Take the CACFP Farm Fresh Challenge this March!

During the month of March, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) hosts the Farm Fresh Challenge for all TDA contracting entities (CE) in the Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP). The Challenge is a fun and engaging way for nutrition professionals to gain recognition for their efforts to bring local foods and garden-based learning activities to their sites. 

Participating in the Farm Fresh Challenge is easier than you may think, as some of the food options you’re already serving - like milk and fresh produce options - are likely locally sourced from Texas producers, which means you’ve already completed some of the Challenge requirements before you ever pledge

Participating in the Challenge is Easy

Follow these simple steps to participate in the CACFP Farm Fresh Challenge and receive TDA recognition!

Step 1: Pledge participation by completing an online form. Registration opens in January. 

Important note: The Challenge participation pledge should be completed by the CE, not an individual site.

Step 2:
 Plan your menu and educational activities.

Step 3: Complete the parameters:
Eat Local. Teach Local. Be Social.

Step 4: Submit your participation 
attestation form. This form collects information about local products served, dollars spent on Texas products, details about hosted educational activities and social activity.

Step 5 (optional): Send a success story about your participation and photos
 (if available) to FarmFresh@TexasAgriculture.gov

Complete the Challenge: Eat Local. Teach Local. Be Social.

 Eat Local.
Serve 3 or more Texas Foods representing 3 different meal components, at least once a week,
every full week in March.

Teach Local.

Host 2 or more nutrition education activities during the month of March.

 Be Social.

Share 1 or more social media post on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using #FarmFreshTexas during the month of March. If you don't use social media, that's okay! Share your Farm Fresh activities in your newsletter and bulletin boards.   

Success Stories
Houston Food Bank Builds on Existing Resources for CACFP Farm Fresh Challenge Pilot

Houston Food Bank
During preparations for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Farm Fresh Challenge pilot, the Houston Food Bank discovered many of the foods they were already purchasing from the distributor came from Texas! That made serving local foods in the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) Farm Fresh Challenge pilot even easier. The food bank partners with TDA to operate almost 200 Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) sites.  The Houston Food Bank used emails and webinars to encourage sites to track the ways they were able Eat Local! Teach Local! and Be Social! during the challenge. The food bank works year round to provide opportunities for participants to eat local foods and learn about agriculture. Way to go Houston Food Bank!

Gulf Coast Community Services Association Hosted a Berry Successful Farm Fresh Challenge
Gulf Coast Community Services Association  Gulf Coast Community Services Association (GCCSA) served Texas grown strawberries and local milk on their way to successfully completing the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) 2018 CACFP Farm Fresh Challenge pilot. The leaders of the Head Start and Early Head Start Centers also engaged participants in learning opportunities related to agriculture. To ensure the community could know about their enthusiasm for including agriculture in child care programs they shared their accomplishments on social media.

Kids R Kids Goes to the Farmers Market for Farm Fresh Challenge

Kids R KidsA nearby farmers market helped Michael Gonzalez, director of Kids R Kids in Stafford, provide participants with healthy lessons about local foods. Kids R Kids was part of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) 2018 CACFP Farm Fresh Challenge pilot. The director visited a local farmers market to discover new local produce options for his site. Kids R Kids also hosted a Facebook live video stream from the farmers market during the challenge to offer program participants and their families an interactive experience to learn about Texas-grown fruits and vegetables.

Local Distributor Supports PSJAISD Efforts to Serve Local

The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD participated in the CACFP Farm Fresh Challenge as a way to celebrate National CACFP Week and support Farm Fresh initiatives, according to Imelda Palacios, director for CNP. Though the district already served local milk and other local products on a daily basis, she said she hoped the district’s participation in the Farm Fresh Challenge would help add even more local foods into meals and snacks.

Palacios said they sourced their foods through a local distributor who made it easy to identify foods from a Texas source. In addition, foods harvested from a school, site or community garden helped them complete the challenge. 

TDA resources, including the Harvest of the Month posters and product sheets, seasonality wheel, Farm Fresh Challenge Pledge Toolkit and the Taste Testing Toolkit were also helpful. One aspect Palacios found especially easy during the challenge was sharing communications via social media and other platforms.

She said she is very likely to participate in the Farm Fresh Challenge again in the future, as well as recommend the event to a neighboring CACFP operator.

Resources to Help you Complete the Challenge

Below are a few resources that you can leverage to make completing the Farm Fresh Challenge a breeze for your program. 

Sourcing Local Products

Find local Texas farmers, ranchers and distributors using our Farm Fresh Network.

Questions about how to buy local? Visit the Local Procurement page for additional resources.

Farm Fresh Cookbook

Make your menu fresh with the Cooking for the Seasons cookbook.

Farm Fresh Educational Activities

A Farm Fresh educational activity is any activity that educates participants about local food and agriculture. Activity examples include taste testing local products; field trips to a farm or farmers market; Meet the Farmer days; garden-based learning activities; or programming focused on local food and agriculture. You may use one of TDA’s Farm Fresh Friday celebration ideas and resources or create your own. Engage your participants in garden-based learning with these activity ideas.

Social Guidance
Complete your Be Social parameter with the help of our Be Social Support tool. Click on the icon below.

Even more resources to support your participation in the Farm Fresh Challenge can be found on our RESOURCE PAGE.

Other Helpful Resources

Defining Local Decision Tool

The USDA authorizes entities participating in the NSLP to define local in a manner that best suits their needs and the needs of the population they serve. This tool will walk you through two questions to help you identify your entity’s definition of local. 

Local Procurement Decision Tree

This USDA resource will help you identify the appropriate procurement method to use when buying local. 

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Assistance available in English and Spanish. Please call 877-TEX-MEAL (877-839-6325) for help.

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To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
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Texas Department of Agriculture
Commissioner Sid Miller