Members of the Pennsylvania Farm to School Network (PFSN) spent the past year putting our strategic plan and priorities into action! Here are just some of the highlights…

Professional development and technical assistance – Farm to school practitioners including school food service directors, educators, farmers/producers, Early Care and Education (ECE) site operators and community partners participated in a variety of professional development workshops held across the state including:

  • Culinary Training workshops hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and Project PA (Penn State) provided training to school and ECE nutrition professionals focusing on handling and preparing Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month (PA HOM) items.

  • Farm to Child Nutrition Regional Gatherings hosted by PDE and Project PA in the Pittsburgh area and Harrisburg included presentations about PA HOM, engaging students in farm to child nutrition activities, funding farm to child nutrition initiatives, and the PFSN and included a PA HOM taste-testing opportunity.

  • Wholesaling to Institutions Workshop hosted annually in December by the PA Department of Agriculture provides training for farmers, growers and producers. Read one attendee’s story of how they brought what they learned back to their farm, local schools and community.

  • PA Educator’s Agriculture Institute hosted by the PA Friends of Agriculture Foundation provided educators with hands-on agricultural-focused classroom lessons to bring back to their students. Learn what it was like in this blog post and plan your attendance for 2024.

  • The PA Farm to School Institute supported 4 school and ECE teams in implementing their farm to school action plan for the 2023-2024 school year and the PFSN was selected to participate in an Institute Adaptation program to enhance our plans for the second PA FTS Institute planned for 2024 – learn more here!

Resources, funding and celebrating successes – Agencies and organizations represented by members of the PFSN provided resources, opportunities and inspiring stories to help practitioners succeed in implementing their farm to school activities:

  • PDE and Project PA’s Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month Program (PA HOM) continues to provide participants with local, healthy products while supporting Pennsylvania farmers and producers by promoting a local agricultural product each month through schools, child and adult care centers/day care homes, and summer feeding sites.

  • In March, kids across the state had the opportunity to hear from farmers and local agriculture professionals who came to their classrooms and read an agriculture-related book during Agriculture Literacy Week hosted by the PA Friends of Agriculture Foundation.

  • In October, communities across PA participated in National Farm to School Month and PA Preferred Days. Schools, ECE sites, farmers, and community members celebrated the benefits of bringing fresh produce to kids in a variety of fun and creative ways while also providing hands-on learning opportunities about food and agriculture.
  • The Food Trust produced a series of Virtual Farm Tour videos to make farm tours more accessible to schools and students across the state. These videos featured three unique Pennsylvania farms; Oasis Farm and Fishery in Pittsburgh, Anchor Run CSA in Wrightstown, and Davis Grown in Zion Grove.

  • The PFSN launched a Success Stories webpage to highlight farm to school programs across the state and inspire others to continue or begin farm to school activities in their communities.

  • Pasa Sustainable Agriculture is making progress on The Foodshed Mapping Project, an ongoing initiative to create a shared, searchable digital database of PA farms and food businesses to facilitate new opportunities for connections between farmers and markets, wholesalers and institutions – including schools! – to support a thriving and resilient food system in the Commonwealth.

  • Pennsylvania Local Food Purchasing Incentive (LFPI) Investigation report – Through LFPI programs, state governments provide School Food Authorities (SFAs) additional funds to partially or completely offset the cost of local food as an incentive to purchase these foods and serve them in Child Nutrition Programs (CNP). PDE and Project PA gathered information and perspectives about LFPI programs from various stakeholders both in states that have existing programs and within Pennsylvania.

Policy advocacy for sustained farm to school programming – 

  • PFSN leaders from The Food Trust expanded the “Philadelphia Quarter Back for Local” which provides ECE sites with $0.25 for each meal that includes Pennsylvania-grown fruits and/or vegetables. This year, The Food Trust continued its work with The Caring Center and The Children’s Village and awarded the grant to three more ECE sites; Somerset Academy Early Learning Center, The Excelsior School of Philadelphia, and Young Scholars Daycare Center.

  • PFSN members representing organizations who engage in policy advocacy joined the Universal School Meals for PA Coalition. This broad coalition of stakeholders, initiated by the School Nutrition Association of PA (SNAPA), aims to support state legislation to expand the Governor’s free breakfast initiative to include lunch at no cost to all students in Pennsylvania. This initiative follows eight other states who have passed state funded Universal School Meals policies.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Grant Program, one of many initiatives in the PA Farm Bill, continues to provide funding for schools to improve access to healthy, local foods and increase agriculture education opportunities for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. See the recently released list of grantees!

Join the upcoming virtual open house!
This year, the PFSN hosted quarterly virtual open house events to provide opportunities for people like you to meet other PA Farm to School Network members and learn how to advance farm to school efforts in your own community through programs like Harvest of the Month and National Farm to School Month. The final virtual open house is coming up this Thursday December 12th from 3-4:30pm. Come learn about Local Food Purchasing Incentives and the need for more sustained state funding to offset the cost of purchasing local food for school meals.

We are excited about the progress made in 2023 and look forward to good things to come in 2024. Thank you to our partners and those implementing and supporting farm to school activities throughout the commonwealth!

Together, we can ensure that every child in Pennsylvania is meaningfully connected to and nourished by thriving and resilient community food systems.

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