Farm-to-School Month builds local ties to school meals

Date: September 13, 2018 Posted by Amy Mail Twitter Facebook

October is Farm-to-School Month in the United States. It's a month when schools enjoy the bounty from their school gardens or farm-fresh produce from nearby producers and ranchers.

According to the School Nutrition Association's School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2018, nearly 60% of the 1,550 respondents reported serving local produce in their cafeterias. In the 2014 version of the same study, only 37.5% of respondents indicated they incorporate farm-to-school efforts into their school meal programs.

Farm-to-school foods ensure the freshest foods in school meals and help support local economies at the same time. Money spent in your community, stays in your community. And while most of us think of crop agriculture when we hear farm-to-school, it can also encompass the likes of local fisheries, beef ranchers, chicken farms and food processors.

There are many organizations and government agencies putting their muscle behind the farm-to-school movement, including the National Farm-to-School Network, an information advocacy and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sources, and food and agriculture education into education settings. USDA's Farm-to-School Program also supports and encourages the procurement of local foods. The agency has a vision for locally sourced foods to be the norm, not the exception, in school foodservice programs. It may seem odd, even the Department of Defense supports farm-to-school through its Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which enables schools nationally to allocate a portion of their USDA Foods entitlement money towards fresh fruits and vegetables. Most states also encourage farm-to-school by providing suggested activities for students, school resources, and guidance on procuring locally produced foods. Check with your state's agency governing school nutrition programs to see what may be available to support your efforts.

Farm-to-School Month is a perfect opportunity to teach students about the origins of their food and the benefits of locally produced and processed foods and ingredients. But that doesn't mean it's limited to October -- farm-to-school is a year-round initiative.


Available resources:

How to Start a School Garden from the Washington Post

USDA Farm-to-School (Community Food Systems)

National Farm-to-School Month fact sheet 

National Farm-to-School Network

USDA Farm-to-School Planning Kit

USDA Webinar: Planning for Farm-to-School Success; Tying It All Together and Digging In


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