USDA Celebrates Farm to School Success
Posted on 10/24/2013 at 12:00 AM by Christa Hartsook
Nationwide Census on Farm to School Activities Identifies Over 38,000 Schools with 21 Million Students Serving Over $350 Million in Local Food
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted important strides made in offering healthy, local food to millions of school children through USDA's Farm to School program, and emphasized the program's role in creating economic opportunity for America's farmers and ranchers. According to USDA's first-ever Farm to School Census, in school year 2011-2012, schools participating in farm to school activities purchased and served over $350 million in local food, with more than half of participating schools planning to purchase even more local foods in future school years.
Forty-three percent of public school districts across the country reported having an existing farm to school program in place, with another 13 percent of school districts surveyed committed to launching a farm to school program in the near future.
Interest in local products spans the school meal tray, with fruits, vegetables, and milk topping the list of local products currently offered in schools across the country, while census respondents indicate an interest in local plant-based proteins, grains and flour, and meat and poultry in the future.
Census results can be accessed online, at www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/census/. School districts that missed the opportunity earlier in the year to respond can submit information regarding farm to school practices through November 30, 2013.
USDA's Farm to School Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which authorized USDA to assist eligible entities, through grants and technical assistance, to improve access to local foods in schools. It is also a core element of the USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department's work on local food systems. In mid-November, USDA will announce approximately $5 million in FY2014 Farm to School grants to help school districts across the country further develop their farm to school programming.
For more information on the Farm to School program, please visit www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool.