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


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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.

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.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools procedure bulletin on incorporating school garden produce into school food service.

Denver Public Schools Garden to Cafeteria Program is a nice example of a district wide program to support garden to cafeteria.
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!


The Education Fund shares an overview of their Food Forest programs and how it is tied to cafeteria and community nutrition.

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1 month ago

Readers To Eaters

Time for Summer Gardening! Thrilled to partner on @big green’s #ReadAsYouGrow, "connecting the stories and ideas that they are exploring in these fantastic books to what they can observe while growing food in their garden," with Readers To Eaters books in English & Spanish. See video on prgrm+ resource ..#SummerGardening #SummerLearning #SummerReading #KidsGardening #OutdoorEducation National Summer Learning AssociationNational Environmental Education Foundation – NEEFNational Farm to School Network Common ThreadsNational Agriculture in the Classroom Life Lab

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1 month ago

Readers To Eaters

Love this new review on Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild from Shelf Awareness! "Martin and Lee incorporate quotes from Katz throughout their energetic, onomatopoeic text… Julie Wilson’s casual, enthusiastic, earth-toned illustrations suit the subject and Katz’s effervescent personality. The entertainment value here is rivaled by expansive backmatter including an afterword by Katz addressing readers, a visual guide to kraut-making, long author and illustrator notes (including ethnographic research) and additional resources.A fizzy and informative celebration of fermentation that enthusiastically supports curious experimentation and food literacy."..#FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #FoodHeroes #FoodBiography #FoodWriter #Fermentor #Fermentation #NoHeatCooking #TinyWild #Microbes #FoodScience #STEM #LGBTQ #Queer #QueerCommunity #SummerReading #SummerLearning #SummerCooking #SummerGardening #KidsGardening American Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureNational Farm to School Network Tennessee Library Association Tennessee Agriculture in the ClassroomSlow Food Middle TennesseeJunior Master Gardener Program The American Horticultural Society Big Green Life LabChelsea Green Publishing

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2 months ago

Philip Lee

So excitd about #MDSNAPEd #EatYourWords kickoff Thur! Check out video on summer program connecting #NutritionEducation & #EarlyLiteracy, giving away 50,000 Sylvia’s Spinach at schools and #FarmersMarkets. Event info+ kickoff w author Katherine Pryor+ resources @ #EarlyLiteracy #FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #Nutrition #NutritionEducation #EatingFresh #EatingVegetables #KidsGardneing #SchoolGarden #FarmToSchoolSlow Food USA School Garden NetworkBig Green Common Threads Pilot Light Life Lab

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#tbt to that time two weeks ago we were at the School Garden Support Organization – SGSO – Network conference organized by Sprouts Farmers Market and Life Lab !Check out this cool recap video Jen put together – love how we’re #growingschoolgardens together!#veggiecatethefirststate #STEMeducation #handsonlearning #schoolgardens #kidswhogarden

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3 months ago

Life Lab Full-time Bilingual Garden Educators at PVUSD School Gardens and Summer Program Staff at Garden Classroom on UCSC Farm

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3 months ago

Life Lab

Full-time Career and Summer Staff Positions in @pajarovalleyusd school gardens and the Life Lab Garden Classroom. On the @ucscagroecology farm @ucsc @pvusdschoolfood

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4 months ago

Readers To Eaters

Thrilled that The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter is NC Farm Bureau "Ag in the Classroom" #BookOfTheMonth! Check out their terrific Activity Guide, including a few fun facts:• The honeybee is the state insect for North Carolina and 15 other states? • In North Carolina, bees help to pollinate strawberries, apples, and broccoli to name a this reading of author/illustrator Shabazz Larkin for PBS/ Thirteen WNET New York. sharing for United Nations #WorldBeeDay on 5/20 and June #NationalPollinatorsMonth. ..#AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #FarmToSchool #Bees #Pollinators #Pollination #FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #DiverseBooks National Agriculture in the ClassroomAmerican Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureNCLA: North Carolina Library AssociationNC School Library Media AssociationState Library of North CarolinaASAP – Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture ProjectNational Farm to School Network The Bee Cause Project The Pollinator Partnership North Carolina State Beekeepers AssociationNC Beekeepers Forsyth County Beekeepers Association of N.C.Whole Kids Foundation Big Green FoodCorps Life LabThe Black Church Food Security Network The Brown Bookshelf Multicultural Children’s Book Day We Need Diverse Books

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