On Aug. 2–5, more than 800 participants gathered in Burlington, Vt. for the sixth annual Farm to Cafeteria Conference – the largest held to date – hosted by WKKF grantee National Farm to School Network and local host Vermont FEED. Attendees included food service professionals, farmers, teachers, legislators and representatives from government agencies and nonprofit advocacy organizations nationwide. Held at the University of Vermont, the conference kicked off with an opening day parade and a local foods reception at historic Shelburne Farm.
Participants took field trips to farm-to-school programs; attended short courses and workshops on everything from fair food policy to procuring local meat; and heard from inspiring speakers and panelists. USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Dr. Janey Thornton spoke about the agency’s newly formed Farm to School program. Diane Imrie, nutrition director at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, spoke about Fletcher Allen’s stellar farm-to-hospital program. Also on hand were three members of Congress from Vermont and one from Maine, each of whom expressed support for policies that help local farms connect to schools, colleges, hospitals and prisons.
WKKF Vice President – Program Strategy Dr. Gail C. Christopher received a standing ovation following her closing remarks about the importance of addressing healthy, sustainable food systems from birth forward. Debra Eschmeyer, FoodCorps co-founder and director, closed with a heartfelt keynote from the perspective of both a farmer and a good food movement leader. Among the 500 tweets from the conference was this one from @lilybillue, following Eschmeyer’s keynote: “Holy tofu! Raise your hand if that made you cry. #farm2caf12.”