Conference program underscores strategies to expand food access, increase equity, lift student voices, and open school markets to specialty crop producers

First Partner and Secretary Ross lead a newly formed working group focused on expanding farm to school programming across the state



SACRAMENTO, March 12, 2021 – The California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Farm to Fork (CDFA-F2F) will conclude its bi-annual, three-day California Farm to School Virtual Conference today. Featured conference speakers include California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, co-chairs of the newly formed California Farm to School Working Group, a committee of experts focused on expanding farm to school programming in California.

The virtual convening, which began on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, brought together hundreds of farm to school practitioners, advocates, and government representatives from throughout the state and focused on strategies to increase food access, build equity, lift student voices, and open school markets for California specialty crop producers, with an emphasis on establishing farm to school programs that connect classrooms, cafeterias, and communities. Currently, 55 percent of California school districts participate in farm to school activities, translating to 373 school districts, 5,500 schools, and over 3.5 million students served. Research shows that access to farm to school programming improves students’ academic outcomes, physical health, and social emotional wellbeing.

“When kids consume and learn about nutritious foods, their minds and bodies grow, planting the seeds for healthier futures. Yet today, over two million California children lack access to healthy, whole foods, creating a greater urgency for us to expand our state’s farm to school programming to meet their needs,” said California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who will be hosting a conversation with chef, author, and food activist Alice Waters at the conference later today.

Given the multidimensional impact of farm to school programs, the First Partner and Secretary Ross have brought together leaders across state government and assembled a 14-member advisory committee and four subcommittees made up of several dozen agricultural, labor, environmental, educational, and health leaders to provide advice and expertise.

“We see farm-to-school programs as key in our quest for food and nutrition security and healthy diets,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “I am grateful for the work of farmers, farmworkers, school nutrition teams, administrators, teachers, school gardeners and numerous support organizations for bringing us to this point. The outlook for farm-to-school is bright!”

This robust and diverse group of advocates, practitioners, and thought leaders will explore how to establish a resilient and climate-smart school food supply; expand student education and access; augment schools’ procurement, infrastructure, and training; and identify key metrics of success for the California farm to school movement. Following a series of meetings and youth engagement roundtables, the working group will deliver a final report to the Governor with recommendations for how to advance farm to school programming in California.

The working group’s advisory committee includes:

• Rachelle Arizmendi, Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment
• Santana Diaz, UC Davis Health
• Paula Daniels, Center for Good Food Purchasing
• Keir Johnson-Reyes, Intertribal Agriculture Council
• Kristina Kraushaar, Rialto Unified Nutrition Services
• Anna Lappé, Real Food Media
• Craig McNamara, Sierra Orchards
• Andy Naja-Riese, Agricultural Institute of Marin
• Fausat Rahman-Davies, Rialto Unified Nutrition Services
• Kathy Saile, No Kid Hungry California
• Mohini Singh, Turlock Unified Culinary Teacher
• Jai Sookprasert, California School Employees Association
• Kat Taylor, TomKat Ranch
• Alice Waters, Edible Schoolyard