Farm to School CC and Partners Celebrate Increase in Local Produce Purchased by Local Schools
Updated: Feb 7, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 20, 2022
This program of Slow Money San Luis Obispo connects local farmers to school districts to increase student access to fresh, local produce and boost the local agricultural economy.
San Luis Obispo, CA – January 20, 2022 – The Farm to School Central Coast program expanded its reach in 2021 to four additional SLO County school districts. This enabled more small farmers to benefit from the larger volume sales these institutions handle. This expansion is in addition to San Luis Coastal Unified School District, which has steadily increased its local purchasing for the past five years.
The Farm to School Central Coast program tracked a 900% increase in dollars paid to participating Farm to School fruit and vegetable farmers when comparing the 2019-2020 school year to the 2020-2021 school year. Currently, the program includes fourteen SLO County farms which increased the amount of local produce served to students in the 2020-2021 school year by 600%. The result of these investments is that SLO County students are able to enjoy access to fresh, local produce at school while supporting our local small farm economy.
The Farm to School program expanded in November 2020 after Slow Money SLO received funding through a partnership with SLO Food Bank, which was awarded a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Specialty Crop Block Grant. With the support of this grant funding, students have learned more about and tasted locally grown finger limes, strawberries, bok choi, kale, watermelon and more in their school cafeterias. “The students absolutely loved the heirloom watermelon. They filled their plates. I don’t think many of these students get the chance to eat amazing local produce and it is just so cool to see them experience it,” said Lauren Thomas, Food and Nutrition Services Director at San Miguel School District.
As part of its mission, Slow Money SLO supports small and medium sized local farms through promotion and advertising, and through connecting farms to institutional buyers. Farmers who want to sell produce in larger volumes to local buyers often find making these initial connections challenging, but with the support and infrastructure developed by this program, they have discovered that schools are a good fit. “The schools were the only buyer that could take 1,000 pounds of melon (per delivery),” explained Farm to School participant RobinSong Farm of Templeton.
To continue this work towards a more sustainable and equitable local food system, Slow Money SLO, with support from the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), will invite farmers and school districts to participate in a Farm to School Mixer outdoors at Farm Supply SLO on February 3, 2022. The small private event will focus on relationship building, commerce connections, and celebrating the accomplishments of Farm to School participants. Farmers who would like to attend should contact Claire Tuohey-Mote at email@example.com.
Note: Funding for Slow Money SLO’s work in the project ‘Increasing Specialty Crop Access and Education in Underserved Communities and Schools’ was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM200100XXXXG032. The project’s contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.
About Slow Money SLO: Slow Money SLO supports the sustainable growth of small food, beverage and farm businesses through coaching for business development, promotional events, and facilitating local loans for those not yet qualified to receive traditional lending.
Additionally, Slow Money SLO runs the Farm to School Central Coast program to support the growth of small farms. The components of the program are a Google communication group to link local small farmers, a scholarship fund for farmer educational support, and coordinating an increase of farm fresh food in school food programs by connecting local farmers to school district buyers.
Slow Money is a national movement and the local non-profit entity, Slow Money SLO, was formed in 2012 to bring the principles and benefits of this movement to San Luis Obispo County. For more information visit www.slowmoneyslo.org.
About the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County: The SLO Food Bank is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, serving all of San Luis Obispo County through its direct food programs and network of nonprofit agency partners. The SLO Food Bank’s mission is to alleviate hunger in San Luis Obispo County and build a healthier community. In 2020, the SLO Food Bank distributed over 5 million pounds of food to help our neighbors struggling with hunger. Prior to the pandemic, one in six SLO County residents was food insecure. Since the pandemic, hunger in SLO County has more than doubled, and the SLO Food Bank remains in front of this accelerating and tragic reality. To learn more about the work done by the SLO Food Bank throughout San Luis Obispo County, please visit www.slofoodbank.org.