NCAT Midwest contributes to new national “farm to school” training tools

Students in Des Moines Public Schools learn about growing apples and try their hand at cidermaking when FoodCorps Iowa brings a farmer to school.
Students in Des Moines Public Schools learn about growing apples and try their hand at cidermaking when FoodCorps Iowa brings a farmer to school.

As Iowa schools seek to become healthier places for students to learn, they are gaining support from home-grown farm to school educators and advocates.

Schools looking for practical tools to ramp up nutrition education and enliven curriculum with real-life lessons are in luck. New peer-leader training materials being launched this week by the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) provide practical ideas and resources for farmers, educators and child nutrition directors.  Topics include best practices for experiential education, teaching culinary skills for local foods and selling farm products to schools.

The new Peer Leader Training resources include materials developed in Iowa. A Farm to School 101: Getting Started template and webinar was created by Jacque Bilyeu-Holmes, a local food program specialist at the University of Northern Iowa, along with other farm to school educators from around the country. Bilyeu-Holmes will participate in the national program debut during a NFSN “Lunch Bites” 20-minute free webinar, Tuesday, March 11, at Noon Central Time.

Each template consists of a customizable slide deck, speaker notes, handouts and an evaluation form. Anyone can use these tools to learn more about farm to school and start or enhance programs in their own community. All the resources are available as free downloads. The Farm to School 101 webinar can be accessed at

“Jacque’s Farm to School 101 template and the other resources add up to a great ‘short course’ for school and community leaders considering how to support curriculum goals while making our schools healthier learning environments and supporting the local farm economy,” according to Ann Y. Robinson, Midwest Regional Director for the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) in Des Moines. NCAT’s Iowa office serves as the Midwestern lead agency for the National Farm to School Network and helped plan and fund the educator training materials. Other support for the farm to school training resources came from the NFSN and Newman’s Own Foundation.

Bilyeu-Holmes participates in the NFSN Peer Leadership Network, a group of 18 experienced farm to school educators convened by NFSN. She is the farm to school coordinator in the UNI’s Health, Physical Education and Leisure Services Department  (HPELS), and is the former program manager for the Grassroots Café at Malcolm Price Laboratory School, an innovative program that fused the cafeteria, garden, classroom and farm.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), established in 1976, is a national nonprofit that champions small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources.  Learn more about NCAT’s sustainable agriculture and sustainable energy programs on the pages of this website.

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