Local Foods for Local Schools – online procurement discussion

On December 4, 2023 the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network hosted a FREE virtual Meet-Up for Farmers and NWTN School Nutrition Directors to:

1. Discuss procurement trends and issues

2. Cultivate relationships with NWTN School Nutrition Directors

3. Create pathways for collaboration to innovative local food procurement

4. Share Market and Funding Opportunities with Farmers & Schools

Share, network and learn from a panelist of experts including Dan Spatz from Healthy Flavors Arkansas/Tennessee, Brenda Williams from Communities Unlimited, Jiwon Jun from EAT Real.org, Mike Brown from the TN Dept. of Agriculture, hear news from the new Appalachian Regional Food Business Center, and Caroline Ideus & Samantha Goyret from the Northwest TN Local Food Network. We will be planning for the 2024 school year by connecting NWTN School Nutrition Directors to Farmers. We hope for a fruitful discussion as we plan for 2024!

Watch the recorded video below:

Watch the recorded meeting he

Additional Resources Shared:

Local Food Procurement Resources:

Opportunities for engagement

  • Spring 2024 Local Foods for Local Schools funding must be spent by August 2024.
  • NIFA Food and Agriculture Service Learning Project: SAE Internships with Farmers 2024/2025 – To be determined upon funding to the NWTN Local Food Network in May 2024

TN Farm to School Institutes

GAP Certification Overview


Procurement Trends and Issues –  Dan Spatz, Healthy Flavors AK/TN

  1. Dan is transitioning his family farm from commodity crops to specialty vegetable crops and sourcing his locally grown foods into schools.
  2. Many are aware that the types of foods children & anybody in your community consumes are important to one’s overall health.
  3. Create opportunities to sit-down with people, face-to-face, and cultivate relationships with institutions – it’s a win-win on both sides. 
  4. We need more farmers willing to take managed risk. It might not be intuitive as the easiest way of selling food, but the childhood nutrition program in our schools is the largest restaurant in Tennessee.
  5. What we have coming off the farm is not packaged the way the school nutrition facilities are used to receiving it.  
  6. How do we get the food off the farm and have it ready for use in Childhood nutrition programs?
  7. You have to have a mind-set of customer service.
  8. The pricing directly from farms is not inline with school nutrition budget / allocations.  Commodities are much more affordable than direct farmer sales; however recent funding has allowed for more local food purchases
  9. Farmers – Don’t think, as a farmer, that you’re doing this on your own.  There are many resources available for farmers through grants and other incentives.   

NWTN School Nutrition Directors (and contact info!) who have receive Farm to School, Local Foods for Schools or Healthy Incentives Funding – 

Meeting Notes

What is the funding that you have now?  – NWTN School Nutrition Directors

  1. Trista Snider (Weakley Co.) – received funds through a grant (Local Foods for Schools (LFS) & Healthy Meals Incentive Grant, looking to source anything that is available.  The grants have allowed us to hire a school nutrition consultant / chef to train staff to improve techniques and recipes for scratch cooking.
    1. Particularly looking for meat products.  
    2. Barriers – costs and deliveries from the farmers.  
    3.  Weakley County School Nutrition Facebook page
  1. Lisa Seiber-Garland (Trenton SSD)- Received money through grant (Local Foods for Schools -LFS & Healthy Meals Incentive Grant) buys as much as possible and is able to buy local products at market rate.  The grants have helped us buy equipment & to hire extra staff to help prepare local foods, fresher foods, more scratch cooking.
    1. Sourcing from Stockyard Market (Stockyard Burger every friday), starting to get pork from them,  purchases produce from area farmers, Blackberry Pond Farm
    2. Vision – ALL of our students want to eat in the cafeteria, it’s their cafe. The food is always good. Every child has at least two good meals every day and they are enjoyable and students tell people about their school food. When we have a happy child, with their tummies full, they can study and learn better.

The good thing about being a school nutrition director is that we all work together, share resources and gather ideas. It is a tough profession to be in, but we have a lot of support from one another.

~Lisa Seiber-Garland, Trenton Special School District

Create pathways for collaboration to innovative local food procurement – Mike Brown – TN Dept of Ag 

What’s Needed in the future in 2024 to get more food in schools?  

Sue Miller – Blackberry Pond Farm, Martin, TN, Weakley County , West TN

  • Currently they have excess Scarlett Queen and Thai turnips & Beets right now. Additionally they have micro-greens available for taste tests. Microgreens have a high nutrient content.

Tyler Smith  – Future Visions Farms, Whitlock, TN, Henry County, West TN

  • Strawberries (Mid/late April- June) – can deliver to schools 
  • If you can’t be competitive with wholesale dealers, don’t try 
  • Growing for volume – cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, butternut, spaghetti, acorn, kombucha, new potatoes. Sweet onions (red and yellow)
  • Henry County has not received any grants to purchase local foods.
  • GAP Certification – the farm is GAP Certified which has been necessary for the large distributors/ market  – it’s a lot of redundant, tedious paperwork. It takes time.

Ryan Gunn – Blueberry Farms, Cottage Grove, Williamson County, Middle TN 

  • Small-Scale Beef Producer
  • Competitive Pricing
  • How small of a producer is too small for schools?
    • There is no size limit. We have sourced one beef cattle into schools and that was fine. Most importantly it needs to  be USDA certified processed, the measurements are equal – i.e. exactly 5lb packages.
  • Delivery is also a factor but could be included in the cost of the product
  • They deliver from farm to freezer
  • Dignity and Food should always be hand-in-hand. It’s good to know that people care about food and have dignity for their school food.

Keep up to date with our Harvest of the Month program here: https://nwtnlfn.org/taste-of-tennessee/

Register in this year’s NWTN Local Food Guide (it’s free!) – only for farms and producers living in Northwest Tennessee.

Thank you for your interest in the local foods for local schools online discussion. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Caroline Ideus or Samantha Goyret with questions or concerns.

Local Food Hero Awards Announced

Congratulations to the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network’s Local Food Hero awardees – Bell Family Farms, out of Gleason, TN and Blackberry Pond Farm, out of Martin, TN! They were announced during the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network’s Farm to Table Dinner mid October 2023.

“The Local Food Hero awards bring attention to individuals and family farms who deserve to be recognized, and whose work is integral to the sustainance of our local food system,” stated Samantha Goyret, Director of the NWTN Local Food Network.

The Local Food Hero awards Farmers who demonstrate leadership in our communities by:

  • Adhering to responsible environmental and/or social practices
  • Producing high-quality products and/or services
  • Positively impacting the local economy
  • Committing to building and maintaining a robust local food system

“We are honored to be awarded as a local food hero along with our friends Bell Family Farms tonight,” stated Sue Miller, co-owner of Blackberry Pond Farm. “Thank you NWTN Local Food Network for hosting this event and creating a more equitable food economy locally!”

Ashley and Darrell Bell from Bell Family Farms was awarded this year’s Local Food Hero Award! Their farm, located in Gleason, TN, is feeding school children all over our region with their locally grown foods.

Blackberry Pond Farm, Martin, TN, supplies the community & schools with hydroponic greens and vegetables.

Bell Family Farms, Gleason, TN, has supplies the community and schools with their locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Together we are cultivating a thriving and equitable local food system for all in our region! Join us by shopping local, supporting farmers, joining our network, and learning more about our local farmers at nwtnlfn.org/food-resources.

11 Ways to Enjoy Farm to School Month

  1. K-12 Students – Harvest Your Art and Win!  Students K-12 enter artwork depicting one of the 12 Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month poster challenge options.
    ~ Download the Registration Packet.
    ~ Share our blog/press release
  2. Join us for our Farm to Table Dinner Fundraiser on Saturday, October 14th, 5:30-8pm at the Dresden Farmers Market, celebrating locally grown foods, music, a silent auction and fun!
  3. Give the Garden Some Love: Is anything growing in your school garden? Plan a clean-up day to prepare the garden for winter, plant a fall crop or plant cover crops – protect your soil. Register for our upcoming volunteer opportunities!
  4. Connect with a Local Farm: Take a field trip to a nearby farm or ask a farmer to present to your class about what it’s like to live and work on a farm. Check out our Pumpkin Patch Guide
  5. Get Fresh at the Farmer’s Market: Visit your local farmers market or encourage families to go to the market and post a photo of their purchases on social media using the hashtag #NationalFarmToSchoolMonth.
  6. Try Something New: Feature a new local menu item for school breakfast or lunch. Host a taste test of the new item so students can try it.
  7. Celebrate Apple Crunch Day: Take a collective crunch out of a local apple on Apple Crunch Day on Tuesday, October 19, 2023 at where fresh, local food is celebrated. Connect with the NWTN LFN to learn how your school can participate in Apple Crunch Day.
  8. Looking for healthy snack ideas?
    Download our FREE Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month Snack Recipe PDF.
  9. Connect to the Curriculum: Teach a lesson or two during the month as part of your celebration. Check out the National Agriculture in the Classroom Matrix.
  10. Take action: Support Cafeterias, Classrooms, Community and Staying Power initiatives through the short-term and long-term goals. Visit our farm to school webpage to learn more from our Farm to School Action Plans.
  11. Advocate for Universal School Meals: Many organizations, groups and policymakers are focused on ensuring America’s children have access to healthy and nutritious meals, but more work is needed by individuals like you. Learn about the National Farm to School Network’s Value-Aligned School Meals Initiative and how you can advocate for ALL children to eat equally.

Students Return to the Drawing Board for Harvest of the Month Poster Contest

Student artists in K-12th grades are invited to submit Harvest of the Month poster entries during Farm to School Month from October 1st through October 31st. All students in the following school districts from our 9-county region are eligible to participate from Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Lake, Henry, Obion and Weakley County Schools.

In celebration of National Farm to School Month through an initiative of the Farm to School program of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, the 2024-25 school year Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month poster series will feature artwork selected by a panel of volunteer judges – artwork needs to be postmarked by November 3, 2023. All materials can be downloaded at nwtnlfn.org/taste-of-tennessee

The Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month is an educational marketing program that encourages students and their communities to learn more about local food including its seasonality and sustainability. Each month a different fruit, vegetable, or protein is highlighted, reflecting the current growing season in Tennessee.

To enter the poster contest, students must portray one of the prescribed fruits,  vegetables, or proteins, and submit entries to their school cafeteria managers by October 31, 2023.The winner will be announced before the end of the school year.. 

Winners’ artwork will be displayed in the Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month poster series  on the walls of participating school cafeterias starting in 2024.. 

Artwork submission deadline is on Tuesday, October 31, 2023 and must be postmarked by November 3, 2023. Winners will receive region wide recognition and their featured Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month product prize.

Please send artwork to: Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, HOTM Poster Contest, 113 Elm Street, Martin, TN 37237. For questions, please email nwtnfoodguide@gmail.com or call (731) 332-9071.

To download the registration packet, including the rules to participate and registration form, please visit: nwtnlfn.org/taste-of-tennessee. The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a nonprofit organization serving as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL. #GetitLocal #FarmtoSchool #TasteofTN

NWTN Farm to School Partnerships win $1 Million through Action for Healthy Kids & Local Foods in Schools Grants

As part of a cooperative agreement to develop and implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative, Action for Healthy Kids today announced that it is awarding nearly $30 million in subgrants to 264 school districts across 44 states and the District of Columbia, reaching students in some of our nation’s highest need schools. These funds are being provided by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.

Out of nine (9) grants awarded throughout the state of Tennessee, four (4) of these grants were awarded to the following Northwest Tennessee Schools: Bradford Special School District – $144,086; Milan Special School District – $144,086; Trenton Special School District – $144, 086; and Weakley County School District – $150,000 totaling $582,258 for Northwest Tennessee School Districts.

“We are so grateful to be a recipient of the Healthy Meals Incentive Grant.  This $150,000 grant will be a tremendous asset and will enable us to replace some antiquated equipment,” stated Trista Snider, Director of Weakley County Schools Nutrition Department.  “We will also consult with a chef that specializes in K-12 operations to assist us in learning how to prepare even more delicious, scratch meals, incorporate efficiency hacks, and assist in learning how to incorporate more locally grown produce and locally raised meat.”

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, a local nonprofit based out of Martin, TN, was a fundamental partner in helping facilitate the formation of the Healthy Meals Incentive projects. 

“Our mission is to catalyze actions that are increasing access to a thriving and equitable local food system for all in our region,” stated Caroline Ideus, Outreach Director and Farm to School Consultant of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network (LFN). “Access to healthy food is vital for our growing children. Our school nutrition programs have proven to be a vital asset and the largest classroom in every school. Through our established Farm to School partnerships in Bradford, Milan, Trenton and Weakley School Districts, we are helping advance their farm to school initiatives through increased access to healthy and nutritious meals, nutrition education, and fortifying school nutrition programs across our region.”

Earlier this year, the LFN facilitated additional grant applications with four additional school districts (Crockett County Schools, Trenton Special Schools, Weakley County Schools and Cheatham County Schools) to receive a grant for TN school districts called “Local Foods for Schools” grant through the TN Department of Education. This grant aims to help offset costs for local food  purchasing, storing and distributing local foods from local farms.

Each small and/or rural school district will receive up to $150,000 to support them in improving the nutritional quality of their meals and modernizing their operations, through efforts which could include:

  • Innovative staff training programs;
  • Redesigning food preparation and service spaces;
  • Kitchen updates and renovations;
  • Other school-district led efforts to support school meals and school nutrition professionals.

“When we strengthen school meal quality, we strengthen child health,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “These grants are the largest targeted investment USDA has ever made for school meal programs in small and rural communities. We want to ensure every child in America has the opportunity to attend a school with high quality, nutritious meals, and this support is a step in that direction.”

An online map features the selected school districts and their grant amounts. The map will be updated on a rolling basis as schools formalize their grant agreements.

“Offering healthier school meals is key to helping our nation’s kids get the nutrients they need today and for their long-term development,” said Action for Healthy Kids CEO Rob Bisceglie. “Through this historic investment in school nutrition, we will help school districts across the country overcome challenges and develop solutions to provide nutritious foods for the children they serve.”

USDA and Action for Healthy Kids also recently opened applications for the Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards, which celebrate school districts that have made significant improvements to the nutritional quality of their school meals. All school districts in the United States are invited to apply. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis through June 30, 2025.

School districts that meet Recognition Award criteria will receive benefits such as national and local recognition; travel stipends to attend a national Healthy Meals Summit; access to diverse best practices, training activities; and more.

Action for Healthy Kids will manage the grants to school districts, Recognition Awards, and Healthy Meals Summits with the support of The Chef Ann Foundation and Rocky Mountain Center for Health Promotion and Education.

FNS works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs, the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022, highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.

Action for Healthy Kids is dedicated to improving children’s health and well-being by bringing together and mobilizing educators, families, and other key stakeholders to help children lead healthy lives. Through its core programming and family-school partnerships, AFHK has impacted more than 20 million children in 55,000 schools nationwide to address systemic challenges in underserved communities. To learn more about its growing network of volunteers and champions, visit www.actionforhealthykids.org.

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network envisions a sustainable regional food system that utilizes locally grown and produced foods to promote healthy individuals, equitable communities and thriving local economies. The LFN serves as a consulting partner to growing Farm to School initiatives throughout Northwest Tennessee. Learn more at nwtnlfn.org/programs/farm-to-school.

The Tennessee Department of Education’s School Nutrition program is responsible for providing nutritious meals and snacks for students in public and private schools, as well as residential and child care institutions. TN School Nutrition administers the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program and Afterschool Snack Program across the state. All public schools in Tennessee are on the National School Lunch Program, which provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. Learn more at www.tn.gov/education/health-and-safety/school-nutrition.html

Source: Weakley County School Nutrition Department
This is a snapshot of a school meal provided by Weakley County School District in March 2023, sourcing strawberries from Bell Family Farms out of Gleason, TN, local milk from Prairie Farms, and FFA school grown hydroponic lettuce. The Weakley County Farm to School Initiative plants the seeds for students to learn where their food comes from by growing, observing, and experiencing hands-on opportunities. The growth of the initiative occurs as educators, farmers, and local ag-based entities work together to create a nationally recognized sustainable model. Learn more about NWTN Farm to School Action Plan visions and goals at nwtnlfn.org/programs/farm-to-school

“Bringing the Farm to School” Producer and School Nutrition Gathering

Join us on Friday, July 28, 2023, 8:30am -2:30pm at Cowen Blackberry Pond Farm Special Event Barn on 17 Skyler Lane, Bradford, TN 38316 for a day filled with farm-to-school education and fun!

This in-person event will bring together farmers, school nutrition staff, coordinated school health advocates, and community members to learn about the benefits of bringing fresh, local produce into school meals. Attendees will have the opportunity to network with local farmers, participate in hands-on workshops, work with Chef Cale Meador from the Four Seasons out of Atlanta, GA, and enjoy delicious farm-fresh food.

Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to connect with your community and learn about the importance of supporting local agriculture. Register today!

Who is invited?

We are seeking farmers interested in selling their products to schools along with District School Nutrition Directors and 1 School Cafeteria Manager from each school working in Northwest Tennessee are encouraged to attend. We are also extending the invitation to Coordinated School Health Directors and Community Advocates to join the fun!

8:30 – 2:30pm – NWTN School Nutrition Staff

12 – 2:30pm – Farmers

Training Goals:

  1. To connect school nutrition directors with agricultural producers through training and tools to build capacity through the “Bringing the Farm to School” training.
  2. Plan Local Food Taste Tests for the upcoming school year.
  3. Connect local products to schools and how to prepare them.
  4. Increase the sales to schools for farmers while expanding farm to school local food taste test activities for students in schools and communities across the Northwest Tennessee Region.

Activities Include:

  • Northwest Tennessee School Nutrition Directors, Cafeteria Managers and Advocates to train with Four Seasons Chef, Cale Meador. (9:30 – 11:45am)
  • Local Food Taste test training and sampling for all attendees 12 – 1pm
  • Networking with farmers and school nutrition staff (12 – 2:30pm)
  • “Bringing the Farm to School” training overview and resources for farmers & school nutrition staff (1 – 2:30pm)




More about “Bringing the Farm to School Training”

The goal of the “Bringing the Farm to School” program is to provide agricultural producers training and tools to build capacity to launch or grow efforts to market to schools. The training will last from 8:30 – 2:30 pm with a complimentary Local Food Taste Test Menu Lunch.

More about Chef Cale Meador

While catering to NBA teams, such as the Memphis grizzlies, Chef Cale began to understand the importance of accessing all-inclusive nutrition, from the picky eaters, to differences in taste and serving the best food to fuel these athletes.

Spending his summers on the family farm in Gleason, Tennessee and growing up in his Nana’s kitchen, taught him the most about putting care and love into the food one creates.

Chef Cale comes to us from the Four Seasons out of Atlanta, GA. He is excited to be a part this opportunity to teach others how to cultivate a thriving farm to school to plate initiative to benefit the children eating in Northwest Tennessee public schools.

Resources to be provided to participants:

Bringing the Farm to School Producer Training Manual

Local Food Procurement Resources

New School Cuisine: Nutritious seasonal recipes for school cooks by school cooks

This Training is paid for through a USDA Farm to School Implementation Grant and funding provided by the National Farm to School Network.

Obion County Farm Day Paves the Way Towards the Future of Farming

On Friday, October 21, 2022, the Obion County School District celebrated FARM DAY at Obion County Central High School. The High School’s Future Farmers of America student group hosted close to 200 fourth graders who rotated through agricultural learning stations including chicks from Tyson Foods out of Union City, TN Corn, TN Soybean Council, NWTN Beekeepers Association, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Beef Cattle and OCCHS FFA raised lambs.

All Obion County School District Elementary School fourth graders participated including students from Lakeview, South Fulton, Black Oak, Hillcrest, and Ridgemont Elementary Schools.

Activities like Farm Day, celebrated during #National Farm to School Month, bring awareness about the benefits of agriculture and nutrition in our daily lives. “Farm Day is a great way to educate children about agriculture because many fourth graders do not know where their food comes from,” stated Sara Frazier, Agriculture Teacher at Obion County Central High School. “The FFA program utilizes peer-to-peer learning which is a great way to empower high school students by teaching younger students about agricultural concepts.”

During the 2021-2022 school year, the Obion County School District, in partnership with the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, participated in a year-long Farm to School Planning project resulting in the publication of the Obion County Farm to School Action Plan.

Stuart Watson (middle), Agriculture Teacher & FFA Adviser at Obion County Central High School, has a passion to teach youth about sustainable agriculture which shows in the hydroponic & greenhouse plant program he manages at Obion County Central High School. Also in the picture are NWTN Local Food Network Farm to School Coordinators (left) Samantha Goyret and (right) Caroline Ideus.
Obion County Central High School FFA students are ready to take action!
(left to right: front) Norah Kendall, Katelyn Ramsey, Aiden Cochran, Tony Blue, Genesis Wilson, (back) Stuart Watson, Daniel Northern, Jaxon Willcutt, Titan Talbot.

Will you help Obion County Central High School build a NEW greenhouse? These dedicated students want to be able to expand hydroponic growing operations in order to feed a consistent supply of Rebel Grown greens to all of the schools in the school district. Obion County is seeking matching funds to support this project – can you help? Contact Stuart Watson at swatson@ocboe.com.

Be a Part of the ACTION: Obion County Farm to School Action Plan

We envision an Obion County School District Farm to School Initiative that connects the farm to the classroom to the cafeteria to increase healthy food options and foster a deeper understanding of our food sources and their nutritional benefits to support the welfare of students, parents, and community members in Obion County, TN.”

The Obion County Farm to School team seeks schools and their communities to take action by encouraging working on collective Farm to School goals over the next 3 years. The goals are developed around supporting initiatives in the Cafeteria, Classroom, Community, and coordinating an integrated approach for Staying Power.

The following is a brief summary of the Farm to School initiative goals over the next three years: 

Education Goal: By 2023, Obion County Schools will connect students to agriculture experiences through experiential learning opportunities.

Growing Food Goal 1: Starting in 2023, school based growing food operations will improve by increasing access to agriculture education, elementary school-based growing programs, and the support and expansion of high school greenhouse growing operations.

Growing Food Goal 2: By 2024, the processing of school grown foods will be determined to increase the amount of school grown food within Obion County schools.

Local Food Procurement/Cafeteria Goal 1: By 2023, Obion County Schools will begin to incorporate school garden produce and school farm products into the cafeteria and afterschool snacks through taste tests to increase access to fresher, healthier foods for all students.

Local Food Procurement/ Cafeteria Goal 2: Starting in 2023, food service staff will have access to in-service training to incorporate local agriculture products and increase awareness of nutritional education opportunities through the school food service program.

Coordination, Integration And Staying Power Goal 1: Starting the school year 2022-2023, the Obion County Farm to School Team will seek financial stability for Farm to School Programming.

Coordination, Integration And Staying Power Goal 2: Starting in 2023, schools will increase communication by including a featured farm to school activity or resource in quarterly newsletters and a monthly social media post of school based farm to school activities from within the Obion School District. #FarmtoSchool

Coordination, Integration And Staying Power Goal 3: Starting the school year 2022-2023, a network of community stakeholders will be informed of the Obion County Action Plan to aid in increasing advocacy efforts and gain broader support from parents, community organizations, local businesses, institutions, and farmers.

Education Long-Term Goal: Within 5 years the Obion County School District will increase the number of nutrition and agriculture curriculum resources and Farm to School training opportunities for teachers.

Growing Food Long-Term Goal: By 2025, the amount of school grown produce and products procured into Obion County school cafeterias will have increased by 5%.

The Obion County Farm to School Action Plan was written in collaboration with the Obion County School District and the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network. The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL.

Download the full Obion County Farm to School Action Plan at nwtnlfn.org/farm-to-school

~Samantha Goyret
NWTN Local Food Network Team
Farm to School Coordinator

Students Dish it up in Local Beef Cook-off Challenge

Obion County Central High School students put their culinary skills to the test by crafting their own recipes using locally sourced beef from Giffin Farms, owned by Derek and Micayla Giffin out of Obion County, TN.  The beef was locally sourced through the Obion County Farm to School planning Team with project support from Chastity Homra – Coordinated School Health Director, and Michelle Bruner – OCCHS Culinary Arts Teacher.

Obion County Central High School Culinary Art Student Cook-off Winners (from left to right) second place winner Jason Hood, first place winner Jennifer Guerrero – 1st place winner, and second place winner Charlie Deal

“The Obion County Farm to School team sourced beef from Giffin Farms for the taste test, but we had additional frozen beef left over,” stated Chastity Homra, Coordinated School Health Director.  “The Culinary Arts Students had prepared Giffin Farm Beef for all school cafeterias in November 2021 for a local food taste test. FFA students helped serve the taco-seasoned beef to all students. We decided to host a local beef cook-off to create a fun way to use the local beef and hone the culinary arts students’ skills.” I love getting the kids involved so I thought what better way than to have them have a contest.  I enquired with Mrs. Bruner and she loved the idea.  It was fun hearing how they had to do research on a recipe and then tweak it to make it their own. 

The OCCHS Culinary Arts program offers a hands-on culinary arts training program where students learn about nutrition, cooking techniques, seasonings and flavorings, culinary laws,  food safety and career opportunities. These classes introduce students to a set of skills that combine both nutrition and cooking techniques.

Additionally, students receive hands-on training by working in the school cafeteria, side-by-side with school nutrition professionals. They provide meals to teachers and specialty meals.

“Prior to the beef taste test, students surveyed had limited knowledge that they could even source beef locally,” commented Caroline Ideus, Obion County Farm to School Coordinator from the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network. “Collectively, we are trying to find innovative ways to support school nutrition departments in helping them procure local foods and finding ways to return scratch cooking to prepare school meals.”

Under the direction of Culinary Arts instructor Michelle Bruner, the local food cook-off challenge gave the budding chefs the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in class and receive feedback on their cooking skills. Six teams with a total of 14 students participated throughout the day. 

The students, working in teams, created their own specialty recipes from scratch then presented them to a group of judges. The young chefs were judged on the following five categories: recipe development, professionalism, sanitation, presentation, and taste.

 “It was a fun experience and I enjoyed creating new recipes.”

Annabella Wooten, OCCHS Culinary Arts student

First place winners, Jennifer Guerrero and Tailior Bolden, worked together to create the perfect beefy quesadilla that included Giffin Farm Beef, diced tomatoes, sliced jalapeno peppers, onions, spices and cheese. 

Second place winners, Jason Hood and Charlie Deal crafted Ground Beef Pinwheels including Giffin Farm beef, cream cheese, bacon bits, cheese tortillas, and spices. Third place winners, Annabella Wooten and Connor Mayo worked together to create Breakfast Beef Bites including Giffin Farm beef, eggs, spices, creamed cheese, milk, and biscuits. All winners received a gift certificate from Sonic and the first-place winner’s recipe will be featured in the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide Magazine 2022 to be published this spring.  You can also find the recipes on the Coordinated School Health website on the homepage of the Obion County Schools website at www.obioncountyschools.com/Page/7956

The award winning recipe will be featured in the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide 2022.

Photo: Obion County Central High School Culinary Arts Teacher, Michelle Bruner is passionate about teaching culinary skills to her students. 

~Samantha Goyret & Lauren Kendall
Printed on February 17, 2022 in the Union City Daily Messenger