stories from the field

Exciting & impactful farm to school activities are happening all across Rhode Island!

Learn more & be inspired by these local success stories.

Submit a story about your farm to school happening so we can share it with others. It can be a locally-sourced cafeteria menu item or event, a successful farm-school distribution model, a school growing activity, garden or farm field trip, or a classroom lesson incorporating food & agriculture themes to name a few examples. But there are endless more and we’d love to know about yours!

SMITHFIELD’S FARM TO SCHOOL JOURNEY  By: Sara Monaco, Assistant Superintendent, Smithfield


The RI Healthy Schools Coalition’s Breakfast for School Wellness Leaders 2023 was a terrific opportunity for Smithfield to share our Farm to School journey with school and community colleagues from across the state. Our efforts to serve and promote more local foods in our school meals, provide students with experiential food literacy activities, and offer fun and educational family programming has been so successful.


It all started with a US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) grant in 2020 and we’re still going strong with more local partnerships and engaged staff and volunteers.


Learn more about our journey, how you can get started, and a few lessons learned by viewing a recording of the RIHSC Breakfast presentation and slides.

IT ALL STARTED WITH COMPOST…  By: Julie Texeira, Garden Coordinator, Barrington Middle School


During the 2021-22 school year, the 6th graders ate lunch in their classrooms for the majority of the year. When I saw the amount of food wasted each day, a plan was put in place to start composting. We now have a partnership with Barrington Farm School and continue to strengthen our schoolwide compost program. That was just the beginning.


Why not put this compost to use and create a garden right at our own school? Thanks to the Barrington Education Foundation, we received a grant. Students helped with every phase from laying landscape fabric, to hammering fence stakes, to spreading mulch and soil, to planting the first crops, most of which were started indoors by students in our south-facing windows. All of the neighbors comment on how lush all the plants are; the secret…every raised bed is filled with 50% compost from our very own lunch scraps. The system came full circle.


Usually the biggest challenge for a school garden is maintaining it over the summer. We were so fortunate to have a summer school class that managed the garden during the week. Not only did they water, weed, and harvest each week, but they sold the produce to the very eager summer school staff and donated the proceeds back to the garden committee for the coming year. On the weekends, a senior at Barrington High School and a small but loyal group of parent and student volunteers kept seed data, watered, planted fall crops, staked peas, and much more.


We couldn’t have asked for a more successful inaugural season! Students will continue to engage with the garden through fall plantings, science experiments and health classes, and construction of permanent fencing and signage. The off-season will be filled with reflection – what blight is killing the green peppers? – education, planning for the spring, seeking better ways to collect rainwater, and starting those seeds.


Gardening is a true labor of love, and it is so rewarding to share it with the Barrington learning community.

SODEXO ALL RI LOCAL DAY  By: Kelly DeAngelis, Student Engagement Manager, Sodexo Providence

 

Students in Providence Public Schools enjoyed an “All Rhode Island Local Day” lunch on Tuesday, September 20, 2022! Sodexo School Services is proud to highlight our many local suppliers, farmers, and vendors with a statewide celebration of our Farm to School program. Working with supplier Roch’s Fresh Foods in West Greenwich, Sodexo brought students the flavors of many Rhode Island farms and food producers. Menu items included:


Catanzaro’s Tomato Sauce (Pawtucket)
Wood Grilled Pizza Shells from Top Shell (Central Falls)
Fresh Mozzarella from Narragansett Creamery (Providence)
Hot Dogs from Little Rhody (Johnston)
Rolls from Calise Bakery (Lincoln)
Willow Tree Chicken from Warwick Poultry (Providence)
White Milk from Winsor Dairy (Johnston)
Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing from D.E. Vine Foods, Rachal’s Table (Greenville)


All of the fresh produce served, including lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini was sourced from local farms: Confreda Farms (Cranston), Barden Orchard (North Scituate), Gotham Greens (Providence), Quonset View Farm (Portsmouth).


Thanks to Farm Fresh RI for the local farmer promotional posters! Our paper comes from Maral Sales & Paper Co. (Cranston), and special thanks to Ideal Printing (Warwick).

GROWING MORE THAN VEGETABLES AT THE AgINNOVATION FARM  By: Sara Churgin, District Manager,

Eastern RI Conservation District

 

An exciting project has sprouted up in Portsmouth. The Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm is a student-driven, community farm where kids learn about sustainable agriculture with hands-on problem-solving experiences. This program is in partnership with Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District and Portsmouth Middle School.


Everything about the farm is centered around creativity and agriculture. “Kids these days are so disconnected from where food is grown. To them, food comes from the fridge,” said Margie Brennan, Portsmouth School District’s science coach and co-coordinator for the project.

The project got off the ground when twenty-five students signed up for the school’s first virtual club with Brennan, and started with a parcel of land a half mile from Portsmouth Middle School. Through student-led discussions, they researched and planned what is now the actual farm layout. The farm now includes a pollinator path, community farm plots, chickens, irrigation, classroom, high tunnel, and much more.

Brennan said, “In Summer 2021 we harvested so many vegetables (in between weeding) that we provided a lot of food to both St. John’s Food Bank and St. Lucy’s. I was at St. John’s dropping food off at least a dozen times. This is something that the kids are really proud of and such a great way to give back to the community. We think Summer 2022 will be even more bountiful.”

APPLE CRUNCH!  By: Solange Morrissette, District Manager, Chartwells


Each year Chartwells celebrates Farm to School month with a crunch! In October of 2022 we celebrated at Lincoln High School with our annual Apple Crunch event but went beyond the low-hanging fruit! Some might think we were out of our tree when we offered an entrée at every station ( including pizza) that featured apples from Steere Farm in Smithfield. All of the meals were accompanied by apple based salads, breads and apple cider from Jaswell’s Farm in Smithfield.

We invited Juli Stelmaszyk from Commerce RI to read a proclamation from the Governor declaring October RI F2S month! Our “orchard” of friends from Farm Fresh RI, Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition and Shri joined us, sharing valuable nutrition education with the students! At the end of the reading, all students were given a local apple and we yelled 1 2 3 CRUNCH, at which point everyone took a big healthy juicy bite of local apple!

BATTLING FOOD WASTE  By: Gina Armstrong, Principal, Rhodes Elementary in Cranston

 

In fall 2021, fifth grade students at Edward S. Rhodes Elementary School in Cranston, along with their classroom teachers, Mrs. Weber and Mrs. Pearson, started keeping track of the shocking amount of milk, fruit, yogurt, cereal, cereal bars and cheese sticks being thrown away in the cafeteria at breakfast. Close to 300 cartons of milk, 100 cartons of juice and 100 pieces of fruit were going in the garbage each week! 

Around this same time, Jim Corwin of the RI Schools Recycling Club approached our school with an opportunity to participate in his grant-funded food waste program. He trained staff and interested fifth grade students on reducing food waste, making students “Cafeteria Rangers” and giving them titles such as Green Leader, Landfill Captain, Recycling Captain, Compost Captain and Liquid Captain, to lead our new daily cafeteria protocols. Our student leaders helped other students pour out liquids and recycle their drink cartons, put their compostable trash into a bin, and store unused food in a refrigerator to be donated to a local food pantry. Within just a few weeks of starting the program, the amount of food waste at Rhodes decreased dramatically, down from 4 large garbage bags to 1! The compost will be used in the spring for the school’s garden.

We also looked at ways to avoid food waste in the first place. We joined forces with RI Healthy Schools Coalition, Farm Fresh RI and Aramark to conduct a cafeteria taste test to find a local food for the menu (in this case, yogurt-dipped local strawberries) that would be enjoyed and not wasted. The feedback from staff and students was incredibly positive, and we look forward to sampling other local foods with the students. Our students learned how to responsibly improve the environment by composting, recycling and donating extra food, and they modeled this for the younger students in the building, particularly fourth graders who will lead the program next year. And what better way to limit food waste than by finding tasty and healthy, locally sourced foods to add to our repertoire.

BATTLING FOOD WASTE  By: Gina Armstrong, Principal, Rhodes Elementary in Cranston

 

In fall 2021, fifth grade students at Edward S. Rhodes Elementary School in Cranston, along with their classroom teachers, Mrs. Weber and Mrs. Pearson, started keeping track of the shocking amount of milk, fruit, yogurt, cereal, cereal bars and cheese sticks being thrown away in the cafeteria at breakfast. Close to 300 cartons of milk, 100 cartons of juice and 100 pieces of fruit were going in the garbage each week! 

Around this same time, Jim Corwin of the RI Schools Recycling Club approached our school with an opportunity to participate in his grant-funded food waste program. He trained staff and interested fifth grade students on reducing food waste, making students “Cafeteria Rangers” and giving them titles such as Green Leader, Landfill Captain, Recycling Captain, Compost Captain and Liquid Captain, to lead our new daily cafeteria protocols. Our student leaders helped other students pour out liquids and recycle their drink cartons, put their compostable trash into a bin, and store unused food in a refrigerator to be donated to a local food pantry. Within just a few weeks of starting the program, the amount of food waste at Rhodes decreased dramatically, down from 4 large garbage bags to 1! The compost will be used in the spring for the school’s garden.

We also looked at ways to avoid food waste in the first place. We joined forces with RI Healthy Schools Coalition, Farm Fresh RI and Aramark to conduct a cafeteria taste test to find a local food for the menu (in this case, yogurt-dipped local strawberries) that would be enjoyed and not wasted. The feedback from staff and students was incredibly positive, and we look forward to sampling other local foods with the students. Our students learned how to responsibly improve the environment by composting, recycling and donating extra food, and they modeled this for the younger students in the building, particularly fourth graders who will lead the program next year. And what better way to limit food waste than by finding tasty and healthy, locally sourced foods to add to our repertoire.

FARM FRESH RI to CENTRAL FALLS  By: Caely Flynn, Innovations Teacher, Segue Institute for Learning, Central Falls


Volunteers from Farm Fresh Rhode Island joined our 7th and 8th grade students at the Segue Institute for Learning for teaching new science lessons.


For six weeks, FFRI guided our students in connecting science learning to their new school garden. Together, students grew vegetables and herbs from seedlings, learned about soil in the ocean state, how to grow a hydroponic system, and maintained their school garden!


The students ranked this experience as one of their favorites from the whole year, and are looking forward continuing this work in 2022-2023!

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