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
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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

~ NOTES FROM THE MEETING ~

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.

Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month Poster Winners Announced

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network (LFN) has been developing the Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month (HOTM) poster contest since 2019. In 2022, during National Farm to School Month in October, the LFN partnered with Weakley County Schools and Trenton Special School District to conduct this annual poster contest. The Harvest of the Month program’s goal is to encourage healthy food choices by increasing Northwest Tennessee residents’ exposure to seasonal foods, agriculture and nutrition education, while supporting local farmers and building excitement about locally made meals.

nwtnlfn.org/taste-of-tennessee

This project provides awareness of the locally grown foods, artistic expression, and the important connection with our local food system,” commented Samantha Goyret, Executive Director of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network. “The entries showed how students, when given a chance, have an incredible ability to showcase their creative skills and agricultural knowledge.

9 student winners and 9 honorable mentions were selected from a total of 57 entries from Weakley County School & Trenton Special School Districts. The winning student artwork will be pooled with all Harvest of the Month winners since 2019 to then be featured in a 12-month poster series that will be offered to all school cafeteria programs across the State of Tennessee through generous support from the Tennessee Department of Education. The finalists will be announced at a later date.

Each contestant had to write one to two sentences about their featured local product. “I picked watermelon because it’s my favorite fruit!,” wrote Scarlett Lovell, Greenfield School. “It’s juicy & sweet. I like to eat watermelon in the summer with my dad!

I love apples,” wrote Helena Bennett, Kindergartener at Sharon School. “My apple is in a fruit basket, and I love polka-dots. It’s in my imagination.”

“I love honey,” wrote Haven Love, 5th grade, Trenton Rosenwald Middle School. “It is a healthy food, and I like to cook with it. I think it is neat how bees make it.”

Weakley County Schools is very fortunate to have such great supporters of both Agriculture and the arts in our area,” said Randy Frazier, Director of Weakley County Schools. “Our rich farming heritage deserves to be celebrated and we are grateful to the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network for highlighting our students’ talent and producing such a practical tool for us.”  

Students received local food and produce prizes from the following farms: Blackberry Pond Farm out of Martin, TN, Dixie Chile Ranch out of Kenton, TN, Purrrfectly Homemade out of Troy, TN and Barefoot Gardens out of Martin, TN.

Image Above: Weakley County School Students, (top left to right): Helena Bennett – Sharon School, Annabelle Lovell – Greenfield School, Paola Rodrigues – Dresden Elementary School,

(bottom left to right): Maria Ivansic – Martin Elementary School, Elissa Puckett – Dresden Elementary School, Wyatt Craig – Dresden Middle School, Avery Riley – Sharon School

Image Above : Trenton Special School District Students from Trenton Rosenwald Middle School (left to right): Catelyn Ambrose – Watercolor Asparagus and Black/Blueberries, Colored Pencil Choloe Francis – Black/Blueberries, Nickolaus Cliff – Colored pencil Strawberries, Haven Love – Pencil and Marker Honey

The following student artists won the Harvest of the Month poster contest:

~ Honey – Haven Love – 5th grade, Trenton Rosenwald Middle School
~Asparagus – Wyatt Craig – 6th grade, Dresden Middle School
~Strawberries – Avery Riley – 3rd, Sharon Elementary 
~Strawberries – Nickolaus Cliff, 5th grade, Trenton Rosenwald Middle School
~Blue/Blackberries – Chloe Francis – 8th grade, Trenton Rosenwald Middle School
~Asparagus, Blue/Black Berries – Catelyn Ambrose – 8th grade, Trenton Rosenwald Middle School
~Tomatoes – Paola Rodriguez – K, Dresden Elementary School
~Apples – Helena Bennett – K, Sharon School
~Pumpkins – Elissa Puckett – 1st grade grade, Dresden Elementary School 
~Leafy Greens – Annabelle Lovell – 8th grade, Greenfield Elementary School
~Watermelon – Maria Ivansic – 5th grade, Martin Elementary School

The following students received Harvest of the Month honorable mentions:

~Honey – Sofia Goyret – 3rd grade, Sharon School
~Blue and Blackberries – Jo Winstead, 7th grade, Dresden Middle School
~Blue and Blackberries – Emma Munoz, 7th grade, Martin Middle School
~Watermelon – Scarlot Lovell – 3rd grade, Greenfield Elementary School
~Watermelon – Blaze Bennett – 5th grade, Sharon School
~Apples: Persi Foster – 2nd grade, Gleason Elementary
~Pumpkins: Helena Bennett – K, Sharon School

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network’s mission is to catalyze actions that are increasing access to locally grown and produced foods.  

This program’s material is based upon work that is supported by the Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tennessee Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Grant in collaboration with the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network and Farm to School program partners.

For more information about the Harvest of the Month program, local food recipes, and how to download current Harvest of the Month posters, visit the Local Food Network’s website at: nwtnlfn.org/taste-of-tennessee.