Celebrating Over a Decade of Collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Posted on January 31, 2018

In over half of the schools across Vermont, students have been eating freshly prepared local foods in their cafeteria, visiting nearby farmers, and learning about agriculture, nutrition, and food equity issues in their classrooms with the support of grants given out annually through the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM). So far, this program has impacted 157 schools, over 45,000 K-12 students, and 22 early care and education programs.

Vermont FEED has been a partner in supporting the grantees of this program since its inception in 2007. During that first year, six schools received one-year planning grants and six schools received implementation grants to carry out Farm to School (FTS) activities in their cafeterias, classrooms, and communities. This year, the Vermont grant program has been expanded for the first time to include Early Care & Education (ECE) programs, in addition to now providing all grantees with a full two years of support through both planning and implementation of their FTS programming.

VT-FEED Program Manager, Abbie Nelson, works with school nutrition staff to prepare them for handling and processing of more raw, local product coming in from nearby farms, which can include updates to kitchen equipment and advancing culinary skills among the staff. Through her work at NOFA-VT, Abbie is always working to enhance the efficiency of the local food system in Vermont and to find ways to get local food into school cafeterias and childcare kitchens, while also meeting the bottom line of farmers and school food service directors.

Ryan Morra, VT-FEED Professional Learning Coordinator, works closely with teachers to develop hands-on learning experiences that incorporate food, farming, and nutrition concepts into their curriculum. He also coordinates the network of coaches assigned to support each grantee through the grant year, which includes a self-assessment of their FTS programming, as well as the development and implementation of an action plan to meet their goals.

With the addition of childcare programs to the lists of grantees this year, VT-FEED is excited to bring the expertise of Shelburne Farms' Cynthia Green and Jed Norris to support the early care programs in bringing local food and food experiences to our youngest learners.

Through all the years of collaborating with the VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, VT-FEED has been able to bring the best practices of its Farm to School Institute to this partnership. The VT-FEED 3 C's approach of Classroom, Cafeteria & Community planning along with a year-long support from an external coach all contribute to bringing about lasting change within the schools that receive these grant funds. This unique public-private partnership has been able to amplify the work of Vermont FEED to reach many more schools, and we are proud to partner with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets again in 2018.

On March 14, 2017 FTS grantees will convene at the Statehouse in Montpelier to share out on the successes of their grants, and the 2018-19 Farm to School & Childcare grant recipients will receive their award from Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food & Markets Anson Tebbetts. 

Everyone can show their support for Farm to School through the Vermont Farm to School Network's Campaign to see this wonderful grant program continue to thrive and expand to reach all of Vermont's children!