In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly created the Colorado Farm to School Task Force. In 2013, the Assembly reauthorized the Task Force, to be continued indefinitely. The Task Force is charged with increasing the use of local farm and ranch products in school food service programs to improve child nutrition and strengthen local and regional agricultural economies.
The Task Force is made up of 15 appointed members, with representation from schools, parents, producer organizations, and state departments.
Work of the Task Force
The Farm to School Task Force began their process by developing a roadmap to ensure strategic use of their time and resources to make the greatest possible impact on farm to school sustainability in the state. The Task Force’s Roadmap begins at the destination – with the agreement by the Task Force that the goal of the work is sustainable, statewide implementation of Farm to School. Working backwards from the end of the road, the Task Force recognized that Farm to School models could be either direct or through food hubs, and that both models need to be supported.
To support these models, the Task Force identified that other efforts in Colorado are building school staff skills to prepare food, developing key resources for producers and schools to assess their readiness and change their policies, providing guidance on specific food safety issues, and developing willingness among school leaders. However, despite the passionate commitment of many individuals and organizations to Farm to School efforts, distinct gaps remained in the capacity being developed. These gaps are the strategic focus of the Task Force. The gaps, and the Task Force activities to address them, include:
The Policy & Regulations Work Group partners with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to undertake policy, legal, and regulatory analysis of FTS issues to overcome barriers to implementing farm to school. Additionally, it translates this information into friendly guidance materials for schools and producers.
Evaluation of farm to school efforts in Colorado is critical to build an evidence-base for an array of effective models while also identifying barriers and opportunities to support local models. The Task Force has created the FTS Evaluation Toolkit and is in the process of providing technical assistance to train school district personnel and other FTS stakeholders on the use of the toolkit.
FTS is a complex process that requires hands-on assistance to schools and producers. The FTS-TF offers ITA workshops to three regions per year. These workshops are developed by Real Food Colorado and the ITA Work Group provides direction, oversight, and technical assistance when needed.
For statewide sustainability of FTS, both local and state level practices must support FTS. The need for statewide support requires ongoing and coordinated processes by state agencies to ensure their regulations and practices facilitate, not impede, implementation of FTS. The FTS Sustainability Work Group partners with state agencies to identify strategies for FTS capacity, including staff training, linked activities across agencies, coordinated data collection, and regulatory/policy changes needed to sustain FTS capacity.
To achieve statewide sustainability of FTS, the Task Force engages in a public education and will-building process by talking with and presenting to state leaders, community groups, producers, and schools. The FTS Outreach Work Group identifies opportunities for presentations and coordinates annual updates to state agencies, the legislature, and other national partners. The Work Group members often do the presentations but all Task Force members participate in outreach efforts.
In addition to the work plans, the Task Force has engaged in a public will building process, talking with newly appointed state leaders, community groups, and organizations currently exploring implementation of farm to school and food hubs. This process has not only built support for the work of the Task Force and awareness of farm to school, but also helped focus the Task Force work, ensuring it addresses the gaps between the many other Farm to School efforts and makes a meaningful and strategic difference.
Please contact us for more information about how the Task Force can help support your interests and efforts in building a farm to school program.
The Task Force holds quarterly meetings around the state of Colorado. All meetings are open to the public and public participation at the meetings is encouraged. If you are interested in having the Task Force hold a meeting in your community/region, please contact the lead staff member, Lyn Kathlene at Spark Policy Institute to discuss options.
All meeting agendas and minutes can be accessed at HERE.