Life Lab

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

Policy and Protocols for School Gardens and Garden to Cafeteria

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

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.

From a legal standpoint, however, there are no federal impediments. 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 two USDA Bulletins that state federal school food service funds can be used to purchase edible school gardening supplies. 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. This document was referenced from a National USDA Memo

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.

Ventura USD Healthy Schools Program Guide to Serving Garden food in Cafeteria for Ventura Unified
Ventura USD Healthy Garden Pledge guidelines on maintaining a healthy garden site

Santa Barbara County Requirements for School-Based Garden/Farm-to-Cafeteria Programs has been approved by Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner's Office as a guideline for local school garden requirements.

Denver Public Schools Garden to Cafeteria Protocol is a nice example of a district wide direction to assure safe handling of garden grown produce.  
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.

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.

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.

Safety in the Garden handout from the CDE School Garden Resource Packet

Seriving School Garden Produce in the Cafeteria from Change Lab Solutions

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

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.

Looking for 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 25 years Pacific Elementary School has had a strong garden to cafeteria connection. This small school campus food service is ran by students!

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Thanks to the 35 educators who joined us for two great days in Santa Cruz visiting some of the best Life Lab school gardens in the nation (Bonny Doon, Westlake, Gault and Pacific School); eating at Pacifc School's FoodLab -the best school meal program in the world; and a Plant it, Grow it, Eat it Workshop. Happy #f2smonth, keep cultivating children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education! ... See MoreSee Less

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Hope to see you all out on Saturday for this year's Hard Core Cider Tour! A portion of proceeds from this fun event will benefit Life Lab. ... See MoreSee Less

Hard Core Cider Tour - Santa Cruz

October 8, 2016, 1:00pm - October 8, 2016, 6:00pm

San Lorenzo Park in Santa Cruz

The Hard Core Cider Tour returns to Santa Cruz, CA for its 2nd year! Imbibe UNLIMITED 2 oz. samples from some of the World's Top Craft Hard Cider Makers, savor mouth watering food from Local Food Trucks (food sold separately), groove to Live Music, and let your inner kid out with our Jumbo Lawn Games! This year, we are raising funds for Life Lab. Our mission is to celebrate the revival of craft hard cider making. As one of America’s long lost alcoholic beverages, we strive to reintroduce the joy of imbibing hard cider to all! CIDERS: 101 Cider House, Schilling Cider, Aspall, Santa Cruz Cider Company, Finnriver, The San Francisco Mead Company, South City Ciderworks, Surf City Cider, Rambling Route Cider, Tieton Cider Works, Two Rivers Cider Company, William's Orchards, Everett Family Farm, Ratel Cider, Humboldt Cider Company, WILDCIDE Hard Cider, Far West Cider Co, Red Branch Cider Company, E.Z. Orchards Farm Market, Indigeny Reserve MUSIC LINEUP: Olde Blue FOOD TRUCKS: The Choke Coach and Ate3one SPONSORS: Good Times Santa Cruz, UpOut SF, Santa Cruz Waves TICKETS: * General Admission: ~$40 Online / $50 At The Door * General Admission - Group Rate (4+ Tickets): ~ $30 Online / $40 At The Door * Designated Driver: ~ $10 (Available for purchase At The Door Only) TICKET ADMISSION INCLUDES: * UNLIMITED 2 oz. Tastings * Signature Keepsake Mason Jar * Unlimited Selfies & Goodtimes … #hardcorecidertour This is strictly at 21 and Over event. * * * * * Remember to Please Imbibe Responsibly * * * * *

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We walked around and took photos of some of the other awesome sustainability orgs who were under the Sustainability Tent with us at OPERS Fest this year.

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Another great workshop with San Mateo County Educators. Thanks Heal Project sharing the power of garden-based learning. ... See MoreSee Less

Great training this weekend at the San Mateo County School Farm hosted by Life Lab! Always inspiring to connect with folks dedicated to farm and garden based education

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Delicious! Taste testing at Common Threads Farm as part of a Growing Classroom Workshop in Bellingham, WA. Not many better places in the nation to be for apple tasting! Bringing (tasty) learning to life in the garden..... ... See MoreSee Less

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Rachel Pringle

Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside

Life Lab has been the most innovative and relevant organization in this field. From providing the best curriculum to their cutting edge professional development, we have relied on Life Lab as our go to organization for support, ideas, and collaboration.

Erica Curry

Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps

Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.

Sheila Bricken

Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary

Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.

Tara Neier

Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom

Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.