Farm to School

USDA Office of Community Food Systems

Overview

Farm to school is a Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) change and direct education intervention designed to improve access to local foods in pre-k to 12th grade school settings and provides education opportunities that encourage healthy eating behaviors. Farm to school empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. Each farm to school program is unique, but often combines elements of local procurement or serving food from local producers in meals and snacks, alongside food, nutrition, and agriculture education in the classroom and beyond, such as the cafeteria and school garden. 

Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) backing for farm to school make farm to school practices the norm in classrooms and cafeterias throughout the year. Policy efforts focus on integrating farm to school supports into organizational statements and positions, such as procurement policies, wellness policies, and resolutions. Systems change include those that make organizational procedures and programs more supportive of farm to school. Examples include hiring farm to school or garden staff, partnering with distributors to carry and label local product, creating a grant program to fund school gardens, and building local or State-wide farm to school coalitions. Environmental changes are observable in your physical or social surroundings. Farm to school environmental supports may include, but are not limited to, local foods promotional and marketing materials, school gardens/farms, and food systems courses and classes. 

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating

Intervention Type: Direct Education, PSE Change

Intervention Reach and Adoption

Farm to school educational efforts often target school-age youth in school settings but can also include audiences involved in the broader food system environment, such as school food service professionals, producers, distributors, school administrators, parents, community partners, and more. Direct education may include hosting farm to school trainings, hosting urban farm business classes, offering cooking classes focused on fresh, seasonal food, conducting student-led taste tests of local recipes, offering workshops on hands-on gardening, and providing education about equity in the food system. A separate toolkit submission is available for the early care and education environment (ages 0-5). (Note: this intervention can also apply to after-school and summer feeding programs). 

Setting: School

Age: Elementary School, Middle School, High School

Race/Ethnicity: All

Intervention Components

In each school or community, each farm to school intervention looks different depending on the priorities, values, and agricultural landscape of the community. Farm to school includes 1) Procurement: serving local foods purchased from surrounding farmers, ranchers or fishers in school meals and snacks; 2) Education: creating and promoting curriculum and opportunities for agriculture, food, school gardens, health and/or nutrition education; and 3) Community supports: linking farmers to school districts in online marketplaces, incorporating farm to school into local school wellness policies, building farm to school coalitions, assisting communities in developing Farm to School Action Plans and more. 

Intervention Materials

There are a number of resources available at these national websites: 

Intervention Costs

Materials available at no cost.

Evidence Summary

Farm to School Drivers 

Benefits and Outcomes 

General 

  • To examine and describe the facets of farm to school efforts nationwide, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) fielded surveys and collected data from school food authorities (SFAs) in 2013, 2015, and 2019. The 2019 Farm to School Census reached out to all public and private SFAs that participated in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The 2019 Farm to School Census website summarizes findings from the 2019 Census and reports on key national results.  https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov/ 
  • The Benefits of Farm to School (National Farm to School Network, 2017) This document provides a concise and comprehensive overview of the benefits of farm to school activities. The summary covers outcomes related to economic development, public health, education, environment, and community engagement. http://www.farmtoschool.org/resources-main/the-benefits-of-farm-to-school
  • The 2019 Farm to School Census is part of a larger comprehensive review of farm to school in the U.S., which also includes a descriptive review of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, a review of published research on farm to school since 2010, and a set of interviews with school food distributors. These reports are available online [Farm to School Census and Comprehensive Review | USDA-FNS].

In short, benefits experienced include:

Cafeteria 

Classroom 

Community 

 Hungry for more research? Check out these Farm to School related publications! 

Classification: Research-tested

Evaluation Indicators

Based on the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework, the following outcome indicators can be used to evaluate intervention progress and success.

Readiness and Capacity – Short Term (ST) Changes – Medium Term (MT) Effectiveness and Maintenance – Long Term (LT) Population Results (R)
Individual ST1 MT1
Environmental Settings ST7 MT5
Sectors of Influence MT8 LT15

 

Evaluation Materials

Additional Information

Websites:

https://www.fns.usda.gov/cfs

http://www.farmtoschool.org/

Contact Person(s):
Summer Skillman

Program Analyst

619-370-0403

Email: farmtoschool@fns.usda.gov or summer.skillman@usda.gov