What does “Farm to Cafeteria” mean?
The term Farm to Cafeteria refers to programs in institutions such as schools, colleges, hospitals, prisons, and senior living centers that serve healthy local food while engaging the broader community in that effort.
- For farmers and ranchers, these programs can provide a stable market for their products as well as a means for engaging community members in their local agricultural operations.
- For foodservice professionals, Farm to Cafeteria programs can increase participation in meal programs, provide customers with high quality food, help educate customers about nutrition, and provide publicity for your institution.
- For parents, community organizers, and educators, such programs help create food and nutrition learning opportunities, engagement in community building activities, growth of the local economy, and most importantly the health of your citizens.
Farm to Cafeteria Network (FCN)
Developed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Farm to Cafeteria Network is a group of Montana food producers, processors, food service professionals, and community members who collaborate to share best practices and resources about Farm to Cafeteria Programs across the state.
Farm to Cafeteria Networks’ mission is to support vibrant local communities by increasing the amount of healthy, locally-grown food served in public and private institutions.
What We Do
Our network members identify specific needs and opportunities that Farm to Cafeteria Network strives to meet through innovative tools, trainings, and communications. Examples include the creation of a database of Farm to Cafeteria programs in Montana and a “How-to” manual for food producers and food service professionals. We aim to make Farm to Cafeteria resources accessible and easy to share.
Growing New Leaders
Farm to Cafeteria Network also fosters the next generation of leaders through a unique youth leadership program. This program seeks to strengthen young people’s capacity to educate and organize their peers about healthy eating, healthy living, and vibrant community systems.
Farm to Cafeteria programs in Montana have been gaining momentum in the past decade, with institutions like the University of Montana in Missoula launching the first such program in 2003. A few years later, the food policy coalition Grow Montana published Unlocking the Food Buying Potential of Montana’s Public Institutions, making a strong case for why and how public institutions can be a key player in revitalizing Montana’s food economy.
Grow Montana coalition members also recognized the need for a central clearinghouse of information for Montana Farm to Cafeteria stakeholders – from foodservice directors to community activists to local food producers and processors. It was clear that Montanans wanted to learn local and national best-practices for making Farm to Cafeteria work and needed resources about how to start, grow, and sustain these programs in their institutions and communities. Most of all, Montanans wanted to know which institutions near them had Farm to Cafeteria programs and to learn from their successes and challenges.
In response to these needs, Farm to Cafeteria Network (FCN) was created in 2009 in partnership with Grow Montana. The informal network grew steadily over several years and in the fall of 2012, the program received a Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation for Healthy Montanans grant to expand the program’s outreach capacity and to develop a youth leadership component.