What makes your farm to school program successful? We want to know!

Volume 3, Issue 11, April 11, 2017

Daily Access to Local Foods for School Meals

Key drivers for farm to school success

The Economic Research Service (ERS) recently released a report identifying the key drivers for successful farm to school programs. Farm to school programs bring regional and local foods to child nutrition programs and provide students educational opportunities such as farm visits, taste test, and gardening. The major drivers for a successful farm to school program include:

  • School districts with more than 5,000 students;
  • Schools located in urban areas;
  • School districts with a high density of farmers' markets;
  • School districts with a higher per capita income;
  • Higher levels of college attendance; and,
  • States with more legislated policies supporting farm to school

The study used data from the 2013 Farm to School Census, a survey that was distributed to all public school districts, private schools, and charter schools to gain insight about farm to school activities for the 2011-2012 school year. Read the full report, Daily Access to Local Foods for School Meals: Key Drivers and check out the 2015 Farm to School Census data.

We want to know what works for you!

The ERS has released the key drivers for successful farm to school programs and we want to hear what makes your program amazing! Send us your farm to school success stories that illustrate your favorite activities and best practices.

We may feature your story in an upcoming E-letter!

What's next for the Farm to School Census?

The Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS) is gearing up for the 2019 Farm to School Census! The 2013 and 2015 Farm to School Census gave insight to how farm to school was taking shape across the nation. There has been a steady increase in farm to school activities in schools, and state and local agencies and non-profits have been supporting these educational opportunities along the way. In preparation for the next Census, OCFS will offer opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback on the survey instrument and process later this year. Keep reading our E-letter to learn more about this opportunity.

The 2019 Farm to School Census will survey public school districts, private schools, and charter schools between January and March 2019 about farm to school activities that occurred during the 2017-2018 school year.


Girls eating lunch

How to Bring Farm Fresh into Schools with New USDA Meal Pattern Recipes

Date: Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 4:00pm ET


Join the launch of fifty new tried and true, farm-to-school recipes to bring farm fresh meals to your students. You’ll get to see all the new recipes and menu cycles and how they credit toward the school and child care meal patterns. Plus, you’ll hear about how school districts across the nation are procuring food from local and regional farms and ranches. We will also share best practices for lunchroom-based nutrition education.

Preschool kids eating lunch

Farm to Early Care and Education

Date: Friday, April 28, 2017 at 1:30pm ET

Farm to School can go beyond K-12 institutions. An increasing number of early child care and education providers are becoming involved in farm to school activities which can help to establish healthy eating habits in early childhood. This webinar will provide an overview and examples of farm to early care and education, and present a minigrant opportunity. Presenters will include representatives from the Food Trust and STEP Head Start of Lycoming–Clinton County.This webinar is being offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Food and Nutrition, in collaboration with Project PA.

Grantee Spotlight: Ferguson-Florissant School District Provides Fresh, Local Food for Students

Volunteers preparing vegetables

We all know that fresh, local produce tends to grow during the summer months when school’s not typically in session. As part of their USDA Farm to School Implementation Grant project, Ferguson-Florissant School District came up with a creative solution: they employ high school students who process and freeze fresh, local produce for use later in the school year. It’s a win-win – students gain valuable culinary skills, and paychecks, while the school nutrition program has local food to serve throughout the school year. When local sweet potatoes are puréed, frozen, and later baked into fresh muffins, you better believe students are on board with farm to school!

Farm to School Program Manager Beth Derhake says of the program, “It gives me a chance to build relationships with students in the kitchen and at my school. The students we serve do not always have the opportunity to eat local food, much less have a hand in growing it themselves. It's always amazing to see which students step up to lend a hand or come up with a new idea!”

High school student worker and high school senior Kameron Smith sees the value in the program, too. “Working for this program is a phenomenal experience. It is great prep for future employment,” he says. 

Farm to School Kitchen Manager Tim adds, “This phenomenal program not only allows our students to learn the fundamentals of cooking and baking, it teaches them what it's like in the industry. It also allows them to create and brainstorm new recipes.”

The team at Ferguson-Florissant has also coordinated dozens of field trips to local farms so students really get to know where their food comes from. Six raised bed gardens now grow fresh produce for the Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum as well as school salad bars. Hats off to the team at Ferguson-Florissant School District for their truly integrated farm to school program, connecting the classroom, garden, cafeteria, and community to provide fresh, local food for students.