Iowa farm to school groups win grant to focus on racial equity

December 4, 2020

Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition partners win ASPHN grant

Partners within the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition recently won a Farm to Early Care and Education Implementation Grant (FIG) from the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists (ASPHN). The project title is Racial Equity in Iowa Farm to School and Early Care: Advancing Outcomes through Process, Programs, and Policies.

Group of preschool students at table with tub of sprouting seeds.
Postville preschoolers grow seeds during farm to school lessons.

Grant partners include FFED, Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children, Iowa Department of Education, Luther College, and State Public Policy Group. ASPHN awarded $90,900 in funding to Iowa and nine other states plus the District of Columbia. The one-year grant aims to strengthen farm to early care and education (ECE) initiatives statewide.

Three central strategies

FIG project co-leads and coalition partners will implement three central strategies:

  • Create and adopt a racial equity framework to inform the programs and processes created by the coalition. A 2019 assessment from Early Childhood Iowa showed achievement gaps beginning in early childhood for low-income and students of color. The early childhood age group also is Iowa’s most diverse demographic. In an increasingly diverse state, the Coalition understands the need to center racial equity in its work. They will partner with the Institute for Public Health Innovation for consultation and analysis.
  • Improve child nutrition by investing in Iowa agriculture through a Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) incentive pilot, “Local Food Makes Cents: For Iowa Kids and Farmers.” Partners will model the pilot on local food reimbursement programs happening in other states. ECE’s enrolled in CACFP can apply for $40,000 to purchase local foods. Iowa ECE providers have great and growing interest in buying local foods. State funding mitigates their financial risk. State Public Policy Group will support evaluation efforts and create educational materials based on the pilot model. The application process opens in January 2021. Click here to register for an informational webinar about the program on Friday, December 18 at 9 a.m. 
  • Connect the “Choose Iowa” campaign to professional development opportunities for providers interested in farm to ECE. “Choose Iowa” is a statewide marketing initiative led by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The Iowa Department of Education will create resources for schools and ECEs to “Choose Iowa.” FIG co-leads will partner with the Des Moines-based nonprofit Next Step Adventure to offer virtual trainings. The modules will offer tools for providers to participate in farm to ECE and “Choose Iowa.” A train-the-trainer session will equip consultants and food system practitioners to partner and support ECEs.

Vision of just and strong food systems

Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Network logo.

“As we build shared understanding of racial equity in our work and partnerships, the coalition will assess and shift systems to support our vision,” said Chelsea Krist, farm to school program coordinator with FFED. “We will root Iowa’s farm to school and early care programs in just and strong local and regional food systems. This will ensure the health and wellness of all children and families, the strength of family farms, and the resilience of our communities.”

For more information about the 2020-2021 Iowa FIG project, contact: