Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Serving School Garden Grown Produce in the Cafeteria – Sample Policy and Protocols
Safe Produce Handling Resources
Sample Wellness Policy Language to Support School Gardens and Local Foods
Garden to Cafeteria in Action – Videos

Watch a Webinar on Garden To Cafeteria hosted by the School Garden Support Organization Network

View Whole Kid’s Foundation and Slow Food USA’s Garden To Cafeteria Toolkit

Starting a school garden-to-cafeteria program involves additional coordination, effort and logistics. Implementation can be simple or complex depending on the size and scope of the school garden-to-cafeteria program (which could range from including greens or tomatoes in a salad bar in a single school to integrating produce into a lunch menu used district wide). If the school district contracts with a management company or other vendor to supply school lunches, an adjustment to the contract may be necessary.

There is no provision in the National School Lunch Program or other federal law that prevents school cafeterias from using school garden produce. In fact, you might be surprised to know that there are USDA Bulletins that state federal school food service funds can be used to purchase edible school gardening supplies and to support farm to school efforts. See:

You might also be interested in Legal Issues Impacting Schoolyard Gardens presentation given at the 2013 Minnesota SchoolYard Garden Conference by Mary Marrow from the Public Health Law Center at William Mitchell College of Law.

Serving School Garden Grown Produce in the Cafeteria – Sample Policy and Protocols

Below are examples of policy that have been created and adopted by various districts and states that provide protocol for harvesting, handling and serving garden grow produce. Also listed are general resources for school garden management and produce handling.

CDE School Garden Management Bulletin created for School Nutrition Departments, responds to frequently asked questions regarding school gardens and using/purchasing produce from them. This document was referenced from a National USDA Memo.

USDA’s Farm to School SCHOOL GARDENS Using Gardens to Grow Healthy Habits in Cafeterias, Classrooms and Communities a four page guide.

Eat What You Grow! A School Garden Food Safety Manual for Chicago Public Schools created by is a 72 page comprehensive guide with step-by-step instructions, and record keeping templates and well developed appendices to allow school garden operators to make sure their produce meets high food safety standards.

Oregon Department of Education School Garden Food Safety Training & Documentation Manual Downloadable guides, checklists and posters to enable you to serve food from your school garden safely.

Denver Public Schools Garden to Cafeteria Protocol is a nice example of a district wide direction to assure safe handling of garden grown produce.
Denver Public School Garden Manual is a nice example of resources to district wide policy to support the the inclusion of school garden produce in the cafeteria.

San Diego Unified Garden to Cafe Program Protocol
Garden to Café allows school gardens to serve fresh garden grown foods as part of the school meal program. View their full program outline and documents.

Garden to Cafeteria: A Step-by-Step Guide created by the Center for Regional Food Systems and Michigan State University

Alaska School Garden Food Safety Guidelines nice example of guidelines for maintaining a healthy edible garden program. Nice image of easy to create garden hand-washing station.

Best Practices for Hawaii School Gardens – Comprehensive details about pesticides, safety, tips for setting up a seller display of produce. Provides a summary of Good Agricultural Practices tips.

Nevada Department of Agricultures Farm to School Food Safety Program resources include school garden food safety guidelines, useful resources, and sample forms for running a garden program.

Food Safety in the School Garden from the University of Maryland.

Santa Monica / Malibu Unified School District School Garden Food Safety Checklist and School Garden Produce Donation and Selling Protocol

Sodexo School Garden Safety Protocol and School Garden Weekly Checklist

The NASBE State School Health Policy Database is a comprehensive set of laws and policies from 50 states on more than 40 school health topics. This database is intended to facilitate the sharing of school health improvement strategies and policy language across states.

UCONN Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity Legislation Database tracks state and federal policies related to obesity and diet-related diseases in issue areas including access to healthy food, breastfeeding, farms and gardens, school nutrition and physical activity, food assistance programs, marketing/advertising to children, menu and package labeling, and food and beverage taxes.

Slow Food USA has a great chapter on Policy for School Gardens. It outlines the different levels of policy that can be used to support garden programs.

Slow Food USA list of Garden to Cafeteria Protocols

Safety in the Garden handout from the CDE School Garden Resource Packet

Serving School Garden Produce in the Cafeteria from Change Lab Solutions

General Safe Produce Handling Resources

Best Practices for Using Garden Produce in Cafeteria a simple two page document from the National Farm to School website. Download

A Handbook for Beginning + Veteran Garden Organizers: How to Reduce Food Safety Risks A 15 page guide from North Carolina State University and North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

California’s Farm to Fork How to Safely Handle Fresh Produce from Farm to Fork a 22 page guide – has a section on school garden safety.

Sonoma County created The Approved Produce Gardener Certificate Program, a protocol tool that shows how to implement garden management safety.

Safe Handling of Fruits and Vegetables Brochure

Food Safety Tips From Your Edible Home Garden Brochure National Food Service Management Institute’s School Produce Safety Fact Sheets and Videos

Applying Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) to Farm-to-School and School Gardens. Webinar content from the School Nutrition Association

Public Health Law and Policy’s Site Lists sample school board resolution to support farm to school. It also includes very detailed documentation related to policy on Serving School Garden Grown Produce to Students.

Iowa State’s Online School Garden School Food Safety Training includes videos, quizzes, worksheets for students, and a comprehensive On Farm Food Safety Manual: School Garden.

School Garden Food Safety comprehensive resources and online training from the University of Arizona.

Looking for more Food Safety Lessons and Resources for Instructing Kids?

Sample Wellness Policy Language to Support School Gardens and Local Foods

Let’s Go Local: Recommendations for Linking Locally Grown Food, School Gardens, and Joint-Use Agreements to School Wellness Policies View

Garden to Cafeteria in Action

Judy Honerkamp and Lunch Lady Amy share how they include garden grown food in school lunch.

Ft. Bragg Food Service Director and Food Service Staff talk about using garden produce in school lunch. See the 5:50 mark to jump to the conversation.

For over 30 years Pacific Elementary School has had a strong garden to cafeteria connection. This small school campus food service is ran by students!

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2 weeks ago

Save Our Shores

Annual Coastal Cleanup is just around the corner and we are still looking for site captains for 7 of our region’s sites. This is a tremendous opportunity to join the region’s biggest annual volunteer effort to help protect our life-giving waters! For teens who are willing to partner with a parent or guardian, it’s also a fabulous way to practice leadership skills while earning community service credits!Ready to join us as a site captain? Sign up at to volunteer on Sept 18? Sign up at of Santa Cruz State Parks Santa Cruz County Bank KindPeoples California State Parks Foundation California State Parks Kayak Connection Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center – Unofficial Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Monterey Bay Aquarium FishWise Seafood Watch Surfrider Foundation Santa Cruz Chapter The Bird School Project Life Lab Santa Cruz County Office of Education City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Lookout Santa Cruz County of Santa Cruz Aqua Safaris Scuba Center Live Like Coco Good Times Santa Cruz Santa Cruz Sentinel KAZU 90.3 Return of the Natives Restoration Education Project Santa Cruz State Junior Lifeguards

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

🌱 We only have 2 spots left in our School Garden Educator Certification Program! 🌱 Sign-up today for the entire series of courses on our website. Our first course, Building Connections in the Garden, starts with asynchronous work on September 1st and our first synchronous session will be on Wednesday, September 8th from 3:30 – 5:00 PST. You may continue to sign up through August 31st or until all spots are filled. Upon completion of the 4 courses, participants will receive a certificate and the distinction of being a Life Lab-Certified Garden Educator. Each course will last approximately 4 weeks long and include 4 synchronous meetings, at-home work, and a unique coaching model tailored to each individual’s💚 We look forward to working with you!💚

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3 weeks ago

Nikki Patterson

Beautiful way to end this spontaneous day. Thank you Don💐 Thank you Life Lab Thank you UCSC CASFS Farm and Thank you Matthew Raiford#grateful #Interconnections #bressnnyam #blackfarmers #heritagefarm #yeschef #badass #organicgardening @bookshopsc ❤️

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4 weeks ago

Philip Lee

Good read during summer zucchini season! See Booklist review of LAS CALABACITAS DE ZORA, translated from Zora’s Zucchini: "By story’s end, Zora has learned the importance of growing, harvesting, and, above all, sharing food. [Anna] Raff’s appealing watercolor illustrations are soft and inviting, and an author’s note explains the ‘Donate, Preserve, Share’ concepts behind growing gardens. The translation’s well-chosen Spanish is simple to read aloud in a classroom or storytelling setting."’re thrilled that LAS CALABACITAS DE ZORA audiobook is out this spring from Live Oak Media!Come hear author Katherine Pryor discuss ZORA and connecting food & literacy, on Big Green‘s webinar, along with Marie Dennan, BG’s Memphis program manager, and Micheál Newman-Brooks, program manager of school gardens with Chicago Public Schools. 8/18 @ 1PM ET / 10AM PT. Free register@ zucchini recipes, food swap ideas@ #Zucchini #SummerReading #SummerGardening #KidsGardening #SchoolGarden #BackToSchool #GardenEducation #FoodSwap #FoodWaste #FarmToSchool #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITCThe Edible Schoolyard Project Edible Schoolyard NYCSlow Food USA School Garden Network Green Bronx Machine Life Lab Common Threads Farm Center for Ecoliteracy

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1 month ago

Philip Lee

See Our School Garden! author Rick Swann present on connecting school garden & literacy on 8/10, last of the Food Literacy Summer Author Series from Clemson Extension School & Community Gardening and South Carolina Farm to School Also presenting will be Tracy Miskelly at SC Ag in the Classroom. Register at is a former Seattle school librarian. His work researching on creating a garden for his school led to his poems for OUR SCHOOL GARDEN! See discussion guides on OUR SCHOOL GARDEN from The Bee Cause Project Book Club. more about the Summer Author seriest: "Clemson Extension launches author series aimed at improving food literacy for SC youth." #FoodPoetry #FoundPoem #SchoolGarden #GardenEducation #SummerReading #SummerLearning #FarmToSchool #AgClassroomJunior Master Gardener ProgramSlow Food USA School Garden Network Common Threads Farm Life Lab FoodCorps

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Magical seeds are being planted at Starlight Elementary in Watsonville that will blossom into a garden and teaching kitchen where students will learn, grow & thrive. Community Foundation staff was thrilled to visit the site last week, meet with partners, and learn more about the project (a recipient of a 2021 community grant. (Pictured from left to right: Judit Camacho, Jennifer Holm, Michelle Rodriguez, Hilary Bryant, Kevin Heuer, Jackie Medina, Don Burgett, Francisco Estrada, & Julie Edwards)with:Emeril Lagasse Foundation Life Lab Community Health Trust of Pajaro ValleyPajaro Valley Unified School District

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2 months ago

Readers To Eaters

Happy National Urban Beekeeping Day! See info on urban bees from Detroit Hives. Good day to share The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter. See author/illustrator Shabazz Larkin read the book for PBSThirteen WNET New York with wonderful message at the end on how to take care of bees, our environment, and ourselves! #urbanbees #beekeepers #beeeducation #savethebees #givebeesachance #pollinators #pollination #farmtoschool #agclassroom #agliteracy #AITC #summerlearning #summerreading National Agriculture in the ClassroomMichigan Agriculture in the Classroom New York Agriculture in the ClassroomWisconsin Ag in the Classroom ProgramEdible Schoolyard NYC The Edible Schoolyard Project Life Lab Big Green Common Threads Farm Slow Food USA School Garden Network

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2 months ago

Life Lab

¡Estamos emocionados de anunciar la versión en Español del curso GRATIS aclamado, Enseñando en el Aula de la Naturaleza! Conéctese con otros educadores y desarrolle nuevas estrategias y maneras de ver el aula al aire libre. Es una gran oportunidad tanto para educadores nuevos a la enseñanza al aire libre y educación basada en el jardín como para los más experimentados en esta práctica. Lea más y registrese aquí: School Garden Network _________________________________We are excited to announce a Spanish language version of the acclaimed FREE course, Teaching in Nature’s Classroom! Connect with educators and develop new strategies and ways of seeing the outdoor classroom. A great opportunity for educators new to outdoor and garden-based learning, as well as educators who are experienced in the field. Learn more and register here School Garden Network

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3 months ago

Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce

This summer marks the 9-year anniversary of Yoso Wellness Spa in Santa Cruz and they’re celebrating with a community event! 🎉 This family-friendly celebration is free, with food, drink and raffle purchases going to Life Lab , a local non-profit! 🎟Join them this Sunday 3pm – 6pm for a 9-Year Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser! 🤩..#santacruccountychamber #yosowellness #anniversary #lifelab #thrive

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Life Lab 40th
Life Lab’s 40th Gala – Sunday, October 13th  Celebrate 40 years of bringing learning to life in gardens. Learn more  
Life Lab's 40th Gala
Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom
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