Farms, Healthy Kids: Evaluating the Barriers and Opportunities
for Farm-to-School Programs
Farms, Healthy Kids explores in-depth the opportunities
and barriers related to school food services purchasing
food from local farmers. These issues have significance
both for small farmers and the local farm economies as well
as for school children and the broader school community.
and regional farmers require profitable and stable markets
for their products. Prices that farmers receive for many
commodities have dropped appreciably in recent years. Globalization
and concentration in agri-business has also reduced access
to markets, and resulted in unfair prices offered to family
farmers. In schools, an ever-increasing number of children
are overweight, as a result of insufficient physical activity
and increased consumption of high caloric junk foods. Anecdotal
evidence has indicated that adult-onset diabetes, rarely
found in children until recently, has become more widespread.
Schools have also reduced in importance the nutritional
mission of the school meals programs in favor of practices
that bolster the bottom line. Food services, in a financial
bind because of reduced student participation, have incorporated
commercial practices, such as branding and contracting with
fast food businesses, to achieve better buy-in from
students. School districts, hungry for cash for extra-curricular
and sports programs, have also signed contracts with soft
drink corporations to promote their products on campus.
problems have given rise to a new "healthy farms, healthy
schools" or farm-to-school" approach. The Report
highlights case studies of seven farm-to-school programs
in California, New York City, Connecticut, Florida, and
North Carolina. It also describes on-going efforts in New
York, Kentucky, Iowa and Vermont to start new projects.
Lessons learned from these case studies that can serve as
general guidelines for future efforts include:
- Forge partnerships with local farm organizations, farmers
markets, and other individuals with similar goals of supporting
local agricultureCultivate parents and community members
to act as advocates for the program.
- Convince the school
district to set up an advisory body of parents. Build support
for the program with school district officials, the food
service director, and other policymakers.
- Engage students
by listening to their preferences, educating them about
the importance of their food decisions, and providing them
with the opportunities to make healthy choices.
- Build collaborative
relationships d administrative constraints. Focus on the
long-term sustainability of the project.
Celebrate successes and publicize accomplishments.
The Report also examines federal policies and programs related
to school meals, nutrition, market development and farmer
cooperatives. It finds that government efforts to support
farm-to-school projects are significant in legitimizing
this arrangement, but are uncoordinated and have not
significantly addressed the potential policy barriers and
opportunities. Major policy recommendations include: Establishment
of a fund that would provide districts serving school meals
with locally grown foods with an additional five to ten
cents reimbursement; Enactment of a policy statement by
USDA and Congress that encourages school districts to purchase
from local family farmers.Creation of a seed grant fund
as part of the Community Food Projects program that would
fund school districts and non-profits to undertake farm-to-school
projects.Expansion of the USDA Small Farm/School Meals program.
This augmentation should be connected to increased efforts
and funding for the Department of Defense Supply Center
to broker the purchase of local food for schools in a greater
number of states than currently.Expanded federal funding
for local food system infrastructure through the creation
of a separate grants program.
Report concludes that direct farm-to-school food service
sales provide substantial benefits to participating farmers
by developing new markets and as a source of additional
income. All students, especially those from lower income
families who rely on free or reduced price school meals,
can benefit from improved nutritional quality and taste,
as well as from related educational programs on local agriculture,
nutrition, and food systems. Nevertheless, substantial barriers
exist for farm-to-school programs, including additional
food and labor costs, and administrative and logistical
problems. While farm-to-school projects are in their infancy,
they hold substantial potential as part of an integrated
approach to decommercialize education, improve the health
of youth, and enhance and sustain local food systems.
Download the report and view other CFSC reports on the Publications page.