On June 7, the first Annual Illinois Farm to School Summit brought together teachers, food service staff, community advocates, and farmers from around the state. Designed to be interactive, the summit gave attendees a chance to prepare the lunch menu onsite and from scratch using locally sourced ingredients. “We wanted to revise the school lunch menu to reintroduce real food and demonstrate how districts can deliver nutritious, all-local meals,” said Lydia Mills, IFSN coordinator and co-organizer.

More than 90 people attended the summit, during which participants helped map out a strategic plan for farm to school in Illinois that will be unveiled in the coming months. The Illinois Farm to School Network hosted and coordinated the full day of workshops and trainings that took place at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield.

One of the day’s highlights was the lunchtime menu, which was prepared onsite from scratch by food service workers from school districts all over the state. They quickly learned some advanced skills under the direction of Diane Chapeta, Illinois Farm to School Network Coordinator. Five farms, including a local meat processor, helped with the menu, which met federal school lunch guidelines.

The local CBS news affiliate brought a camera crew to document the kitchen work. Watch the coverage here.

Composting at the summit diverted more than 50 pounds of food scraps from going into the landfill, turning the lunch leftovers into local soil.

The Second Annual Illinois Farm to School Summit will take place in Kane County, Ill., in 2017.

A few days before the summit, the National Farm to School Network held the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria conference in Madison, Wis. The biennial brought together more than 1,000 stakeholders who are working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America. Activities included hundreds of leaders in the farm to cafeteria movement exploring the Madison area food system and farm to institution landscape—from aquaponics to urban farms and hospitals to college campuses.

Keynote speaker Debra Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition to the White House and one of the farm to cafeteria movement’s true innovators, reviewed and celebrated the impressive growth that the farm to school movement has achieved in less than two decades. “I am deeply encouraged by our collective progress. In this next phase, we need to be even more creative and innovative. This is not some trendy issue. This is something we have to stay committed to for the long haul,” she said. First Lady Michelle Obama also sent video remarks that celebrated the movement’s accomplishments.

Gary Cuneen, SGA executive director, and Lydia Mills and Diane Chapeta of the Illinois Farm to School team attended.

The Illinois Farm to School Network is a project of Seven Generations Ahead.