Put Local On Your Tray

Job Opening: Part-time Education and Outreach Consultant

POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT

Title: Education and Outreach Consultant

Location: Tolland County Extension Center, 24 Hyde Avenue, Vernon

Commitment: 20 hours/week part time position; January 2019-May 2019. This position will be guaranteed through May 2019, with the possibility of continuing through the summer.

Posting Close Date: Monday, December 3, 2018


Kale Yeah child at school
Photo: Molly Deegan

Organization Overview : The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) at University of Connecticut is committed to its status as a land grant institution, serving Connecticut and the global economy through research, education, and public engagement. CAHNR’s vision is to provide for a global sustainable future through scientific discovery, innovation, and community engagement. UConn Extension fulfills the land grant University’s mission of outreach and public engagement. Over 100 UConn Extension specialists work in the 169 local communities across Connecticut as educators, problem solvers, catalysts, collaborators and stewards. Our eight regional Extension Centers, the Sea Grant program at Avery Point, the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm, the Home and Garden Education Center and the UConn Extension office in Storrs are strategically located throughout the state to meet local needs. UConn Extension enhances small businesses, the economic and physical well-being of families, and offers opportunities to improve the decision- making capacity of community leaders.

Program Overview : Since 2012, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension has worked to strengthen farm to school in the state. Our Put Local on Your Tray Program, launched in 2015, helps schools source, serve, and celebrate local food. We offer communication materials that feature 16 seasonal products and several resources to help school food directors connect with local farmers. For the 2018-19 school year, 56 school districts have signed up to participate in Put Local on Your Tray; participating districts commit to serving locally grown products on “Local Tray Days.” In our work ahead, we plan to add a new set of educational resources that can be used by classroom teachers that reinforce learning about local food that is being served in the cafeteria. Our major program partners are CT Dept. of Education and FoodCorps CT.

Position Overview : UConn Extension is looking for an experienced and committed individual to join our Tray team to assist in outreach efforts in 2019. A successful candidate will have a proven track record of:

● Outstanding professional relationship and collaboration skills

● Excellent skills in communications and outreach

● Experience working in classroom settings and developing activities for students in K-8 settings

● Managing multiple deliverables with deadlines

● Familiarity with Farm to School programming in Connecticut

This Education and Outreach Consultant will report to the Associate Extension Educator in Sustainable Food Systems, Jiff Martin. The Project Coordinator, Molly Deegan, will help guide day-to-day activities. The position will be filled ASAP, with a preferred start date of January 1, 2019.

handing a smoothie cup
Photo: Molly Deegan

Responsibilities:

1. 35% time = Develop new educational materials – Develop new resources for classroom use (K-8) that reinforce Put Local On Your Tray program materials that are being used in cafeterias of participating districts. Work with a professional designer, if needed, to develop these new tools. This task includes dissemination of final products to participating districts.

2. 35% time = Program representation – Attend Connecticut and regional major conferences, professional meetings, and events to represent the program and deliver presentations about the Put Local On Your Tray Program. Wherever possible, dates are indicated below. Please do NOT apply unless you can fulfill the majority of the following:

○ 3-5 presentations for School Nutrition Association of Connecticut Regional Chapter Meetings to provide overview of program resources and tools

○ Attend and staff info table at CT Farm to School Conference (Jan 22, 2019)

○ Attend and staff info table at CT Northeast Organic Farming Assoc Winter Conference (Mar 2nd, 2019, location tba)

○ Attend and staff info table at Ag Day at the Capitol (March 20, 2019, Hartford)

○ Attend and staff info table at Farm-to-Institution New England Summit (April 2-4, Leominster, MA)

○ Attend and participate at CT Farm to School Collaborative Meetings – Meets monthly (every third Wednesday, 9:30 – 11:30, Hartford)

3. 30% time = Communications – Ensure consistent and reliable interaction with partners andstakeholders. This includes:

○ Respond to enquiries from stakeholders interested in the program.

○ Respond to enquiries and requests for resources from school districts already participating in program.

○ Social media – Develop and schedule regular posts to Facebook and Instagram accounts twice a week.

○ E-Newsletter – Publish monthly e-newsletter for program partners and stakeholders.

○ Maintain inventory of program materials (posters, stickers, bookmarks).

○ Assist with gathering data from participating school districts at the end of the school year.

Compensation : We anticipate filling this position for a start date of January 1, 2019 . The position will be guaranteed through May 2019, with the possibility of continuing apples drawing and stickers from childthrough the summer. The compensation will be: $25/hour for up to 20 hours per week. Due to the nature of the position, the expectation of 20 hours per week is an annual average, but it likely to vary based on outreach events. Travel costs will be reimbursed at the applicable federal rate.

Required Qualifications :

● B.A. or B.S. in sustainable food systems, agriculture, natural resources, public health, education, or related field

● A minimum of 2-3 years experience in education, agriculture, or related work in a not-for-profit setting or extension program setting

● Outstanding communication skills, teaching skills, and the ability to work with teams

● A strong understanding of school environments

● Strong work ethic and reliability

● Oral speaking skills, including experience as a presenter

● Comfortable working with individuals and organizations committed to meaningful social change and food justice through sustainable food and agriculture systems

● Excellent competency with computer and communications technologies including Microsoft Office Suite, Google Drive, and major social media platforms

● Must own a vehicle and be willing and able to travel across state for events or meetings

● Must be willing to commute to UConn Extension office in Vernon

● Must be available until May 2019

● Flexibility and optimism a must

Preferred:

● Experience working in school cafeterias or closely with school food services

● Good understanding of the federal meal guidelines of the National School Lunch Program and other child nutrition programs in school settings

● Familiarity with function and role of education service providers, including CT State Department of Education and USDA Food and Nutrition Services

What’s in it for you?

● Work in an environment with colleagues that see broad connections between sustainable agriculture, food systems, and food justice

● Develop professional relationships with a new cohort of leaders in farming and food systems in Connecticut and across the nation

● Work alongside a supervisor willing to support your own professional development and networking opportunities

● Develop new contacts and introductions across University of Connecticut, state agencies, and at USDA

To Apply: Our team is more innovative and responsive when our staff represents a diversity of perspectives and life experiences. People of color, people with disabilities, veterans, and LGBTQ candidates are strongly encouraged to apply. UConn provides reasonable accommodations to employees as required by law. Applicants with disabilities may request reasonable accommodation at any point in the employment process.

To apply, send a cover letter, resume, 3 references to Jiff Martin, Associate Extension Educator in Sustainable Food Systems. Send all documents together in ONE email to jiff.martin@uconn.edu. In the subject line please use this description: “Last Name, First Name – Tray Education and Outreach Consultant position.” Only competitive candidates will be invited to participate further in the recruitment process. Position closes Monday, December 3, 2018 .

University of Connecticut is an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and Program

October Apple Challenge with the Tray Project

apple crunch poster

October meant apple challenges for school districts participating in the Put Local On Your Tray Project. You can find recipes for apples on the website. They also share the following about apples:

In the Past: Apple trees belong to the rose family, and originated in Central Asia in the mountains of southern Kazakhastan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and China. It is perhaps the earliest tree to be cultivated for food.

In the Soil: There are 7,500 recognized varieties of apple today around the world. Apples grow only in temperate climates because they need a cold period in which to go dormant. Some trees can withstand temperatures down to -40 F.

In the Kitchen: Each apple variety ripens at a different time of season, and has a unique combination of firmness, crispness, acidity, juiciness, and sweetness. These factors make some varieties more suited to eating fresh, and others to storing or cooking.

In the Body: Apples are a wonderful source of potassium and vitamin C. They also contain pectin, which supports healthy cholesterol, blood sugar, and cellulose levels. The apple skin is where most of these beneficial nutrients are concentrated.

In Connecticut: Out of the 7,500 varieties of apple worldwide, 60 are grown right here in Connecticut. Our apples are generally available from mid July through the end of December.

Additional Resources:

Check out www.ctapples.org for more recipes and a list of orchards in Connecticut.

Put Local on Your Tray Sign Ups for 2018-2019

put local on your tray image with apple for connecticut farm to school programVERNON, CT, (June 13, 2018) – UConn Extension and the Connecticut State Department of Education is currently inviting school food service professionals across the state to sign up for the Put Local on Your Tray Program in the upcoming 2018-19 school year. Schools and districts that sign up will get help increasing fresh, locally grown products in their cafeterias. Sign ups will be open until the new school year starts in September.

According to USDA’s 2014 Farm to School Census, over 70% of schools in CT are offering farm to school programming, which might include hands-on activities in school gardens, cooking classes after school, and/or serving local food in the cafeteria. CSDE and UConn Extension are now partnering to increase school commitments to more purchases from local farms. Districts who sign up for the Tray Program will pledge to feature local ingredients at least twice per season(s) of their choice. Schools choose the Farm to School promotional activities that fit their needs. For example, activities might include: hosting a special taste test in the cafeteria (e.g. kale chips), marketing the products they regularly get from local growers (such as milk), using a holiday or celebration day on the calendar to feature local produce (e.g. new varieties of apples promoted during CT Grown for CT Kids Week), or integrating a recipe into their regular menu that relies on local ingredients for several months (e.g. winter root slaw).

Last year, there were a total of thirty four districts who took the pledge. The program is in its second year and continues to learn, grow, and adapt as Farm to School grows. We hope to see an increase this year, with a goal of fifty school districts. Yolanda Burt, Senior Director of Child Nutrition for Hartford Public Schools and contributor for the Program’s suite of tools, thinks districts need to define ‘local’ for themselves. She states, “Our definition of local includes what is grown and processed within 250 miles of Hartford, and/or purchasing food from small businesses to support Hartford businesses and further job creation for Hartford residents.” Districts who sign up and take the pledge are encouraged to define the criteria for local products based on what is possible and meaningful to their community.

Food Service Director for Avon, Canton, and Regional School District #10, Maggie Dreher, says, “I believe we should provide our students with the freshest, tastiest ingredients possible. An apple is not just an apple, but a story – a potential place to connect to the community.” The Program welcomes those who are not a part of school food service to tell that story with Put Local on Your Tray communication materials, when educating children about local food. There is a materials request sheet available online, for interested school community members (teachers, parents, volunteers, etc.) to ask for any hard copies of our posters, bookmarks, stickers, etc. at http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu.

Contact your school administrator or food service director to encourage them to sign up and be recognized and promoted as a Tray district! Many schools already supply local products, without necessarily promoting it as such (in items like milk, or certain produce from their distributors). Put them in touch with Put Local on Your Tray for credit to be paid where it’s due!

For more information please visit http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu or call 203-824-7175. Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).

Patriotic Smoothies

serving smoothies in Meriden schools

In Meriden schools, they served Red, White, & Blue Smoothies in honor of the winter Olympics and local dairy in February. What a cool idea! And one that you can replicate at home in honor of Memorial Day. It’s a fun and delicious smoothie. The layers were strawberry, banana, and blueberry served at breakfast with graham crackers. 

Put Local on Your Tray is a farm-to-school program helping Connecticut schools serve and celebrate regionally grown food.

Put Local On Your Tray (Or Plate) In April

Put Local on Your Tray is a farm-to-school program helping Connecticut schools serve and celebrate regionally grown food. Even if you’re not a school, they have some advice for getting local onto your plate this season.

spinach and greens being grown in greenhouse
Photo: Molly Deegan

Days are getting slightly warmer and longer, the breeze is sharp, and the land is both awakened and nourished by fresh spring rain. Farmers are in a busy period of transition, from indoor planning and preparing for the height of summer – to the beginning stages of planting outdoors – making sure everything is ready to go. While there may not be an abundance of produce to choose from this month, there still are some special products to take advantage of for their especially sweet and distinct flavors of spring that they offer. For instance, mixed greens!

Spinach is our suggested local item to look out for – according to our Tray team Farmer Liaison, Shannon. After a long winter, the sugars stored in it’s leaves give it flavor hard to find any other time of year. Seen below, are rows of sweet greens growing at Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge.

The First HardCORE CT Apple Challenge

The First HardCORE CT Apple Challenge with Put Local On Your Tray!

hardcore apple challengeOctober is special for a few reasons. Everyone is getting back in the swing of things at school, the foliage outstanding, and the many varieties of delicious crisp apples are ripening atop trees in orchards across the state. The combination makes a perfect time of year to celebrate National Farm to School Month, CT Grown for CT Kids Week, and a new campaign known as the HardCORE CT Apple Challenge  coordinated by Put Local On Your Tray to celebrate CT grown products, and continuously encourage the importance and connectivity of food education. Put Local on Your Tray is a collaborative Farm to School project that assists interested Connecticut school districts to serve, educate, and celebrate regionally grown produce.

The campaign coordinated by Put Local On Your Tray was made public to anyone who wanted to participate and utilize the resources. All schools and school districts in Connecticut were encouraged to participate by sourcing local apples during the month of October, and placing signage so students and staff know where they came from. For students to take the challenge, there were three ways to participate. First, you could eat a CT Grown apple all the way down to it’s core. Second, you could try two different types of CT Grown apples and compare tastes. Third, you could take a trip to a local apple orchard to see how they really grow. Or even better, all three!

On the ground, with reports from our partners at FoodCorps Connecticut, there were so many different ways CT kids celebrated the HardCORE CT Apple Challenge. There was New Britain’s Gaffney Elementary Garden Club students challenging each other to see who could eat a local apple from Belltown Orchards in South Glastonbury totally down to the core, after learning all about the importance of seeds. At Meriden public schools, students enjoyed a special afternoon comparing the tastes of Fuji and Paula Red apples and voted at lunch what they liked best, realizing that not all apples are exactly the same. There was a field trip taken to Auerfarm in Bloomfield with Breakthrough Magnet School in Hartford, where students had the opportunity to pick and taste some of the apples grown right there on the farm, solidifying their understanding of how exactly apples come to be. Overall, there is a newfound appreciation going around in our schools for an idyllic CT crop – the apple.

There was lots of support from many partner organizations including the Connecticut Farm to School Collaborative, who helped create the concept of the campaign. The Collaborative consists of a group of nonprofit and state-agency representatives working to advance farm to school at the state level through policy, communications, and programming. The CT Apple Marketing Board, the USDA, and FoodCorps Connecticut all promoted the HardCORE Apple Campaign, with the promotion excitingly gaining national recognition in the USDA online newsletter, The Dirt, as something to look check out for the month of October.

Mike Koch, Food Service Director for New Britain Public Schools, is pleased to have the materials provided by the Local Tray Program. “We appreciate the efforts of the various groups that assist us with marketing and promotions of our locally sourced products. UConn Extension and FoodCorps have been integral partners to promote activities such as taste tests and local produce celebrations. We have been able to get students to try and appreciate new and different foods, and to step outside of their comfort zone. When we did an applesauce taste test using apples grown from Belltown Orchards in Glastonbury, the students began to realize this is food grown close to their neighborhood. When they make this connection, everyone wins; the student, the food service department, the school district, and the farm.”

Mike is just one of the Food Service Directors who has signed up to take the local pledge for his district this year. There are currently 30 districts that signed up so far to participate in the Put Local on Your Tray Program for the 2017-18 school year all over the state. The program is open to any interested school district, charter school, or private school. Go online to sign up to take the pledge to have at least one local Tray day this year. Sign up today if your school hasn’t already! We are gaining momentum and have many developments in store for this year, including two new poster designs to be released online soon! For more information after this date, please contact molly.putlocalonyourtray@gmail.com.

To stay informed with what is happening with the Tray project yourself, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter. You can also Like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram @putlocalonyourtray. For more information please visit http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu or call 860-870-6932. Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).

Keep on crunching, Connecticut!

Put Local on Your Tray

carrot posterTo our neighbors across the ocean, lunch in American schools is evidence of our culinary inferiority. The fact that one third of the nation’s children are growing up overweight and obese leads many to point a finger at school food. But in reality, the age of sloppy joes and tater tots is steadily giving way to salad bars, sweet potato fries, and vegetable chili. Major changes and healthier regulations for school meals that began in 2014 have shifted the menu toward whole grains, less sugar, less sodium, and more vegetables and fruit.

In fact, school meals are a vital part of a federal child nutrition strategy that provides healthy food to children and helps fight hunger and obesity. With the new emphasis on healthier meals, a wave of innovative efforts to add fresh, locally grown ingredients have emerged across the nation. These farm-to-school initiatives typically include school gardens, field trips to farms, nutrition education, as well as menus that feature seasonal flavors.

In Connecticut, the Put Local on Your Tray pilot project (Tray Project) helps Connecticut school districts source, serve, and celebrate a different local food product each month. Led by UConn Extension in close partnership with the Connecticut State Department of Education, the Tray Project has developed promotional materials to support school districts willing to feature one locally grown and seasonal product each month.

The Tray Project uses alluring and vibrant marketing materials including posters, stickers, and newsletter templates to educate the students about featured local foods. Using fun and engaging food puns such as “Kale, Yeah!—Don’t kale my vibe” or “Oh Snap!—I’m a Lean Green Bean Machine” have been key to generating a sense of fun and celebration around the new school lunch menu. The Tray Project assists participating school districts in building connections with local farms, sourcing local produce, and ensuring that cafeteria staff has what they need in order to process and serve fresh produce.

“This program has proved to be an invaluable component of our educational efforts at Middletown Public Schools to connect our students to local farms and agriculture while promoting overall wellness to enhance and maximize student achievement,” states Ava McGlew, MS, RD, CD-N, Food Service Director Middletown Public Schools.

Unlike similar ‘Harvest of the Month’ programs from other states, the Tray Project does not specify a month that each product should be used. This approach recognizes the true seasonality of produce young leaders for a year of paid public service building healthy school environments in limited resource communities. FoodCorps members build school gardens, teach nutrition and cooking, and help bring locally grown ingredients into the cafeteria.

“When kids have an opportunity to learn and engage with fruits and vegetables in a positive way, they are much more likely to eat them. “in Connecticut (e.g. kale is available from August through December in our state) and gives more flexibility to the school food service director who is making decisions about when to purchase and use a featured local ingredient.

Program Coordinator Dana Stevens and Outreach Coordinator Catherine Hallisey are currently working with four school districts including: Windham, East Hartford, Middletown, and Deep River. There are plans to expand to 15 districts for the 2016-2017 school year.

Over 2,000 students have participated in an interactive component of the program known as Local Tray Days. The Tray Project works with school districts to select one date for a cafeteria taste-test using kid-friendly recipes, and a second date, when the sampled local item is incorporated into the menu. Recipes include cider-glazed squash, kale chips, berry blast smoothies, and squash apple bisque.

“When kids have an opportunity to learn and engage with fruits and vegetables in a positive way, they are much more likely to eat them,” Dana explains. Students are asked to vote on what they thought of the local featured item. They can respond with one of the three options, tried it, liked it, or loved it.

According to USDA, schools report that farm to school programs can increase the number of students purchasing school breakfast and lunch, improve consumption of healthier foods at school, and reduce plate waste. There are 187 school districts in Connecticut, and 74 percent completed the USDA Farm to School Census. Of those, 70 percent are currently participating in farm to school activities, and another 19 percent have plans to start in the future.

Programs like Put Local on Your Trayare an easy way to bring more local foods into the cafeteria. By focusing on one local product each month, farmers can plan ahead to grow the food needed, and food service directors can build that local product into school menus. More local foods in schools results in more support for our farmers. This means more of our dollars stay in the community, and local economies are strengthened.

The Tray Project is a component of UConn Extension’s outreach and education on sustainable food systems, led by Associate Extension Educator Jiff Martin.

School Districts Invited to “Put Local on Your Tray” This Fall

carrot posterJust in time for National Farm To School Month in October, UConn Extension and its partners at the Connecticut State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and the New England Dairy and Food Council are excited to announce an opportunity to participate in a new program called “Put Local On Your Tray”.

Put Local On Your Tray promotes local food in Connecticut schools. Participants receive support and materials that help school districts plan, serve, and celebrate locally grown food. “When kids have an opportunity to learn and engage with fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables in a positive way, they are much more likely to eat them,” shared Dana Stevens, Program Director.

In the 2014-2015 school year, schools in Connecticut spent $7,244,580 on local food, and 70% of school districts that responded to the 2015 Farm to School Census offered farm-to-school programming; that’s 97 districts, 706 schools, and 355,489 students! Schools report that farm to school programs can increase the number of students purchasing school breakfast and lunch, improve consumption of healthier foods at school, and reduce plate waste.

Local procurement can be integrated into all types of child nutrition programs, including: breakfast, lunch, after-school snack, supper, and summer meals. Connecticut also celebrates CT Grown for CT Kids Week from October 3 – 7th, offering schools another opportunity to take one small step for farm to school.

Put Local On Your Tray has proved to be an invaluable component of our educational efforts at Middletown Public Schools to connect our students to local farms and agriculture while promoting overall wellness to enhance and maximize student achievement, states Ava McGlew, MS, RD, CD-N, Food Service Director Middletown Public Schools.

UConn Extension has developed posters, stickers, newsletters, and recipes to support school districts in connecting students to fresh, seasonal foods. Contact your school administrator or food service director to encourage participation in this new program.

Highlights of Extension

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Learn how UConn Extension is tying research to real life in your community through our 2015 Highlights of Extension.