Farm to School

USDA Office of Community Food Systems

Overview

Farm to school is a PSE change and direct education intervention designed to improve access to local foods in pre-k to 12 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.

PSE supports for farm to school are those that make farm to school practices the norm in classrooms and cafeterias, throughout the year, from early care through high school. Policy efforts focus on integrating supports for farm to school 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 at 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 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

  • The Benefits of Farm to School (National Farm to School Network, 2017) This document provides a concise, yet, 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
  • Cultivating Opportunity: An Overview of USDA’s Fiscal Year 2015 and 2016 Farm to School Grantees’ Growing Achievements (USDA, 2018) This report explores the history and benefits of farm to school programs across the country and dives deeper into the strategies and outcomes of USDA’s Farm to School Grant Program. https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/f2s/USDA_GranteeReport_O.pdf

In short, benefits experienced include:

Cafeteria

  • Improvement in early childhood and K-12 eating behaviors, including choosing healthier options in the cafeteria, consuming more fruits and vegetables through farm to school meals and at home (+0.99 to +1.3 servings/day); consuming less unhealthy foods and sodas; reducing screen time; and increasing physical activity (Source: http://www.farmtoschool.org/Resources/BenefitsFactSheet.pdf)
  • Demonstrated willingness to try new foods and healthier options (in early childhood and K-12 settings) (Source: https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/f2s/ResearchShows.pdf)
  • Districts that participate in farm to school report greater acceptance and participation in school meal programs (Source: https://www.fns.usda.gov/cfs/research-shows-farm-school-works)

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):
Julie Brewer 

Director, Office of Community Food Systems 

USDA Food and Nutrition Service 

703-457-7803 

Email: farmtoschool@fns.usda.gov or Julie.Brewer@usda.gov