Life Lab

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

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

Watch a Webinar on Garden To Cafeteria hosted by the School Garden Support Organization Network

View Whole Kid’s Foundation and Slow Food USA’s Garden To Cafeteria Toolkit

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.

Garden to Cafeteria: A Step-by-Step Guide created by the Center for Regional Food Systems and Michigan State University

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.

UCONN Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity Legislation Database tracks state and federal policies related to obesity and diet-related diseases in issue areas including access to healthy food, breastfeeding, farms and gardens, school nutrition and physical activity, food assistance programs, marketing/advertising to children, menu and package labeling, and food and beverage taxes.

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.

Slow Food USA list of Garden to Cafeteria Protocols

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

Seriving School Garden Produce in the Cafeteria from Change Lab Solutions

General 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.

Iowa State’s Online School Garden School Food Safety Training includes videos, quizzes, worksheets for students, and a comprehensive On Farm Food Safety Manual: School Garden.

School Garden Food Safety comprehensive resources and online training from the University of Arizona.

Looking for more 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 30 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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We’ve kicked off our Year End Giving Campaign by raising $4600 on #givingtuesday. Thank you!

For 2019 Life Lab wants to bring more children into school gardens than ever before. More hands in dirt, more love of healthy foods and more kids saying, "I’m a scientist!"

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We share our work nationally through workshops and curriculum for teachers and our School Garden Support Organization Leadership Program. Participating educators tell us this impacts over 500,000 students annually!

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“Kids participated in garden lessons right before recess. Once recess began, however, they didn’t want to leave the garden! They thought it was better than recess!” ~1st Grade Teacher & Garden Champion at a Santa Cruz County school

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Last school year, Life Lab’s Santa Cruz County programs served:
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“I love making the rainbow smoothie. It had something new for me–that was the spinach. I made it at home. I love it and my mom made something new!”

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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.
Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside
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.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
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.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom