Starting a new farm to school program? Here are six important documents to help you along the way:
Farm to School BC works with many partners across the province in the funding and development of Farm to School programs. All programs are unique and are developed based on the needs, resources and dreams of schools and their communities. Building a Farm to School program is a large undertaking and requires the pulling together of a team dedicated to transforming their school food environment and taking a whole school approach to food.
For a step by step guide to starting a Farm to School program at your school, please refer to the BC Farm to School Guide: A Fresh Crunch in School Lunch.
As a general over-view, here is what you will need to do:
- Find a champion: This is the person, usually a principal, teacher, or parent who is passionate about transforming their school food environment. This is the person who typically brings together the key people who will form your team.
- Form your Farm to School Team: Use the Farm to School guide to get a sense of all of the important stakeholders you will want to make sure join your Farm to School team – these will include school administrators, teachers, staff, parents, students, farmers, local community organizations with capacity to support your program, Public Health staff like Dietitians, Nurses and Environmental Health Officers, local Elders, funders and community volunteers. Refer to the Regional Non-Profits page to find potential community partners in your region.
- Identify Assets & Needs: This is the opportunity for your team to assess your existing school food environment, infrastructure and resources available as you embark on the journey to building a Farm to School program. You might be surprised at what you find! You can check out the Tools from the Shed page for resources, or the Program Models page.
- Dream Big: Ideally, what would be the perfect food environment that you would love to build at your school? The sky’s the limit here. This will provide a space for your team to define your vision for your program that will be what you continue to aspire towards as you embark on your Farm to School journey. Ensure that your aspiration Farm to School program is comprehensive and includes areas of work in each of the three core elements of a Farm to School program:
- Increasing access to healthy, local food for students
- Creating experiential, hands-on learning opportunities enhancing student food literacy
- Increasing levels of school and community connectedness
- Setting Goals & Objectives: Now that you have had the chance to dream big, we want you to start small. The key here is to not bite off more than you can chew. Once you have achieved some success in building a strong, sustainable foundation for your program, from there you can continue to expand and evolve your program until you one day you reach your Farm to School vision. At this stage, it is critical that you include your local Environmental Health Officer in your planning, to ensure that your plan takes into consideration any equipment or specifications required in order to meet food safety standards.
- Develop an Action Plan: Your action plan will help clarify how your group will accomplish your objectives in the quickest, most effective way. For each objective the group brainstorms the tasks that need to be accomplished. This is likely where you will identify your financial needs for moving your project forward. Be sure to check out the funding section of our website if you need to secure external funds.
- Develop an Evaluation Plan: Once you have identified your vision, goals and objectives and created an action plan, now it’s time to think about how you will measure your success. How will you know if your program is working? This can be as simple as looking back at your goals and thinking about what you will need to measure in order to track your progress.
- Engage Farmers, Students, Parents & Community: Supporting local farmers* is a very important component of any Farm to School program, though not a requirement. Work to develop relationships with local growers early on and try to involve them in your planning. Similarly, it is essential that students, parents, teachers, and school staff are on board and excited. Get creative with ways to involve as many people as possible in the dreaming, planning, and implementation processes.
*Note that school gardens do not replace the need to partner with local farmers. School gardens provide the perfect laboratory for hands-on experiential learning and can produce food for your programs, however for consistent supply of local food, partnerships with local farmers/distributors are essential.
- Logistics, Logistics, Logistics: You are likely now into the nitty gritty of planning how your program will function. There will be many conversations around growing containers, plants, food preparation, volunteers, food safety, integration of food into the curriculum, fundraising, etc. This can be a lot of work, but so very important to figure out if you want your program to be successful and sustainable.
Please read in detail the BC Farm to School Guide: A Fresh Crunch in School Lunch for a step-by-step how to. Best of luck!