Register a Team for the 2023 Farm to School Cook-off!

(Pictured: Caleb Pratt & Gina Bailey from Team Son-Day, competing in last year’s Westbrook Regional Cook-off)

Registration is open for the annual Maine Department of Education, Child Nutrition Farm to School Cook-off! The event will be held in the Spring of 2023. The cook-off is a statewide culinary competition for teams of school nutrition professionals and students to promote local foods in school meals. This voluntary competition is made available to all school districts in Maine.

The cook-off involves three regional competitions that take place in locations across the state and a final competition in the Child Nutrition Culinary Classroom, where the top teams compete to determine the Farm to School Cook-off Champion. Each team, consisting of one student and one school nutrition employee, is tasked to prepare a breakfast and lunch meal using specific recipe guidelines and time restrictions and will present to a panel of judges.

At least three local ingredients and one USDA food must be used in each meal. Local oats and local carrots will be used as “challenge” ingredients in the competition this year. All recipes will later be shared in a Maine farm-to-school cookbook to be used in future school meal programs. To view the 2022 Cookbook and prior years please visit the Maine Child Nutrition website.

TIMELINE AT A GLANCE

  • January 13, 2022 – Team Registration Due (click here for registration link)
  • Date TBD- Mandatory Team Meeting
  • February 17, 2023 – Recipes Due to Child Nutrition State Office
  • March 27- April 7, 2023- Regional competitions take place (location TBD)
  • April 7, 2023 – Finalists Announced
  • April 25, 2023 – Cook-Off Finals at the Child Nutrition DOE Culinary Classroom!

Interested school districts can find more information and the link to register on the Maine Child Nutrition website. The registration deadline is January 13, 2023. For more information on Maine’s Farm and Sea to School program, visit https://www.maine.gov/doe/farmtoschool.

For questions about the Farm-to-School Cook-off, contact Maine DOE Child Nutrition Supervisor, Stephanie Stambach at stephanie.stambach@maine.gov.

2022 Cook-off Champions- McMahon Tigers Alain Lemesse & Alicia Smith
2022 Cook-off Champions- McMahon Tigers, Alain Lemesse & Alicia Smith

Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team Hosts 45 School Food Service Directors for Annual Fall Info Meeting

On Tuesday, October 18th, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) Child Nutrition Team staff were thrilled to be joined by 45 Food Service Directors from schools across Maine, for the first time in over two years, for the SY23 Fall Info Meeting.

Discussions centered around additional funding sources for nutrition programs, best practices for the Federal nutrition programs such as the After School Snack Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Breakfast After the Bell, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) At-Risk, and the Farm and Sea to School program.

To break up the day, Representatives from C. Caprara and Hatch Jennings gave an equipment demonstration of Delfield Shelley Serving Lines equipment.

The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health: Calling Maine’s Anti-Hunger Advocates

Join other educators and advocates to learn about the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and review federally recognized innovations & data-driven solutions.  Then, join with local multidisciplinary teams to collaborate on opportunities specific to your region and make a commitment to eliminating disparities.

Date: September 28, 2022
Time: 3:30pm
Facilitator: Rebekah Sousa

Outcomes:

  • You will be able to define food security
  • You will consider the 5 Pillars of the conference and apply them to the State of Maine, Counties, and/or Local Communities.
  • You will have models for strengthening food security within communities
  • You will network with like-minded individuals across sectors and specialties to create more holistic and thoughtful approaches for the specific challenges in Maine.

Audience: School staff, administration, and school stakeholders

Register here.

For further questions, reach out to Rebekah Sousa at Rebekah.Sousa@maine.gov.

Bridging the Gap Between Rural Farms and School Nutrition: Maine Kicks Off First Farm and Sea to School Institute

The Maine Department of Education served alongside many state-wide partners in organizing Maine’s first Farm and Sea to School Institute which launched last month bringing together teams from 3 different school districts at the Ecology School in Saco.

The event is the kick-off of a year-long opportunity in which the 3 districts will develop a values-based, school-wide farm & sea to school action plan that integrates curriculum, local food sourcing, youth voice, equity and inclusion, and family and community connections, all unique to their school community. The 3 districts participating in the first institute are MSAD 17 (Oxford Hills), RSU 22 (Hampden), and RSU 89 (Katahdin). They applied for the opportunity in January 2022.

The institute was hosted as a collaborative effort among farm to school practitioners, advocates, and supporters throughout Maine who are all part of Maine’s Farm and Sea to School Network (MFSN).

The 3 teams are comprised of school nutrition staff, educators, and students who will be working to co-develop and implement agriculture, gardening, and/or nutrition related programming at their school. The student members on each team are UMaine college mentors trained in youth leadership via 4H STEM Ambassador Program – this component of the Institute is to both incorporate student voice and provide an extended learning opportunity for Maine students.

The 3-day kick-off event was a chance for the teams to come together for the first time and start planning, have the opportunity to meet the other teams, and begin work with state-wide partners and coaches. They participated in a wide array of activities including learning about planting specific crops that are easy to grow without maintenance. Given that schools are typically out of session during prime garden-growing season, this option allows for a “set it and forget it” style of growing vegetables.

Richard Hodges from ReTreeUS, a nonprofit that plants orchards and provides education and resources to schools specifically, showcases seed packets with pumpkin, Mexican sunflower, and popping corn seeds, among others, which he explained will help school staff grow enough food to be used in school cafeterias without a lot of maintenance. Hodges also showed participants how to plant a peach tree during his workshop and tour of the gardens.

Other workshops included learning about Incorporating Local Agriculture into Classroom Curricula, Building Sustainability through the district budget, finding local foods, how to promote school efforts, food security, and an institute-wide workshop with Racial Equity & Justice Organization, among many other workshops. The three-day event also provided lodging, locally sourced meals, and plenty of team time for participants to engage in conversation and work together to begin their action plans, all while enjoying the serene Ecology School campus.

Following the kick-off event, the districts teams will continue to engage in workshops designed around school specific roles throughout the year and continue work with an experienced coach from the Maine Farm to School Network to develop their school-wide farm & sea to school action plan.

Funded by a USDA Service-Learning Grant, the MFSN group is working to secure funding for future Institutes. Read more about it here. Pending more funding, the Farm and Sea to School Institute expects to open applications for year-two of the institute in January 2023. Read more about the application and selection process here.

WEBINAR: The Role of School Nutrition Directors in School Safety Efforts

The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Safe and Supportive Schools and its Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center will host a Webinar on Tuesday, September 13, 2022, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET. This Webinar will highlight the role of school nutrition directors in school safety, security, emergency management, and preparedness activities, including emergency operations plan (EOP) development.

The objectives of this 60-minute Webinar are to

  • Demonstrate the importance of a collaborative planning team, as outlined in Step 1 of the six-step planning process detailed in the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans.
  • Discuss the role that school nutrition directors play in implementing the National Preparedness System mission areas before, during, and after an emergency.
  • Reinforce how school nutrition directors can enhance EOP development and serve as key stewards in the efforts around food contamination outbreaks, continuity of operations, recovery, and more.
  • Share relevant resources to be used by school nutrition directors and core planning teams.

Register on the REMS TA Center Website to participate in the Webinar!

Presenters:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service
    • Charlsia Fortner, Chief, Food Safety Branch
    • Brian McCall, Director, Office of Emergency Management
  • REMS TA Center
    • Alison Curtis, Director of Information and Product Management

Web Chat

Immediately following the Webinar, you are invited to participate in a Twitter Chat where presenters will continue to answer your questions. No Twitter account is necessary to view questions, only to pose questions and engage in tweets. Follow @remstacenter and tune in at 1:00 p.m. ET on September 13.

Questions

Contact the REMS TA Center Help Desk at 1-855-781-REMS [7367] or info@remstacenter.org from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. Can’t make the live event? This Webinar will be archived on the REMS TA Center’s Website within 7 business days.