California’s Farm to School Program
As a mother of four and co-chair of the California Farm to School Working Group, California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom is committed to advancing farm to school programs and extending their benefits to more children throughout the state.
Why Farm to School?
Today, over 2 million children in California do not have access to healthy, whole foods, with Black and Latinx children reporting food insecurity twice that of children in white households. We know that schools are key sources of food for children — approximately 3.9 million California students were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch during the 2019-2020 school year. Given California’s recent investment in universal school meals and its unparalleled agricultural production, the state is uniquely positioned to build a healthier, more equitable future through innovative farm to school programs, which help:
- Increase food access and nutrition security.
- Support local food purchasing from California producers.
- Promote educational activities that use food as a teaching tool to connect classrooms, cafeterias, and communities.
- Create experiential learning opportunities in school gardens, culinary classes, agricultural programs, and other hands-on learning experiences to help youth better understand the connections between food and the world around them.
- Educate students about how they can be environmental stewards from the earliest of ages.
Report: Planting the Seed
Building on her commitment to ensuring California children have the best start in life, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom announced the release of a new report, Planting the Seed: Farm to School Roadmap for Success, in February 2022. The report highlights policy goals to advance child well-being, economic growth, environmental resilience, and racial equity through farm to school systems that connect children to locally sourced, whole foods and produce in cafeterias, classrooms, and gardens. The report and its recommendations are the result of a collaboration — led by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross — among a number of state agency leaders, education professionals, and farm to school experts and practitioners.
The Benefits of Farm to School
Healthy kids and vibrant communities start with farm-fresh, nutritious meals. Through farm to school programs, schools purchase food from local farms, offer students food education, and deliver hands-on learning opportunities that support students’ academic achievement, health, and wellbeing. Research shows that:
- Students who participate in farm to school programs see improvement in their grades and test scores.
- By purchasing from local farms, schools with farm to school programs also support local farmers and economies.
- Children who participate in farm to school programs have a lower risk of childhood obesity and diet-related diseases like diabetes.
California Investments in Farm to School
Under the leadership of First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Governor Newsom and the California State Legislature allocated $60 million over two years in the 2021-2022 state budget to sustain and expand the California Farm to School Incubator Grant Program, which connects local producers and school food buyers; increases food education in classrooms, gardens, and on farms; and engages schools and students with the agricultural community.
The 2022-2023 state budget strengthened this investment with an additional $30 million in funding for farm to school demonstration projects at priority, high-need schools, and includes $600 million in funding available over three years for school kitchen infrastructure upgrades and equipment, food service employee training, and compensation for work related to serving universal meals using more fresh, minimally processed California-grown foods.
How California’s Farm to School Program Developed
First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross assembled a broad coalition of stakeholders and practitioners who are engaged in farm to school, committed to its success, and ready to implement programs and policies to transform its future.
The goal was to develop a ground-up approach to policy and programmatic recommendations whereby state leadership could hear ideas, receive feedback, and collect recommendations from the people directly engaged in farm to school. As a critical first step, the First Partner and Secretary Ross brought together state government leaders with jurisdiction over the several intersecting issues impacted by Farm to School – education, health, labor, and the environment:
- Jared Blumenfeld, Secretary, California Environmental Protection Agency
- Julie Su, Secretary, Labor and Workforce Development Agency
- Linda Darling Hammond, California State School Board
- Mark Ghaly, Secretary, California Health and Human Services Agency
- Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
To guide a deep dive into these complex issues with interagency working group members, the First Partner and Secretary Ross established an Advisory Committee consisting of the state’s leading farm to school practitioners and food system experts.
This Advisory Committee included:
- 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