Department of Agriculture
Supporting Arkansas farmers and ranchers while ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of Arkansas, the nation, and across the globe
Schools, early childhood education facilities, and alternative learning environments have the opportunity to serve local foods to students as part of their farm to school program. Local foods can be served in the classroom, cafeteria, or other locations depending on the structure of the learning environment. Check out our Test Guide for helpful tips and tricks to host successful taste tests that students will enjoy. The Arkansas Legislature defines local food as food products that are grown in Arkansas and/or packaged and processed in Arkansas. This definition comes from the Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Act and the Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program.
The Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program manages the Arkansas Taste Test Grant Program for schools. The program offers grant funding to support for schools to host taste tests of Arkansas grown specialty crops. In addition, the Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program offers the Harvest of the Season promotional program, a free educational campaign that includes materials for schools to feature Arkansas grown products in their cafeterias. The two programs were created to support public and private K-12 schools, early childhood education facilities, and alternative learning environments in their local procurement activities.
For schools interested in purchasing local but not sure how to start, check out the child nutrition flowchart below that walks you through the first steps. On the other hand, if you are a farmer wanting to sell to schools, use the farmer flowchart as a guide for getting started. To find local food and farmers, search on the Arkansas Grown and Arkansas Made website. Taste tests are a great way to introduce local foods and fresh produce to your school. check out our Test Guide for helpful tips and tricks to host successful taste tests that students will enjoy! For additional help and support in local procurement, you may contact Lindsey Cartwright, State Local Procurement Manager at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, firstname.lastname@example.org, (501) 442-5710.
Hosting Taste Tests in Schools
This webinar will dig into how to host taste tests with your students! Shannon Newerth-Henson, State Local Procurement Manager on the Farm to School Team at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture facilitates a conversation with Stephanie Bolin, a FoodCorps Service Member. Stephanie shares her experience hosting taste tests at Linda Childers Knapp Elementary and J.O. Kelly Middle School and how students have been positively impacted by them!
Farm to School Connection
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture and University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service hosted a virtual event on March 18, 2021 to offer an opportunity for schools and farmers to connect to create more opportunities for local food in schools. The agenda for the event included brief opening remarks from the hosts, followed by local procurement experiences from Child Nutrition Director Ally Mrachek and Farmer Randy Arnold. Then attendees went into regional breakout rooms to network and build local connections. The event ended with next steps and state specific resources designed to help continue the conversation.
In this Arkansas Farm to School Network Conversation from November 2020, Ally Mrachek with Fayetteville Public Schools shares their farm to school story and how their program, FPS Seed to Student, has continued to purchase more and more local food.
Farmers Selling to Schools
In this Arkansas Farm to School Network Conversation from December 2020, Ekko Barnhill with Barnhill Orchards and Sean Pessarra with Heifer Ranch share about how they connect with schools to supply the cafeteria with locally grown products.
Producing for Farm to School
The Farm to School movement is growing here in Arkansas. In this presentation, Sarah Lane, Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, gives a brief overview of the Farm to School program and how farmers, producers, and makers in the state can begin the process of selling to schools. She reviews the bidding and procurement process, the various purchasing levels, tips and best practices for making your sales pitch and how to connect with school staff, & resources and contact information for taking next steps and keeping in touch.