Chef Ann Cooper with local farmer Anne Cure
Thanks to everyone who donated to our “Tools to Connect Schools to Local Food” campaign, Food Family Farming Foundation (F3) is only a few short months away from launching new tools that will help schools purchase food from local and regional farmers and farmer co-ops.
F3 is in the process of redesigning, updating and expanding The Lunch Box, our free online toolkit that provides schools with everything they need to improve school food. An important new section will be called “Local and Regional Procurement.” That’s a fancy way of saying “strategies for buying school food from area growers and food producers while staying within your budget and meeting USDA standards.”
Buying local may seem straightforward, but it’s far from easy for school districts. They have to plan their menus well in advance and make sure their meals meet strict guidelines. Growing seasons and product availability can be difficult to factor in when a school is used to ordering its food pre-packaged and months in advanced. And the logistics of ordering from local and regional growers can be challenging for a school district that is used to receiving their food in weekly deliveries from giant trucks. Transportation, food storage, and even food preparation can all pose a challenge when switching from large, national suppliers to small, local farmers.
Individual donations, paired with a matching grant from singer/songwriter Jack Johnson, raised $5,838 to help F3 create guidelines, templates, and financial calculators that address the following areas of local and regional procurement:
- farm-to-institution practices;
- contracting with farmer co-ops;
- item-specific purchasing;
- marketing farm-to-institution programs; and
- requests for proposals from farmers.
Look for the launch of these new tools at the end of May! And be sure to sign up for F3’s newsletter so you’ll know when you can visit the Lunch Box and explore these tools yourself!
Bringing Farms to Schools, and Schools to Farms