TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness are excited to announce this year’s Farm to School Experience. The conference will be held virtually on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 and is an opportunity for schools, distributors, and producers to connect and learn more about the 2021 Farm to School initiative.
The Farm to School initiative helps increase the amount of fresh, local foods served in Florida schools, enhances students’ academic achievement, and supports Florida’s economy. During the 2019-2020 school year, this initiative contributed to $127,937,568 in total economic impact and nearly 3.5 million pounds of Florida produce served in Florida schools. This included more than $4.6 million in Florida fruits and vegetables sourced through competitively procured food service contracts and an estimated 30 million lunches served in Florida schools including a component from Florida.
“With all the challenges the last year has presented for our agriculture industry, it’s more important than ever that we emphasize the importance of local and Florida-grown produce,” Commissioner Nikki Fried said. “This year’s Farm to School Virtual Conference Experience is free and open to the public. While aimed to educate and inspire school nutrition professionals towards greater engagement with Florida farmers and increased utilization of Fresh From Florida products, the conference is poised to be a great experience for anyone who wants to learn more about the intersection between schools, nutrition, and agriculture.”
This year’s theme, Transitioning into a New Era, will guide conference guests across five tracks: school gardens, food recovery, logistics, building community, and program innovation. A keynote speech will be provided by Roy Finley. Most widely known as the “Gangsta Gardener,” Ron Finley inadvertently started a horticultural revolution when he transformed the barren parkway in front of his South Central Los Angeles home into an edible oasis. Ron’s goal was simple: Bring healthy food to an area where there was none. This experience blossomed into a quest to change how people eat and to teach youth that they have the capacity to design their own lives.
“Finding new ways to connect with the community on these topics is so important,” said Lakeisha Hood, FDACS Food, Nutrition and Wellness Director. “Since we made the decision to have the conference virtually, we knew we wanted it to be an experience like no other. Personalized avatars will allow guests to walk through the experience and feel engaged in our content while networking with other attendees.”