about? We’re talking about all types of products.
We’re talking about meats. We’re talking about poultry. We’re talking about dairy. I think
one of the misconceptions about the Farm to School program is that we were just looking
at local fruits and vegetables but actually we’re encompassing the whole tray as much
as possible to be sourced locally. The thing is to make sure our students are able to have
a tray in which they can relate to especially when you’re thinking about Native American
communities and tribal communities. Those traditional foods that they associate with
at home and being served actually in school. So we know that many times school meal is
the only meal in which our kids eat so why not provide them with the best of the best
that we possibly can as far as being local, making them happy because it’s very important
their nutrition, their health to us. Some of the benefits of having an effective Farm
to School Program is that it supports local food systems. It improves the quality of life
within a community and provides economic balance. All of those different dots connect can actually
benefit a community as a whole. Schools spend more than ten billion dollars on food and
that’s a big impact that it can have on a local community. When you think about the
impact not only is it providing our students with healthier food but it’s also helping
the local economy with growth. Having a very robust Farm to School Program in your community
can be a win-win for everyone. As I mentioned before, in 2015 we did a Farm to School Census
report data came out and it showed that our programs have grown tremendously. When you
take a look at the economic impact that the Farm to School Program has had on our community,
the Census data indicated that the schools purchased nearly $790,000,000 in local foods
from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, school processors and manufacturers in school year
2013-2014. This represents a 105% increase over school year 2011-2012 when our first
USDA Farm to School Census was conducted. As you can see, the economic impact that it
will have on a native community will be tremendous. Of course I’m going to talk a little bit about
our Grant Program as we give over five million dollars annually in grants. There are different
types of grant programs. We have the Planning Grant, the Implementation Grant and the Support
Services and a Training Grant. Very competitive grant process. You can use it for training,
support and operations. If you’re planning to start developing a Farm to School Program,
developing partnerships and implementing Farm to School Programs. For the physical year
of 2013-2014 FNS has awarded 18 Farm to School grants primarily serving tribal communities.
Here’s just a list of seven of them that we actually have given out but if you go on our
website you’ll be able to take a look at the 18 grants that we’ve given out and kind of
look at some of the projects in which they were doing. In addition there are other grant
opportunities besides the one that FNS gives out that can be used to support Farm to School
Programs. This is a great resource that you can also find on our website that will help
you locally know exactly what type of grant that you might want to fill out, whether you
are a tribal organization, if you’re a school, if you’re a producer, if you’re a farmer,
if you’re a manufacturer, if you’re a government agency these kind of give you the outlines
of different grants that you can apply for and you can find this resource as well on
our website. As you can see that was really just a brief overview of the Farm to School
Program, how we were created through the Healthy Hunger Freedom Kids Act to some of the grants
in which we’ve given out in native communities and some of the support that we’re here to
give to you. Now I will turn it over to Pam Kingfisher and she will talk a little bit
about the work that she is doing and what the National Farm to School network is doing.
Thank you, Sam. [Foreign language] Hi, how are you all? My name is Pam. Can everyone
hear me okay? I guess I’m asking Sam. This is my fourth year in learning about Farm to
School and working in this whole process of being a Regional Lead. The national Farm to
School network has eight regional leads and 50 state leads so I work with my state leads
to organize the informational conversations. We have monthly phone calls and then we plan
together on how we’re going to move forward policy and other pieces of work in our region.
As you see on this slide, there are three areas of Farm to School that the network focuses
on. That’s education, getting curriculum into the classroom, school gardens and then procurement
through the kitchen to really build resources, train on those pieces and then focus on those
areas. Next. For one year the national Farm to School network was able to operate a Native
Communities Cohort. We were granted some funds to do that although it was a short-term grant
it had a lot of impact I believe. We were able to bring together these communities that
you can see. Cherokee Nation and one of their grantees Stilwell Public School District which
is about 85% Cherokee students. Tohono O’odham Early Childhood and their community alliance
is amazing. Leech Lake Band Ojibwa, Grand Portage Reservation, Lame Deer Public School,
Ramah Navajo School, Northwest Indian College, Sustainable Molokai in Hawaii, John Hopkins
Center for American Indian Health, Montezuma Farm to School Project, Ute Mountain/Nuchiu
Co-op and Circle of Nations/Wahpeton School, Star School who we’ll hear from next and Standing
Rock Sioux Tribe. We were able to come together for a full day together to learn together,
identify challenges and work through sharing a lot of information. These were sort of a
random, not totally random selection but a very wide range of organizations from the
rock stars who have been doing it for a bit to complete beginners and a couple of tribes
to really strengthen that tribal knowledge base. We had Hawaii, Alaska and a number of
tribes from the lower 48. Then in May of 2015, we were able to bring everyone back together
for another full day in Chicago. The photo that I have on here is some work that I did
locally with the Cherokee Nation and the schools in Tahlequah and Stilwell. They wanted to
take the kids to the farmers market and give them money to spend. Next slide please. We
know from research that only about 20% of all coupons are redeemed at farmers markets
so I came up with the big idea, let’s take the farmers market to the schools so the Cherokee
Nation was utilizing CVC funds to do this and we created the veggie bucks. Each third
grader, I think the first year we did fourth graders. The second year we did third graders.
They each received $6 to $12 in veggie bucks and four to five farmers markets came to the
school. It was amazing. You would have thought it was a circus. They were screaming and running
out with their bags to buy jalapenos and squash and it was one of the most fun things I’ve
ever seen or done. Next slide please. In the cohort we learned about Alaska students having
a greenhouse and also having a partnership with the Fisheries Department and working,
actually getting summer jobs to work with the department but also having curriculum
in their schools in science and math and working throughout the school year with these agencies.
I’d really encourage to look at unusual partnerships, people you would never think of to partner
with to teach kids to offer opportunities and jobs. Next slide please. Some of the common
challenges that we found together over those two large meetings, and I’ve condensed these
down. Of course there’s a little laundry list under each one but building a really strong
support team, make sure you include everyone that you should especially elders, tribal
leadership, the cooks at the school, the parents. Funding programs. We know this. This is always
an issue but always looking for that funding and training up new grant writers. Don’t be
the only one that knows how to do this. We found a parent teacher organization at one
of the schools we took the farmers market to decide they loved it so they raised the
money as a PTA group, so there’s other options. Equipment is a huge need in the kitchens to
process live food, real food. They many times don’t have knives and cutting boards so we’ve
done a lot of training with chefs. The Cherokee Nation has been able to buy the cutting boards,
the knives and bring these training sessions together. We did one last summer. We had 80
school cooks from 12 schools come together and learn from a chef. Wellness policies to
include Farm to School. That’s a great way to start getting into the PTA and into the
school policy system of reviewing those wellness policies. A lot of people are growing your
own; those gardens, greenhouses, looking at your land, your water base. That’s a great
opportunity that we have as land based tribal people but it’s also a real challenge with
seasonality, keeping the garden going all summer, who is going to run it, all of those
issues. We had some greenhouses up north that were empty but the next year when they came
back to the main meeting in Chicago they had found a garden guru or they had gotten a food
corp person and had just turned the whole thing around. There are issues around local
procurement policies and really looking at the procurement policies. I know on Navajo
the BIE does all the procurement for most of the schools so you really have to think
through who is in charge, who is purchasing and within those policies really being mindful
of good agricultural practices and food safety issues. It’s a big deal and a lot of school
food service directors are hesitant to go into procurement because of their fear around
food safety so gardens and education is kind of the gateway in to Farm to School in some
places and we’re still working on procurement. Traditional foods, whether we have access
to them, whether we have enough growers. Many of us don’t believe we should sell those so
how do we work through those issues. Supporting local farmers and building markets. A lot
of reservations don’t have a farmers market. The farmers might be growing beef but they
are not growing vegetables if there’s no market for that to be sold. In my community we’re
in a complete food desert. We’re having to build all three of these legs of the stool;
farmers, the growers, the producers, the eaters, convincing people to eat green things, changing
those taste buds and changing the school’s processes. They have to maybe rearrange the
kitchen or think about how they do things differently so they need a lot of help and
support. Next slide please. This is from Wahpeton, North Dakota. This is a BIE residential school.
They serve three meals a day and two snacks every day for 365 days. Sometimes they take
the summer off if all the children have a home to go home to. Many of them don’t and
will stay at the school through the summer. It was established as other residential schools
back in 1906 so they have a lot of land and orchards so they’re able to gather the apples
from those old orchards. This picture is smoothie day. They did one contest of how many apples
will fit in a blender and they just kept putting in apples until it wouldn’t hold anymore apples.
These kids live at this school. They’re learning to cook. They get snacks in the evening. There’s
lots of activities they do around food. The other photo is stone soup day. they do this
as a fundraiser and most of us have traditional stories with food. This was the traditional
story of stone soup and making soup with a rock and whatever else you have in there.
The kids love these activities. Next slide please. We have informal observations come
out of the cohort speaking to us. Any one of these pieces could be turned into formal
evaluation projects that I think could be run by high school and junior high students
in a classroom setting with a teacher to really start to evaluate your own program. Here’s
the things we heard: Cafeteria use is up 37% over last year. That was in Stilwell, Oklahoma.
Kids love working in the garden. It’s easier to learn science and math outside. — Wisconsin.
Now we are revitalizing agriculture in our community and learning from our elders as
we go. — Arizona. Native people are finding their lives and culture again by growing food.
— Arizona. The kids are acting better. — Oklahoma. Family garden plots work. — New Mexico really
discovered that. The photo is my neighbor, Calvin. He’s a 12 year old homeschooler who
sells at farmers markets. He’s been a tiny guy. Before the farmers market came to the
school I went in a day ahead of time to talk about Farm to School, farmers markets, do
you know what this vegetable is and who all grows food. I take Calvin and he gives them
the day-to-day life of a farmer from a 12 year old perspective and the kids love that.
Again, let the kids do the teaching, the work. They learn from each other in an amazing way
that just explodes. It’s really fun. Next slide. When we’re talking about traditional
foods we’re really trying to encourage tribes to start to really do that deep dive into
what is the nutritional value. We know that for instance hominy corn is high in carbohydrates
and protein. One serving of hominy yields 47% of the daily reference value for fiber
and 33% of the B vitamin Thiamine and has half the calories of market corn. We as native
people used to know how to be healthy and we knew how to grow the foods we needed. Now
science is catching up and proving that. Arikara squash has 13% of the DRV for fiber, 64% of
the DRV for vitamin A, and half the calories and double the calcium and magnesium of the
market equivalent. Potawatomi lima beans are low in fat, high in carbs and protein. B vitamins
are found in abundance including thiamine, pantothenic acid, niacin and B6. Potawatomi
lima beans also provide 24 grams of fiber per serving and 21 times the antioxidants
found in market beans. The photo here is of course New Mexico and red chilies and this
is a Farm to School project. We know that our traditional foods provided what we needed
and to get our kids back to traditional foods and off of the processed sugarized foods is
really important. Next slide. Get started! Survey your community. What resources do you
have and build on existing programs, especially like FSA and 4-H. Don’t start reinventing
something if someone is moving along with it. Map out your local producers and ask what
they grow. Seek out those traditional food growers and how you could have relationships
with them that might not be monetarily based, how to figure that out. (Sneeze – excuse me).
Start small and evaluate everything. By evaluate I mean just start counting and keep a record
and eventually that all turns into data that can be reflected on and looked forward with
and raised money with. Foundations and donors love to hear those numbers and to hear those
stories of impact. The photo is pizza day at Molokai farmers market. The Molokai have
a garden at the school but they sell at the farmers market so that’s another thing we’re
seeing across Indian country. That’s it for me. I really appreciate this. Thank you. Don’t
hesitate to email me, call me or follow me on Facebook at RealFoodsInNativeCommunities.
Thank you. Thank you, Pam. Thank you so much for that
information. I’m sure we’re going to get some questions for you later. Next we have Mark
coming and he’s going to go ahead and tell us what’s going on in Navajo school fairs,
Navajo school projects. Hey everyone from the Southwestern edge of the Navajo Nation
in Arizona. I’d like to start by talking a bit about the reasons why I think it’s really
a powerful idea to have Native American community schools have farm to school projects. First
of all shifting dietary habits to combat things like diabetes can start with the youth. We
found that it’s really difficult even though most of our families of our kids attending
our school has someone in the family who is affected by diabetes, we found that changing
the habits of eating of adults is really difficult. Kids on the other hand are willing to try
new things and as I’ll show you as we go on with the slides you’ll see that the kids actually
get excited about it. The second reason is it strengthens cultural roots by strengthening
our relationship with traditional foods. In Navajo for example there is the story of corn
maiden and corn boy that comes from the origin stories. Many tribes talk about the three
sisters; corn, beans and squash. Ojibwe go and gather the wild rice on the lakes. We
can see that in native communities it’s clearly a matter of strengthening culture by strengthening
the connection with these traditional foods. Finally at least in our community we need
to rebuild self-reliance by encouraging our tribal farmers. The picture you see here is
of a farm that was being revitalized with the help of our students in our area here.
We’re in the high desert and farming is a difficult task but we have people who want
to keep doing it. I’m going to share with you some of the main lessons we learned in
doing our Farm to School activities. First of all, we realized we had to adjust the growing
season to the school year season. In our area its high desert but we’re over a mile high
so we have frost and sometimes late frost and early frost so the growing season is very
short and it doesn’t happen to coincide with the school season. We encouraged our local
farmers. Here’s an example of one, North Loop Family Farms. They developed their greenhouse
growing so that their food could be harvested year-round. Our school helped this particular
farmer, Stacy, to keep a longer growing season by having those blue barrels filled with water.
They help to moderate the temperature in the greenhouse and he had a much longer growing
season. We also developed greenhouse space in our school with the help of some grants
from non-profit organizations like First Nations and Notah Begay Foundation. They have been
very helpful in allowing us to expand what we’re doing with greenhouse spaces. A second
thing that’s really important we realized is engaging students in hands-on planting,
growing and harvesting and having these activities be out in the community as well as at the
school. We did come across the situation where some of our small tribal farms were not certified
and in some states like Arizona that means you cannot serve the food in the cafeteria.
We still would harvest from local farms and use them in our culinary program where we
taught the kids how to cook and also we would use them in community feasts. But really,
especially for our young boys getting them involved in hands-on activities with the plants
and getting out and farming has been really important. We also want the kids to have the
joy of seeing what happens when they can harvest. Here you see students from our school harvesting
from the greenhouse in the winter time. They’re harvesting beets and they love going to this
farm. The local farmer of course who has been trying to revive tribal farming in our area
was overjoyed to have the students there. A third thing that’s important is teaching
the traditional ways of processing traditional foods along with the values that are taught
with that. As I mentioned before, some of these traditional foods have really important
stories that go with them; stories of character and how to build your character. Here you
see some of our students grinding blue corn which has ancient roots in our area. But in
addition to the actual process of grinding, there are attitudes that come with this. Our
students are taught to always plant with a positive attitude. In grinding the corn, think
happy thoughts. Here you see one of our beloved elders teaching the girls about the corn cake.
In the Navajo culture this is the cake that is cooked when Navajo girls become women.
There are a lot of teachings that go with this, making the corn cake and the responsibilities
of being a Navajo woman. Again, for our native communities and we certainly have found this
in our community it’s not just about healthy food. It has many, many connections to the
culture and we think it strengthens our student’s understanding of their identity. Another thing
that is really important is to celebrate. Every year we have a harvest festival in which
the whole community is invited and students participate in preparing our locally grown
food. You can see here the kids are actually preparing the mutton. This is locally grown
and of course our mutton has been organic since time and memorial. It’s kind of funny
to see so much attention being paid to paying high prices to go somewhere and get organic
food when we have it right here. We just need to revise the folks who are actually providing
this. We have found that it’s not enough to just engage the students in growing, preparing
and serving healthy food. The students in our school are engaged in taste testing and
not only do they taste test but they select recipes. These recipes we then analyze for
nutritional content and we include them in our cafeteria menu. They are on our website
and they’re actually legitimate recipes which are legitimate in the eyes of USDA. They’re
served as part of our national School Lunch Program. We also think that students benefit
from seeing that sharing healthy locally grown food with other people in the community, in
this case with these elders is a way of helping their relatives and helping their community.
I guess I’d like to just summarize these lessons that we learned. One is of course this is
different for different parts of the country but the idea that we might need to adjust
our growing season to fit when we have kids in school so that they can actually benefit
year-round from the menu. Second lesson is engage the students in hands-on planting,
growing and harvesting activities both after school and at the local farms. A third and
fourth thing, teach traditional ways of processing traditional foods and recognize that they
are important character building values that are taught with that. A fifth thing is celebrate.
Make sure that the whole community sees what the kids are doing. In our case it’s a harvest
festival every year. Another thing is remember that students need to be engaged in tasting
and selecting recipes that they like. One story I have to share with you is we had a
group of eighth graders who had been taste testing and voting on recipes all year long.
At the graduation our students were able to select what they wanted for their graduation
banquet. Our students choose kale salad among other things. We thought it was a mistake.
We went back to the kids and said did you really want kale salad. They said yah that
was one of the recipes we had never tasted kale before and once we tasted it we decided
we wanted to have it in our banquet. Finally, as you can see in this slide, if students
can see that they’re helping their elders, their relatives in the community the food
becomes not only a vehicle of good health but a vehicle of building relationships. We
think that’s critically important. Thank you, everybody. Wow, thank you, Pam and Mark, for
a wealth of information. That was just amazing of the work that you guys are doing in your
community. I just really appreciate your stories and thank you for sharing. At this time we’re
going to take questions. If you have any questions please feel free to type them into your chat
box which is located on the left-hand corner of the screen. We’ll wait a few minutes to
see if there are any questions. While we’re waiting, Mark, do you have any more remarks
you would like to tell, you or Pam? Yeah, I want to say that to be successful
with this it requires a lot of different angles. It’s not just about the relationship of Farm
to School but it’s the relationship with the local people and what they grow. It’s a
community building activity and I tried to show that in our slides. We want the people
in the community to come in and share in what we’re doing. The kids have a way of getting
their families to eat healthier food and the families need to be able to trust our schools.
If we invite the families in to share with us on this healthy locally grown food they
get excited, they feel good and they trust the school. As the students come and actually
feed the community people there’s this whole revival of the idea of everyone helping one
another through the food. Okay. We have a question for Mark coming from Theresa. The
question is how did you initiate your work with Navajo? Who approached who and how did
you collectively move to begin? Thank you for the question. We started first at a school
level by actually our kids were bringing in your lunches and we weren’t providing lunches
the first year we started the school and they were bringing in things like a bag of chips
and a coke. I already knew that many of their families had members suffering from diabetes
so it began as a health concern but we’ve seen it grow way beyond that. I think those
of us who are at schools are the ones that can be the vectors of change in our communities.
I would love to share that. Anybody who wants to come and visit we’d be happy to have you.
We think that schools around the country in tribal communities can be the ones that could
reach out into the community and be the instrument of change, the instrument of improving local
health and reviving community tribal farms. Great. Pam, we have a question for you. How
can tribal governments use their sovereignty to push Farm to School and what are some examples
of what has been done in terms of tribal support for Farm to School? I’m not sure if Pam is
still on. Pam? We may have lost her. Mark would you — I will say that — go ahead.
No, go ahead. I just wanted to tell everyone too if we don’t get to everyone’s question
or if there’s one that is specifically for Pam, we can follow-up in an email as well.
We’ll get through as many as we can and then you can expect to hear from Sam through an
email too. Right. Yeah, we’re coming to the close. We’re already two minutes over and
there are a lot of questions in the chat. As was stated by Christina, we are able to
keep the questions and we will get back with you with the answers. I would like to at this
time thank everyone for participating in our first of four part tribal series. Our next
webinar will be April 20th at 3:00, the same time, and we will be discussing traditional
foods into the school food service, different ways of integrating traditional foods and
what are some of the appropriate substitutions. Thank you very much for participating. Please
take the time to fill out the survey. We really want your feedback. That way we will know
what we can do next year or some different topics that you are looking for. Thank you
very much.

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