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California's Farm to Child Nutrition Programs

The California Department of Education provides technical assistance, training, and resources to support the U.S. Department of Agriculture Child Nutrition Programs to incorporate a farm to school program into their existing food service operation.


Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) are administered by the California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD) and include the School Nutrition Program (SNP), After School Program (ASP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Food Distribution Program (FDP), and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

Farm to CNP (F2CNP) involve one or more of three elements: (1) Meals and snacks include locally sourced foods (2) Nutrition and agriculture-based education is integrated into the cafeteria, classroom, garden, farm visits, or other venues (3) Students have an opportunity for hands-on learning in a garden.

F2CNP increase children’s acceptance and consumption of fresh meals and foster a life-long appreciation of where nutritious food comes from. F2CNPs strengthen communities by providing local farmers with access to new markets and opportunities to connect with CNPs through student educational programs.

Background and History

In 1997, California was one of the first states to promote F2CNPs. The CDE, in partnership with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) created the California Office of Farm to Fork (COFF) External link opens in new window or tab.. The COFF is now a statewide initiative hosted by the CDFA Office of Farm to Fork External link opens in new window or tab. and supported by staff from Community Alliance with Family Farmers External link opens in new window or tab., Life Lab External link opens in new window or tab., the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute External link opens in new window or tab., and regional leads throughout the state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages F2CNPs. On December 13, 2010, former President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) reauthorizing the CNPs. Section 243 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act amended section 18 to create a Farm to School (F2S) Program to:

  • Distribute grant funding to improve access to local foods in schools

  • Provide training and technical assistance to improve access to local foods in schools

  • Disseminate research and data on existing programs and opportunities for expansion

For information regarding USDA F2S Grants and other F2S funding sources, access the F2CNP Funding tab.

In 2016, the California-grown Fresh School Meals Grant was established by an appropriation from the General Fund to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in the amount of $2.5 million for Fiscal Year 2017–18.

The purpose of the California-grown Fresh School Meals Grants was to encourage schools participating in the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program to purchase California-grown food, and to expand the number of freshly prepared school meals that use California-grown ingredients. Awardees were able to use grant funds to purchase California-grown foods, purchase equipment necessary to provide school meals to students, provide nutrition education to students, and provide professional development for relevant food service employees regarding the implementation of fresh and healthy school meals.

Farms/Farmers' Markets

  • The California Farmer Marketplace External link opens in new window or tab.
    This California Department of Food and Agriculture website features California produce, grains, meats, and other products for sale. The Marketplace offers farmers the opportunity to post products and connect directly with school food service to increase the amount of California-grown and produced foods on school lunch trays.

  • Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Farmers' Markets External link opens in new window or tab.
    This California Department of Public Health web page provides a listing of all WIC Authorized Farmers’ Markets in California.

Funding Opportunities

The following funding opportunities may be available for your CNP!

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School (F2S) Grant Program External link opens in new window or tab.
    The USDA Community Food System’s F2S Grant web page describes the types of grants that are available each year and provides application instructions.

  • Get a Salad Bar External link opens in new window or tab.
    The Salad Bars to Schools web page provides an application for a free salad bar. The web page includes guidance for salad bars and frequently asked questions. 

  • Pilot Project for the Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables External link opens in new window or tab.
    Pilot Project for the Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables California is one of eight states approved by the USDA to participate in the Pilot Project for the Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables. The pilot allows an approved USDA Foods recipient agency to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from USDA approved vendors using entitlement dollars. The goal of the pilot is to provide additional opportunities for schools to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers while using pre-existing commercial distribution channels and school relationships with growers, produce wholesalers, and distributors. In 2017–18, 52 California SFA’s participated in this pilot. At this time, state agencies are allocated a set amount of entitlement to be used for this pilot. The limitation in funds has not allowed CDE to increase or approve new participants. The duration of this pilot is unknown at this time.

Local Control and Accountability Plan

The Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) is a school district’s three-year plan that describes the goals, actions, services, and expenditures to support positive student outcomes that address state and local priorities. Both the Calaveras Unified School District (USD) and the Pasadena USD obtained funding for F2S activities in their district’s LCAP! The following resource can help you advocate for F2S funding in your school district’s LCAP.


In-Person Workshops

  • Life Lab Workshops External link opens in new window or tab.
    Life Lab, a national leader in the garden-based learning movement, offers workshops for educators with the inspiration and information necessary to engage young people in gardens and on farms. Their workshops and
    award-winning publications are the go-to resource for educators and families interested in engaging young people in gardens. At the Life Lab Garden Classroom educational center in Santa Cruz and the Blooming Classroom garden in Watsonville, experiential learning is offered for people of all ages through field trips, children's camps, and teacher workshops.

  • Soil Born Farms External link opens in new window or tab.
    Offers a variety of in-person garden-based learning opportunities in Sacramento throughout the year.

Online Trainings

  • F2S Webinars External link opens in new window or tab.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture has over 15 webinars to assist schools with creating a F2S program. The webinars focus on planning and building a F2S team, setting goals, finding and buying local foods, school menu planning, food safety, and much more!

  • Straw Bale Gardening in Child Nutrition Programs
    This 36-minute video in the CDE Course Catalog reviews the advantages of a straw bale garden over traditional gardening techniques, provides step by step instructions for creating a straw bale garden, and discusses what to do with the straw bales after two growing seasons.


Toolkits and Guides
School Gardens
Nutrition and Agriculture-based Education —Kindergarten through Grade 12
Nutrition and Agriculture-based Education —Preschool
Recipes for Child Care
General Resources

Toolkits and Guides

Resource Description
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Farm to School (F2S) Planning Toolkit External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
The planning toolkit guides you through questions to consider and helpful resources to reference when starting or growing a F2S program. It is designed for use by schools, school districts, and community partners.
The planning guide directs you through questions to consider when starting or growing a F2S, farm to child care, or farm to summer program. This planning guide should be used as a supplemental tool to the F2S Planning Toolkit. It follows the same steps as the F2S Planning Toolkit, but in a more concise and action-oriented manner.
The guide offers step-by-step visual instructions that engage food service staff and inspire the skills and confidence to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into school meal programs. It includes recipes that focus on fundamental knife skills and two culinary techniques: roasting and braising. Recipes are scaled for tasting portions so that food service staff have an opportunity to taste the results of their efforts, understand and practice essential skills, and experience how the same techniques can be used with a variety of foods.
This guide uses video, photography, text, and interactive experiences to help educators, students, and advocates learn how food and climate systems interact and how personal choices can make a difference. Ideal for grades six through twelve and general audiences. With connections to Next Generation Science Standards and the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies themes, the guide offers activities for student research and resources for further investigation.

This free guide provides practical guidelines for making your food look delicious and inviting, including:

  • Selecting the right lighting and angle
  • Choosing the best background
  • Highlighting fresh, local ingredients
  • Avoiding common mistakes and more

School Gardens

Resource Description
The Western Growers Association’s Collective School Garden Network
Steps to a School Garden web page External link opens in new window or tab.

Includes detailed steps for creating a school garden. The steps are: (1) Why school gardens? (2) Plan and fund your garden (3) Plant an edible garden (4) Teach in the garden.

This fact sheet reviews school farms spanning acres in Minnesota, indoor tower gardens in Vermont, raised beds in New York City, aquaponics systems in the Virgin Islands, and native food gardens in tribal communities.
Team Nutrition has several resources to connect nutrition education to school and child care gardens, local farms, and farmers markets. They also offer evidenced-based curricula that educators can use to integrate garden-based nutrition education lessons into core educational subjects such as Math, English Language Arts, and Science. CNPs may request free printed copies of many of these materials.
Center for Ecoliteracy
Whole Kids Foundation
Starting with Soil External link opens in new window or tab.
This iPad application uses animation, interactivity, and sound effects to demonstrate how plants and animals cooperate to make the soil we need to grow healthy food. Kids learn that soil starts with bare rock and discover how long it takes nature to make 1 inch of topsoil. (Spoiler alert: it takes 500 years!) Designed for students ages seven through nine and their families, Starting with Soil allows users to plant seeds, build a compost pile, drag a microscope over different organisms in soil to get a better look, and view the symbiosis at work when corn, beans, and squash are planted together, as Native Americans have done for centuries.

Nutrition and Agriculture-based Education —Kindergarten through Grade 12

Resource Description
The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom provides a variety of resources to teachers, after-school coordinators, and anyone educating students in grades K-12. Resources can be downloaded or ordered at no cost.
California Department of Public Health
Harvest of the Month External link opens in new window or tab.

Harvest of the Month features ready-to-go tools and resources that can be used in diverse applications to support healthy eating and daily physical activity. These tools and resources can be used in a variety of settings.

This web page houses a database for online education and curricula to teach garden-enhanced nutrition education. There are a multitude of resources here!
University of California (UC) Davis and California Department of Education (CDE)
Nutrition to Grow On
This innovative curriculum developed by UC Davis in partnership in collaboration with the CDE and Mary Shaw Solano County Master Gardener, UC Cooperative Extension, was created for grades four through six and offers teachers a direct link between the garden and nutrition education.
CDE and Sustainable Agriculture Education
Kids Cook Farm Fresh Foods

An activity guide that links academic content standards to the real world through gardens, nutrition, cooking, recycling, and the environment.

Center for Ecoliteracy
Nourishing Students External link opens in new window or tab.

These educational resources offer enrichment activities for kindergarten through grade five with opportunities to engage young learners in exploring the bounty of California-grown fruits and vegetables in after school, out-of-school, and summer programs. Accompanying posters designed for display in kitchens, cafeterias, classrooms, and during after school programs External link opens in new window or tab. offer a colorful and educational way to promote fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy eating.

Center for Ecoliteracy
Abundant California External link opens in new window or tab.
These resources are an innovative suite of lessons designed for grades three through five that explores the phases of our food system, including growing, harvesting, seed production, processing, storing, transporting, marketing, and eating. The suite contains 10 complete lessons, including an introduction to food systems and a focus on nine popular California crops: grapes, beans, tomatoes, cabbage, oranges, winter squash, strawberries, asparagus, and radishes. The lessons connect to Next Generation Science Standards, California history and social science standards, and Common Core. They offer a variety of hands-on activities and suggestions for extended learning.

Nutrition and Agriculture-based Education —Preschool

Resource Description
This garden-themed nutrition education kit features MyPlate and introduces children to three fruits—peaches, strawberries, and cantaloupe, and three vegetables—spinach, sweet potatoes, and crookneck squash.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Farm to Childcare Curriculum Package External link opens in new window or tab.
This curriculum package includes activity ideas and resources for implementing F2P.

Recipes for Child Care

Resource Description
This cookbook features kid-approved recipes that are low in fat, sugar, and sodium, and include dark green and orange vegetables, dry beans and peas, and whole grains. (Serving size equals 6.)
This cookbook features kid-approved recipes that are low in fat, sugar, and sodium, and includes dark green and orange vegetables, dry beans and peas, and whole grains. (Serving size equals 25, 50, or 100.)

General Resources

Resource Description
This guide provides an instructional resource for California schools, from kindergarten through grade twelve, to implement effective, standards-based nutrition education programs for students.
This one minute video talks about how school meals offer a big opportunity to invest in local communities.


Food Safety

In-Person Training
Online Trainings
Food Safety on Farms

In-Person Training

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Produce Safety University web page External link opens in new window or tab. advertises Produce Safety University (PSU), the one-week training course designed to help school food service staff identify and manage food safety risks associated with fresh produce. PSU addresses produce purchased from traditional suppliers, direct from farmers, and through the Department of Defense Fresh program.

Online Trainings


Additional Training Course Databases

  • The ICN Food Safety web page External link opens in new window or tab. has a wide-range of online courses on the food safety and food allergy topics including cooling food, employee health and personal hygiene, food safety basics, food safety in child care, food safety in schools, and many more.


Resource Description
Cafeteria posters on topics such as hand washing, food contamination, food borne illness, and more. Available in English and Spanish and in a variety of sizes.
Fact sheets to help expand your knowledge about specific topics related to produce safety. Topics include storing fresh produce, conducting a mock recall of produce in SNP operation, preserving locally harvested produce in schools, handling fresh produce in classrooms, and more.
Information sheets that contain purchasing specifications, United States grades, domestic harvest months, desirable characteristics, and product and defects for many commonly eaten fruits and vegetables.
A guide for school nutrition staff working to create an environment of best practices in food safety.
University of California, Davis
Food Safety for CNPs Curriculum External link opens in new window or tab.
This curriculum provides an instructor guide for teaching food safety, participant manual, PowerPoint slides, and Food Safety Jeopardy.


Additional Resource Databases

  • USDA Food Safety web page External link opens in new window or tab. provides food safety education, instruction, and technical assistance resources to support program operators. We rely on science-based food safety research and work closely with external food safety partners to make sure that our resources are useful and reflect current knowledge.

  • CDE Food Safety web page provides information and links about food safety during food preparations and transfer, and California Uniform Retail Food Facility Law requirements.

  • ICN Food Safety web page External link opens in new window or tab. provides fact sheets, mini-posters, instructors manual, guide, assessments, and more.

Food Safety on Farms

Is purchasing produce directly from a farm safe? It all depends on the food safety practices in place at the farm. New laws will help ensure medium to large farms comply with appropriate food safety measures. Smaller farms can become certified to follow Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) by an independent auditor to provide reassurance that the produce is grown with food safety in mind. Farms that are exempt from new laws, and do not have GAP certification should be able to provide you with their food safety plan.

Food Safety Modernization Act

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011 which gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the way foods are grown, harvested, packed and processed. The Produce Safety rule External link opens in new window or tab., published in 2016, was a requirement of the FSMA and established, for the first time, science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.

The Produce Safety rule does not cover:

  • Produce grown for personal or on-farm consumption

  • Produce that is not a raw agricultural commodity

  • Produce that receives commercial processing that adequately reduces the presence of microorganisms of public health significance (eligible for exemption)

  • Small farms with gross sales less than $25,000 annually

Farms under $500,000 in annual gross sales that sell the majority of food directly to customers are partially exempt.

Good Agricultural Practices

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which includes Good Handling Practices (GHP), was formally implemented by the USDA and FDA in 2002. GAP is a voluntary audit program designed to verify that produce is grown, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible. There are different GAP audit protocols such as harmonized GAP, Global GAP, and Group GAP that may have slightly different requirements. GAP auditors come from private companies, state departments of agriculture, and USDA. For more information about the USDA GAP and GHP, visit the USDA GAP-GHA web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Many school districts in California require GAP certification from their growers to reduce the risk of food-borne disease. However, for some farmers, GAP certification can be a barrier due to cost. The least expensive audit is approximately $800 and is labor intensive.

Food Safety Plan

Small farms that are not GAP certified should provide you with a food safety plan. If the grower does not have a food safety plan, they should develop one. The Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) Food Safety Plan Templates web page External link opens in new window or tab. has a sample Food Safety Template that is easy to complete.

Food Safety Toolkit

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has a Farm to School Food Safety Toolkit External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) that includes food safety guidelines for farmers, distributors, and schools. Schools can find excellent guidance for food safety when produce is grown in a school garden. It also covers food safety guidelines to make sure produce is safe when grown in a school garden and served in after school programs, taste testing, and food service operations.

If you have questions regarding farms and food safety, contact Kali Feiereisel, MPH, Food Safety Specialist, CAFF, by phone at 530-756-5818 or by email at

Policy Guidance

Local School Wellness Policies

School districts are required to create and update local school wellness policies (LSWP) annually. These policies can recognize Farm to School (F2S) activities as a critical component of a healthy school environment. The following resources can help you incorporate F2S activities into your LSWP.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memoranda

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued the following policy memoranda related to F2S activities for CNPs.

Release Date Issued by Subject Reference number
Local Foods in the CACFP with Questions and Answers External link opens in new window or tab. CACFP 11-2015
Farm to School and School Garden Expenses External link opens in new window or tab.

SP 06-2015

Procurement Geographic Preference Q&As - Part II External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) SP 03-2013, CACFP 02-2013, SFSP 02-2013
School Garden Q&As External link opens in new window or tab. SP 32-2009


Procuring Local Foods

Procuring and serving local foods to children is an integral part of a Farm to School (F2S) program. It is important to remember, however, that no matter where you purchase your food, whether from a local farmer, food hub, vendor, at a farmers market, or through a distributor, all procurement procedures must comply with federal, state, and local procurement standards.

This means:

  • Micropurchases must be distributed equally among qualified suppliers (or farmers)

  • Small purchases require competitive quotes, which can be obtained informally

  • Purchases over the small purchase threshold require the formal purchase process using an invitation for bids or request for proposals

A variety of resources are available to help you follow the correct procedures, including the following web pages: 

  • Procurement in CNPs
    This California Department of Education web page includes links to federal procurement regulations, California state laws, and answers to frequently asked questions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy memos related to local procurement can be accessed in the Policy tab of this F2S web page.

  • Procuring Local Foods External link opens in new window or tab.
    This USDA Community Food Systems web page includes the comprehensive guide, Procuring Local Foods in CNPs, a series of 12 local procurement videos, seven Fact Sheets, and USDA procurement policy memos.

  • CNP Course Catalog
    The NSD provides a catalog of online training courses for program operators participating in the SNP, ASP, CACFP, FDP, and SFSP. The online courses are grouped by program and organized by the key areas of nutrition, operations, administration, and communication and marketing. Procurement courses are listed under the key area, operations.


California Department of Education F2CNP Contact

For questions about F2CNP, contact the Education and Nutrition Policy Unit by email at

California Farm to School Network

For questions regarding the California Farm to School Network, contact Nick Anicich, F2S Lead, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Office of Farm to Fork, by email at

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Questions:   Education and Nutrition Policy Unit |
Last Reviewed: Thursday, December 22, 2022
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