Recent policy changes are raising the opportunity for many more Connecticut students to taste fresh, locally grown food in their school cafeterias. UConn Extension is well positioned to make the most of these changes. First, in 2021, the CT Grown for CT Kids Grants program was created by the state to help school districts and early childhood centers access grant funding to purchase local food and offer experiential learning about farm-to-school to children.
UConn Extension’s Jiff Martin, Extension Educator in Food Systems, served as a grant-writing coach in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture during the first two funding cycles of this grant program. Then, in 2022, USDA Food and Nutrition Services created the Local Food For Schools program, providing $1.8 million for local food purchases to Connecticut school districts that participate in federal child nutrition programs between 2022-2023. This influx of one-time funding is a real game changer for UConn Extension’s Put Local On Your Tray Program.
In collaboration efforts from the Connecticut Department of Education, Connecticut Department of Health, and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, the Tray program works with school food directors to help them purchase local food for school cafeterias. Twenty-seven school districts took the ‘Tray Pledge’ to serve local in school cafeterias during school year 2022-2023. With this new funding, districts will be more incentivized than ever to follow through on their pledges.
Districts can locate food hubs and meet farmers by using UConn Extension’s digital farm map. Technical assistance is available to schools on how to run a taste test in the cafeteria. The Tray program’s ever-popular posters, stickers, student activity books are available to school districts as well. With new funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, the Tray program is now planning meet-up events between farmers and school food buyers starting in 2023.
Along with Narragansett artist, farmer and educator, Dawn M. Spears, Put Local On Your Tray is pleased to announce a new campaign series called, “From This Land: Honoring Native Foods“. The first installment of the series looks at native foods of winter, including maple syrup! You can find more information about artist Dawn M. Spears, Tray’s goal with the campaign, and many resources for educators including online readings, maps, recipes, and downloadable handouts (original materials created by UConn Extension’s Put Local On Your Tray and Dawn M. Spears).
An organized partnership between Put Local on Your Tray, Connecticut Department of Agriculture, UConn Extension, and Connecticut Farm To School Collaborative is excited to offer “Bringing the Farm to the School”a producer trainingfor CT Farmersto navigate the opportunities and challenges of selling into public K-12 schools!
Did you know that Districts across the state are poised to receive federal dollars that can only be spent specifically on fresh and minimally processed local product! This creates an amazing opportunity for farmers across the state to get started in farm to school and scale up to meet this opportunity.
This free, day-long workshop will bring together farmers and public-school food service directors to learn, connect and share best practices, success stories and frustrations.
October is National Farm to School Month and Put Local On Your Tray has apple and pear activity worksheets to share! These worksheets include a coloring page, apple fun facts, a maze, and a delicious apple-themed recipe from New England Dairy. The worksheets are in English and Spanish. These can be distributed and shared with teachers, with school lunches and special classes.
Hi! My name is Alyssa Benoit and I am interning with Sustainable Food Systems Educator Jiff Martin through UConn CAHNR Extension. I am a rising senior at UConn majoring in Allied Health Sciences, and in the Fast-Track program for a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) through the Department of Public Policy. I help with communications on the initiatives Heart CT Grown, Put Local on Your Tray, Taste of Mansfield, and a project for Northeastern CT direct-to-consumer farm sales. In my free time, I enjoy trail running, rock climbing, and gardening!
Molly Basak-Smith of our UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) walks through how to make a strawberry kale smoothie as part of our Slurpie challenge with the Put Local On Your Tray program. Make your own smoothie at home and join us in the Great Smoothie Slurp!
There are amazing stories from across Connecticut about the efforts being made to feed our communities.
Responding to COVID-19 requires generosity and ingenuity.
We recognize, more than ever, it is clear the roles schools play and the necessity of school meal programs to connect and serve healthy and local food with our communities.
Put local on Your Tray is teaming up with Northeast farm-to-school folks to collect stories and photos of how #CommunitiesFeedKids in this pandemic.
Our goal is to spread gratitude and inspiration for the hard work school nutrition professionals are doing to feed kids during the Covid-19 crisis, lifting up school meals and how critically important they are so we build toward a changed, more resilient system in the future.
We invite you to share the story of your community feeding kids in response to COVID-19! #CommunitiesFeedKids