• Brief Update from the Legislature
  • Writers Panel at NOFA-VT Conference
  • Brief Update from the Legislature

    This past Friday, March 15th, was crossover in the state house - this is the day that bills in policy committees need to get voted out of committee if they’re going to stay on deadline for passing this year. It’s a good indicator of priorities, although some bills do get special extensions and budget items have a later deadline. Given that this is a traditional taking stock moment for legislative work, we checked in with some groups that spend a lot of time in the state house to find out their thoughts on legislation to watch.

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  • Writers Panel at NOFA-VT Conference

    Julia Shipley, John Churchman, and Kate Spring all have very different ways of blending farming, homesteading, and writing - poetry, essays, articles, and picture books were all part of the discussion in our writers panel at the NOFA-VT Winter Conference. Helen Labun moderated, and the notes on what we said are now posted! 

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In the News: Farm to School

In the News: Farm to School

Written By

Local Banquet

Written on

October 22 , 2018

Photograph of children at Philo Ridge Farm, used with permission from VT Open Farm Week.


We’re in the midst of National Farm to School Month, and no surprise that there’s been a lot of news about local food in schools of late. Vermont has long been a leader in the farm-to-school movement, a fact recognized by FoodTank when they released a list of 30 innovative farm to school programs around the world, including Vermont’s own Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) program. 


Some interesting facts from that article - twenty years ago, the U.S. had fewer than 10 farm to school programs, while today 40% of schools host programs, reaching 23 million children. The National Farm to School Network reports that 46 states have policies to support local food in schools. In Vermont two-thirds of schools offer farm to school programming, and FEED has worked with 30% of public schools in the state. 


Chefs are in on the action. Alice Waters is the most famous example, but we’re hearing plenty of other stories as well. This month Forbes profiled Chef Giselle Wellman’s decision to make a career change to school food service (at the suggestion of her mom). 


This New Yorker profile and David Chang podcast episode (note the language in the podcast is not for young ears) describe how former NOMA chef Dan Giusti recently began Brigaid, an organization dedicated to transforming school lunches. We can perhaps have sympathy for Giusti facing down a cafeteria full of the world’s pickiest eaters (aka second graders). As he tells the New Yorker  “Going from a place where people were scheduling their vacations around eating at your restaurant, where for some people it’s the highlight of their year, that was maybe the hardest thing.”


The public school food story most worth watching may be that of Jamie Oliver in West Virginia, if for no other reason than to reward the press for having such a long attention span. In 2009-2010 Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” show tried to remake the Huntington, West Virginia, school lunches - in a way that was not universally popular. It’s unclear how much Huntington really hated him and how much was hype. Five years out health statistics hadn’t changed, but folks on the ground stuck with it. And then, this 2017 profile in the Huffington Post declares that yes, in fact, there has been a food revolution in Huntington by Huntingtonians (or, as the headline puts is, an "honest-to-god miracle"). Will there be more coverage to come? We hope so. 


While Farm to School month focuses on younger children, there’s also plenty happening in Farm to College as well. NOFA-VT recently published three case studies of value based food purchasing in Vermont. These case studies are part of a larger project in which NOFA-VT is looking at “values-based tiered buying” systems for institutional purchasing. 


Values based tiered buying is a long title that comes down to finding a way to add more sophistication to the social values component of the local foods purchasing movement. “Local” is often used as a proxy for all that is warm and fuzzy and good in food; it's a straightforward measurement that gets at values without requiring a philosophy degree combined with an applied economics degree to make a basic purchasing decision. But we can quickly see how that is limited. Are college students really going to give up coffee? No. Does that mean a local food focused school shouldn’t also have a values system to apply to coffee purchasing? Also no. Coffee is an example of a food that has existing programs, such as fair trade, to support ethical purchasing (although according to this podcast an ethical cup of coffee is still hard to find). What about other items? How do you make a framework to guide purchasing in a practical way?


You can read more about what NOFA is up to with their values based tiered buying and how it fits into Vermont’s local foods movement in this 2015 position paper. 


One last item to leave you with is this event announcement for the Taking Root Symposium, a local food conference for Vermont college students hosted at UVM on Oct 28th. Even if you aren’t interested in attending, they’ve compiled a great pre-symposium reading list (and for those of us who never, ever read the assigned reading in college perhaps browsing this offers a small chance for redemption. . .)


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