Farm to School

Farm to School Projects – Is There a Need?

In schools, physical education programs have been cut, while the presence of high caloric junk foods has increased. Children nation-wide are experiencing an epidemic of obesity. Since 1981, obesity has increased by 106% in the United States. 31% of children are overweight. Although new breakthroughs like Garcinia Cambogia can help with weight loss, Obesity rates among children have doubled in the last 10 years and tripled for adolescents. Children born in the year 2000 have a 33% chance of becoming a diabetic if they’re boys and 39% if they’re girls. For the first time in 200 years, today’s children are likely to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

The situation is just as sobering on the farm side of the equation. At the same time that obesity has reached epidemic proportions, family farming is facing its own crisis. It is facing the greatest decline of all occupations in the U.S. Less than 2% of the U.S. population is involved in farming, and the federal Census Bureau has declared the number of farms “statistically insignificant.” The farmer share of the food dollar has declined from 41 cents in 1950 to 20 cents in 1999. The bleak outlook for earning a good living by farming is discouraging to the younger generation, with nearly half of farmers over age 55, and only 8% of farmers under age 35. With increasing costs for land and water, fewer marketing outlets, and the growth of suburban sprawl and agribusiness, family farmers find themselves selling the farm to feed their family. Many farms remain in business only because of family members who have other jobs and provide off-farm income.

Where does farm to school fit in? It is not a cure-all, but it can be considered one strategy in a basket of strategies. Farm to school is flourishing in the U.S. There are over 1,000 school districts in 32 states that have farm to school programs. In this context, farm to school refers to the purchasing component, but farm to school programs are the most effective when they are combined with agriculture and nutrition education. Visits to farms or farmers’ markets, the creation of school gardens, inviting farmers into classrooms to talk to students, and compost and recycling programs, are all important ways to reinforce farm to school efforts. It’s like connecting the dots . . . making the connection between what’s eaten in the cafeteria, and what’s taught in the classroom.

How do Farm to School Projects Work?

Farm to School projects are as different as the communities in which they exist. A major factor that influences how they operate is the local agriculture found in the region. The seasonality of crops is much different in California, where crops grow year-round, than in Maine, which has a short growing season. Areas with warmer climates may organize a complete salad bar, while those with colder climates might provide some of the ingredients for school meals and snacks.

The movement to organize a Farm to School project has come from farmers, schools, parents, and community groups. School food service staff are key in design and implementation. Principals, students, school board members and teachers can also be influential in setting up a project. Some projects are organized from “the bottom up” – initiated by parents or farmers, while others have come from “the top down” – initiated by the school board or administration. Either way is fine, as long as the effort is inclusive of all parties. Including as many players as possible will improve your chance of success by incorporating the ideas and concerns of all involved. Farm to School projects can involve anywhere from one to twelve farm products, and operate year-round or for two months. There is no one blueprint; successful projects are “custom-made” for each community.

For examples of Farm to School projects around the country, go to and click on a state.

What Assistance does the Farm to School Program Offer?

Workshops and Presentations

The Program is organizing workshops and presentations across the United States to: 1) inform folks about farm to school projects; and 2) bring together farmers, school food service directors, parents, and community organizers to address the barriers and opportunities involved in creating a Farm to School project.

National Conferences

CFSC held its third National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in March, 2012, in Baltimore, MD. See the Events page for a history of previous Farm to School conferences.

Technical Assistance

Contact Marion Kalb, CFSC’s Farm to School Program Director, with your questions about starting a Farm to School Program. Assistance will be provided on a variety of topics, including how to find farmers, working with school food service directors, and creating a town hall meeting. A packet of information on Farm to School projects is presently being developed.

Healthy Farms, Healthy Kids

Evaluating the Barriers and Opportunities for Farm-to-School Programs. A review of existing Farm to School projects nationwide. A must have for everyone interested in this topic. Learn more.

Organizing Tools

The following tools are in pdf format unless otherwise noted.

Case Studies

Download the following case studies in pdf format.

Community Food Security Coalition Publications

You can find descriptions and instructions for how to obtain the following publications on thepublications page of this website.

Other Publications

  • A Growing Movement: A Decade of Farm to School in California
    By Anupama Joshi and Moira Beery of the Center for Food & Justice at Occidental College
    This is a brand new resource from the California Farm to School Program at the Center for Food & Justice. The farm to school movement began in California more than 10 years ago. This report tells the story of work undertaken by farm to school proponents in California and chronicles the emergence of the program, and the impacts it has had on students, farmers, and communities around the state.
    Download the report (pdf)
  • Go to the Farm to College website to view additional publications

Possible Funding Sources for Farm to School Programs

Web Sites

USDA: Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service
Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program, Fund for Rural America, Community Food Projects, Community Supported Agriculture and a variety of other funding programs are listed here. A must see.

USDA Office of Community Development
Notices of Funding Availability – search by Department, grant deadline, and key words.

USDA: Food and Nutrition Service
Lists grants for state agencies including Team Nutrition and Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP).

Community Foundation Locator
Lists foundations by state with an easy-to-use U.S. map graphic. Also uses maps to show locations of each community foundation.

USDA: Rural Development
Rural Business Enterprise Grants, Rural Business Opportunity Grants, focuses on funding for agricultural marketing and production innovations.

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education
Organized by region, funds new markets for farmers. Also funds multi-institutional, collaborative approaches including non-profit organizations, university staff and farmers.

Foundation Center
This website allows you to access and search the foundation center database for possible funding opportunities. Many grant directories are also made available. For a $20 monthly fee you can access more detailed foundation information from their database.

Local Foundations

Important resources, not to be overlooked, are local foundations. Because they are local, they are interested in funding what’s happening in their own backyard, and tend towards funding start-ups and special projects. A conversation with your local reference librarian should help turn up these sources.

Local Governments

Some city agencies – such as those dealing with community development, anti-hunger programs and school and youth programs – may have funds available for special projects. Elected officials often have small pots of money they can distribute at their own discretion for projects in their districts.

State Agencies

In some states, the state health department may have funding available through the Nutrition Network. The following states have Nutrition Network programs:

Alabama Iowa New Jersey Virginia
Arizona Kansas North Carolina Washington
California Maine Oklahoma Wisconsin
Colorado Michigan Pennsylvania
Georgia Missouri South Dakota
Indiana Nevada Vermont

For state contact information, contact Marion Kalb (below), National Farm to School Program Director.

National Churches

The major Protestant denominations, including Presbyterians, United Methodist, and United Church of Christ, have expressed interest in funding community food security projects. They tend to be very sophisticated and are looking for alternative approaches to traditional feeding programs. Local churches may also be interested in funding projects in the areas they serve.

Major Corporations and Corporate Foundations

While national foundations tend to have large amounts of funding available, it is generally difficult to secure this funding. Good sources of information for these foundations are:

  • The National Network of Grant makers – 1996 Directory – call 619-231-1348
  • The periodical, “Chronicle of Philanthropy”
  • Various foundation directories generally available in major libraries.

Learn More

Related Websites


Read the archives or join the Farm to School/Farm to College email list.
To join, click on “Join this Group” in the top right corner.

For more information about this program, contact:

Marion Kalb, Director
National Farm to School Program
Community Food Security Coalition
PO Box 4877
Santa Fe, NM 87502
Phone and fax: (505) 474-5782