Nebraska Regional Food Systems Initiative Newsletter

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FALL 2020

Welcome Food &
Agriculture Friends.

In the midst of this global pandemic, here at Nebraska Extension, our focus has been to provide resources and connections to build resilience in an already stressed food system. We have all had to pivot and adapt over the last few months. We’ve all learned new skills, found new markets, and hopefully considered what the new post-covid food system will look like.

We are reminded that this is a collective effort. Together we must stop the spread of the virus, build a resilient food system, and fight against the oppression and violence against people of color in our communities. The civil unrest and racism might feel hundreds of miles away from us, however, racism is present in our policies too. We must start being anti-racist in our homes, our farms, and in our own towns. We must acknowledge our implicit biases to begin responsible governance at all levels. If you find yourself a member of a group that has privilege, educate yourself and speak up for those that aren’t part of those groups. We are doing this work right alongside you. Learn more at

The Nebraska Regional Food System Team is committed to inclusivity, and creating spaces that are inviting to all, and proactively seeking and engaging partners from marginalized groups. This is urgent, now more than ever. We recommend utilizing resources from the Food Solutions New England’s annual 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge. Though the 2020 challenge has passed, their website includes extensive resources, including this post on “Equity & Liberating Forms of Food System Governance.”

As a partner in the food system, will you join us in this important effort to support greater diversity?

Be safe. Be healthy. Be brave.

-The NERFSI Team

Programs & Events


GRO Big Red



Legislative Updates

Written by Sarah Smith, Department of Education

During the 106th Legislative Session, Nebraska State Senator Tom Brandt of Plymouth, Nebraska introduced Legislative Resolution 337. This resolution designates the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee, of which Senator Brandt is the Vice-Chairperson, to conduct an interim study to explore the statewide economic and educational potential of a farm to school program in Nebraska.

This is not the first time the legislature has had such a study. In 2009, Legislative Resolution 42 first explored the potential of a farm to school program. “It has been over ten years since we have examined the possibility of getting high-quality Nebraska grown food in our schools. As a farmer, I welcome the opportunity to get our meat, grain, dairy products, vegetables, fruit, and other foods to our children. As a parent, I look forward to our children knowing where their food comes from and the peace of mind knowing our children are being served highly nutritious homegrown food”, said Brandt.

The Nebraska Food Council- the public policy group working to create a thriving, inclusive and accessible local food system- wholeheartedly supports Legislative Resolution 337 and the convening of a new task force on farm to school procurement and education. America’s school lunch program with its thousands of cafeterias nationwide constitutes the largest ‘restaurant chain’ in the United States. Increasing farm to school activity is, accordingly, is a vital means for strengthening the “Good Life” here in Nebraska- providing a triple win for our children, our farmers and our communities. Farm to school enhances classroom education through hands-on learning related to food, health, agriculture and nutrition. Farmers gain access to increased market diversification and institutional sales. And communities are supported with the creation of jobs and a strengthened local economy.

The interim study will receive input from Nebraska’s various and diverse stakeholders, including agricultural producers, school food service representatives, tribal organizations, agricultural education professionals, representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Department of Education, among others. The study’s resulting report will guide stakeholders on ways to leverage Nebraska’s current farm to school assets and provide strategic recommendations for expansion of farm to school activities, networks and capacity. Look for the task force report to land in time for the 2021 Legislative Session.

Nebraska Food Council Update

The Nebraska Food Council is a statewide food policy council created by the Center for Rural Affairs in 2017. It consists of food system stakeholders working to improve food policies across our state. Farmers, distributors, educators, nonprofit staff, and healthcare professionals have come together to form this group. The NFC envisions a thriving, inclusive, and accessible local food system for all Nebraskans.

The NFC has made great strides in 2020. In February, the group elected it’s second board of directors and, in March, hosted its first Food Chat. Food Chats, held in collaboration with UNL Extension, are informal education sessions for farmers and others in the food system. Topics have ranged from safety regulations for value added products to the needs of producers during the pandemic.

Recently, the leadership of the NFC came together for a large workshop with food policy council expert, Mark Winne. This workshop has led to a new list of priorities, such as expanded member recruitment and striving to interweave diversity and inclusion into all aspects of the council’s work. For the remainder of 2020, the NFC will continue to work on policy objectives such as SNAP incentives and expanding Farm to School programs. It will also explore new opportunities, such as how to incentivize local purchasing for institutions and developing additional agriculture education in K-12 schools.

The NFC seeks to create a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system Nebraskans can be proud of. Members look forward to expanding the group's reach to more rural areas and encouraging others to take action in their communities.

If you would like to learn more about the Nebraska Food Council please contact:
Justin Carter
Project Associate
Center for Rural Affairs

Promotion - Resources


Nebraska Extension’s Regional Food System Initiative (NeRFSI) is excited to announce the launch of Nebraska MarketMaker. MarketMaker is a national database featuring a diverse community of food-related businesses: buyers, farmers/ranchers, fisheries, farmers markets, processors/packers, wineries, restaurants and more. MarketMaker provides simple yet powerful search tools to connect with others across the production and distribution chain. Creating a profile on MarketMaker is simple, and free for all users. As a food-based business owner, MarketMaker provides greater exposure to potential customers and gives you control over your marketing strategies. With an interactive map featuring geo-located businesses, and now free online store functionality, business owners can find and connect with new customers, and make sales online all in one easy-to-use site.

For more information or questions, please contact:
Ben McShane-Jewell
Nebraska Extension


Nebraska receives portion of largest ever USDA farm to school grant.



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Be on the lookout for the 2021 Summit info!


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