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Rural Health Information Hub

Farm to School Models

Farm to School is a national program focused on increasing the amount of local, fresh, and healthy foods in schools. Recently, there has been a national trend towards purchasing and eating more locally grown foods, and this program connects schools with farmers and producers in their area. Farm to School programs vary from school to school, but each program contains at least one of the three main components:

  • Students involved in school gardens
  • Cafeterias purchasing from local farmers
  • Healthy eating curriculum in classes

Research studies show that kids eat more fruits and vegetables and are more willing to try new, healthy foods at school and at home if they attend a school with a Farm to School program. Incorporating locally grown foods into school meals allows more fresh fruits and vegetables to be served to students. To promote and bring awareness to Farm to School programs, schools conduct student surveys, hold taste tests, and/or have Harvest of the Month samplings.

Implementation Considerations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides grants and funding to help implement Farm to School programs. State and local organizations may also provide funding. Grants can be used for training, implementation, planning, and support services. One common approach for rural schools is to upgrade outdated appliances or to purchase salad bar equipment. Both of those opportunities make it easier to prepare and serve fresh fruits and vegetables every day.

Farm to School can be applied to any and all meals served by the school. This model connects local farmers to schools and can be combined with the food hub model to help with processing and purchasing larger amounts of food. This model also can incorporate culturally significant foods in schools at an affordable price.

Farm to School is administratively heavy, with cafeteria and nutrition school employees taking on more tasks. Reimbursement paperwork, meal planning, marketing, and waste control falls to these employees, and schools and communities should offer support to their departments. This model also requires creating and maintaining relationships with local farmers and community members.

Resources to Learn More

The Benefits of Farm to School
Fact sheet outlining the benefits of farm to school. Discusses benefits in the following areas: economic development, public health, education, environment, and community engagement.
Organization(s): National Farm to School Network
Date: 4/2017

What Does Farm to School Look Like in Native Communities?
Recorded video describing the implementation of farm to school programs in native communities.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service
Date: 5/2016