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Statewide Farm to School Collaboration

The Arkansas Farm to School team gathered with a group of state agency and organization partners in August of 2017 to build a statewide platform for collaboration on promotion, programs, and participation.  The Access to Healthy Foods Research Group at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute saw a need to broaden the existing connections between organizations to support the continuous development that farm to school needs.  These supporting organizations include a few that one might not initially expect, but whose contributions keep farm to school alive.

Nick Stevens

Nick Stevens, MPS Candidate

Nick Stevens, a Clinton School of Public Service graduate student, has spent the last two years working on projects with the Access to Healthy Foods Research Group.  As part of his final Capstone Project for his Master of Public Service degree from the Clinton School of Public Service, Nick worked on creating the initial structures, frameworks and buy-in of the group, as well as facilitated the meetings.  The collaboration currently consists of representatives from several major state agencies such as the Department of Human Services, Arkansas Agriculture Department, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, the Department of Health, and organizations in the state.  Each organization is already invested in farm to school and its continuous development in various ways, and has been promoting farm to school at a statewide level.  Bringing them together on a regular basis will foster coordination and collaboration.

Leadershhip Team Meeting

Coordinating this many individuals for monthly meetings requires patience and compromise, however.  “Having so many people makes it very time-consuming to agree upon a common vision and agenda,” says Stevens, who has been facilitating the gatherings.  A recent graduate, Nick has said goodbye to the farm to school group but hopes they can continue without him to work together to have state and regional farm to school conferences and build a more formal farm to school network in the state.  The end goal is to promote farm to school with one united voice that carries into the future.