Preliminary Farm to School Census data for school year 2013-2014 indicates that strong farm to school programs can increase the number of students purchasing school breakfast and lunch, improve consumption of healthier foods at school and reduce plate waste. The data also shows that schools purchased nearly $600 million worth of food locally in 2013-2014, a 55 percent increase over 2011-2012, when the first Farm to School Census was conducted.
USDA offers grants to help schools and other eligible entities establish or expand farm to school programs through the Farm to School Grant Program that was established through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nationwide, more than 42,000 schools have farm to school programs, which operate in conjunction with the National School Lunch Program and other school meal programs.
Last month, USDA released a report showing that the grants alone have helped 12,300 schools offer meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities.
Seventy-five percent of respondents with farm to school programs reported at least one of the following positive benefits as a result of participating in farm to school...
• Reduced plate waste (17 percent);
• Improved acceptance of the healthier school meals (28 percent);
• Increased participation in school meals programs (17 percent);
• Lower school meal program costs (21 percent); and
• Increased support from parents and community members for the healthier school meals (39 percent).
The Farm to School Census is a nationally representative survey of school districts and results can be accessed online at farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov.
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]