Frequently Asked Questions
What is Farm to School?
Farm to School is not just a local trend. Beginning in the late 1990’s, Farm to School is a national movement comprised of 42.8 million children from 67,300 schools in 46 states. The movement began when a handful of schools across the country responded to the rising levels of processed food in cafeterias. In 2021, Farm to School efforts across the U.S. yielded $1.26 billion in locally grown food going back into schools. While Farm to School may look different in every community, it always includes one or more of the following three elements: education, school gardens and local food procurement.
Tell me more about Park County
Covering an approximate 2,800 square miles, Park County is located in the state of Montana and is situated at the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The population as of the 2022 census is 16,000 people with approximately 8,000 residing in the city of Livingston, our county seat, otherwise known as the windy city of Montana.
Why is Farm to School needed in Park County?
According to the 2015 and 2019 USDA Food Access Research Atlas, Park County classifies as a low-income and low-access (½ to 10 miles) region, indicating significant negative impacts on the health, well-being and economic vitality of Park County residents. It is not uncommon for residents of Park County to travel upward of 50 or 100 miles to connect with healthy and fresh foods.
How is “farm to school” so successful in a state that is primarily known for ranching?
It’s true that Montana is widely known as a state of beef ranching and a few wheat farms, rather than a state that produces lush vegetation and fruits. Even so, it is quite possible to source a significant amount of vegetables seasonally from within the state and from our “local” neighbors of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. For example, Park County residents seasonally source many healthy vegetables from Park County family farms and other food producers, while beef and pork are available for sourcing from local Park County ranchers. Farm to School of Park County prioritizes the use of locally-produced foods in area schools and encourages the production of more local food to fill these markets. In addition, we have raised and harvested our own trout and vegetables from school gardens and greenhouses through our “Trout to Tray” and garden-to-cafeteria programs. Even in the fall and winter, when locally-grown fresh vegetables are scarce or nonexistent, we continue to assist school food services in obtaining fresh, healthy ingredients to use in school meal recipes. Our policy is to ensure that students consume healthy and nutritional food even when fresh, local food is not available.
How does Farm to School of Park County work with other Farm to School groups in Montana?
We contribute to and are part of a national, regional and statewide Farm to School network. We offer guidance, training and cooperation on all areas of mission-aligned programs and projects that help to further the collective goals of Farm to School.
Who are the “Farmers”?
Instead of Mr/Mrs/Ms, students refer to our staff as “Farmer Megan” or “Farmer Jones.” Even though they’re not technically farmers, this title sets our educators apart from regular classroom teachers in a fun and memorable way for students.
What is the history behind the “four pillars”?
While Farm to School implementation differs by location, it always includes one or more of the following three elements: education, school gardens and local food procurement. Farm to School of Park County refers to these as our foundational pillars, otherwise known as “Teach, Grow, Eat,” with “Repeat” serving as the fourth pillar that encompasses activities related to organizational development and sustainable growth.
Can I make a donation by mail?
Yes! Checks can be made out to Farm to School of Park County and sent to our mailing address:
Farm to School of Park County
PO Box 395
Livingston, MT 59047
Are donations tax deductible?
Yes. We are a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Our federal tax ID (EIN) is 84-3389625.
Will I receive a tax receipt for my donation?
Yes. All donations for $250 or more will receive a tax receipt. If a contribution is made through the Give a Hoot program, tax receipts will be provided by the Livingston Community Foundation.
Can I make a donation to the Healthy Food Fund?
Yes. We encourage you to contact us directly to discuss making a direct contribution.
Can I make a matching contribution?
Absolutely. Contact us and we can help set up your matching donation.
How can I edit or amend my contribution to the Plowshare Fund?
Contact our office at our email here or give us a call at +1 406-219-8586.
Who can I talk to about donating space for a Farm to School garden?
You can reach out using our contact form or send us an email. You can also give us a call at +1 406-219-8586 or just stop by our office in downtown Livingston and say hello!
Who can I talk to about other ways to make a contribution, such as land or in-kind donations?
Please email our Executive Director Rachael Jones. .
Where can I find information on the latest programs and events?
Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest updates on programs and events!
How can I register for programs?
In Livingston, Arrowhead and Gardiner, public school students receive automatic access to Farm to School programs. No registration is required for Lunch in the Park – just visit the map to find a site near you! Contact us to learn more about other year round opportunities designed for children and community members of all ages and abilities.
How can I register my child for Lunch in the Park?
How can I apply for a community garden plot?
My child is homeschooled. How can they benefit from Farm to School programs?
While we work directly with school districts, we make every effort to provide all Park County families and children with opportunities to enjoy healthy, local foods. We encourage you to participate through our recipe book, Lunch in the Park program, Lincoln School Community Garden and public events.
How do I start Farm to School in my community?
Farm to school is not a one-size-fits all program. It differs by location but always includes one or more of the following core elements: school gardens, local food procurement and education. We recommend connecting with and viewing available resources from the National Farm to School Network and USDA Office of Community Food Systems. Our team is always here to help if needed!
Can I bring my child with me if I’m a volunteer?
The answer is almost always yes. Most if not all of our volunteer opportunities are family-friendly, but please check with our staff when signing up.
Do internships offer school credit?
Interns can be compensated in a variety of ways including but not limited to school credit, monetary compensation and apprenticeship training hours, depending on needs and the details of their internship. Contact us to discuss and explore options.
How can we invite Farm to School staff to speak at our event?
Please complete our contact us form and tell us a bit more about your event or speaking opportunity including dates or speaker requests. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible with our availability and speaker fee.
Is Farm to School of Park County available to participate in our event?
We are a small team and while we’d love to support every school and organizational event, we have limited capacity to physically participate in each one. If you are a school or district hosting a school food event, you are welcome to contact us with the details of how you’d like us to be involved, and we will help in any way that we can.
How can our business or organization partner with Farm to School of Park County?
Thank you for your interest in teaming up with us! We partner with businesses, foundations, organizations and individuals with a focus on building healthy and equitable community food systems. Fill out our contact form to get started.
How can I support your work?
There are a number of ways you can support us, from monthly donations and business sponsorships to signing up as a volunteer. We encourage everyone to share the news of Farm to School with friends, family, colleagues, state officials, school administrators and food service staff through social media, community meetings and letters to stakeholders. Learn more about ways to give and how to get involved.
SCHOOLS AND MEALS
What is a food producer?
Food producers are farmers, ranchers and food businesses that we work with to help connect schools to healthy food.
What is a School Food Service Director?
Formerly known as “lunch ladies,” the Food Service Director ensures the smooth and efficient operation of the school cafeteria and is responsible for the production of nutritious, tasty meals for both students and staff while meeting all governmental and district regulations. They also work to ensure the school district maximizes its resources while minimizing production and procurement costs. Learn more.
What is the relationship between Farm to School and Park County school districts?
While Farm to School of Park County was first established as part of the Livingston Public School District, we now operate as an independent 501(c)3 organization. Farm to School crafts formal, interagency agreements with public schools and works closely with school nutrition professionals, teachers and administrators to design and implement its programs.
What is the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and why do school meals matter?
The National School Lunch Program – the nation’s second largest food and nutrition assistance program behind SNAP – makes it possible for all school children in the United States to receive a nutritious lunch every school day. Approximately 95 percent of all schools participate in the program, providing meals to more than 30 million children on an average day. A wide body of research supports the health and educational benefits of participating in NSLP, including reductions in food insecurity, obesity rates and poor health. Learn more.
How do you know that Farm to School works to shape lifelong food preferences and has the ability to transform food systems?
Communities first started using local foods in school meals, planting edible school gardens and teaching students about where their food comes from as far back as the early 1990’s. Today, these activities, in addition to many others, are increasingly prevalent across the country. Research has found that the combination of high quality nutrition education combined with a healthy school food environment leads to higher success in changing eating behavior. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the urgency of moving toward a more resilient local food supply. Strengthening local and regional food systems helps to address the root causes of food insecurity by improving local economies, farmers’ take-home share, career opportunities around scratch cooking in schools and more. Farm to School makes local food possible for schools and thriving economies possible for communities.
What is your definition of “scratch cooking”?
Scratch cooking is real food with real ingredients. While there are many definitions of scratch cooking, we follow in the footsteps of the Chef Ann Foundation, whereby school districts cook their own meals and incorporate whole, fresh ingredients rather than pre-assembled or processed meals and meal components. Scratch cooking prioritizes the incorporation of raw proteins, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables that lead to nutritious and delicious meals for students. Research has shown scratch cooking to have incredible benefits such as increased meal participation, improved student attendance, and decreased risk of diabetes.
Which local foods do you primarily focus on?
We loosely follow the Montana State University Harvest of the Month Program, while also growing crops that thrive in the rocky mountains and have a proven track record in the school cafeteria. This includes kale, winter squash, lentils, carrots, tomatoes, beets, peppers, grains, chickpeas and leafy greens. We also grow a fun selection of native and specialty crops in small batches that children are sure to fall in love with growing and eating. These include berries, cherries, apples, radishes, and microgreens. Other key ingredients, particularly fish, chicken and beef, are procured through our food producer partners from across the state of Montana.
How often is food grown and/or procured by Farm to School served in schools?
While the Montana growing season is short, the food grown in our Farm to School gardens is served in schools about ten months out of the year. What we cannot use during the growing season, we preserve and vacuum seal for use later during the school year.
What’s your trick to getting kids to try new foods?
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a child might be offered a new food up to 10-16 times before they will eat it. With that said, we believe that tasting, tasting, and more tasting is the best method to overcome their reluctance! From connecting to real, fresh, raw produce to participation in menu tastings, recipe development and naming, there are a range of ways to engage children in trying and buying into new foods.
What is “Tried it, liked it, loved it”?
Research shows that children need many opportunities to try new foods before they will claim to “like” them. That’s why we are always working with school food service directors (aka “lunch ladies”) to find new kid-approved recipes to add to school meal menus. Monthly cafeteria taste tests introduce new recipes and ingredients in a way that raises awareness about healthy food choices, involves the school community, and builds a culture of trying new foods. In addition, taste tests help reduce food waste during school meals by providing opportunities for students to learn and taste foods before seeing them in the lunch line. Children love giving their vote and having a say in decisions. Once a student tries a sample, they can vote in one of three ways: “Tried it,” (no, thank you), “Liked it” (needs improvement), “Loved it” (more, please!). It’s important to note that each of the voting options are intentionally positive and commend children for trying new foods. Consider voting at home to gauge a recipe’s success and identify your own family favorites!
What is an “Adventure Bite”?
When a child seems particularly hesitant to try a new food, we encourage them to take an “adventure bite.” In other words, by testing out new foods, children open themselves up to a new adventure. This is just one important step along the winding path of children learning to try, like and love an abundance of new, healthy foods. Even the most reluctant eaters will taste an “adventure bite” so they get to vote on a potential new school menu item!
How can I access the Farm to School recipes to use at home?
We recommend downloading our kid-approved Farm to School cookbook to get started. If your child is asking about a specific recipe, or the paper copy they brought home is splattered with squash, don’t hesitate to give us a shout.