Farm to School

About Farm to School

What is Farm to School (F2S)? It certainly represents more than just “buying local.” It’s a mindset and an approach to connecting food education to the process of growing healthy kids. F2S programs bring locally or regionally produced foods into school food operations, which help them meet updated nutrition standards. F2S activities include planting gardens, visiting farms, and using locally grown ingredients in menus and then telling the school community about it. It also includes teaching kids to cook with local foods and bringing farmers to the schools to teach kids about what they do. From an economic perspective, the positive impact of school districts investing in their local economy is enormous. The USDA’s Farm to School Census has indicated that more than 789 million dollars are invested in local food purchases in a single year. That is just the beginning of what is possible.

As (Former) Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said, “an investment in the health of America’s students through farm-to-school activities is also an investment in the health of local economies. We know that when students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm, they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. We also know that when schools invest their food dollars in their local communities, all of agriculture benefits including local farmers, ranchers, fisherman, food processors, and manufacturers.”

Farm to School programs exist in every state in the nation. According to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, 42% of districts that responded to the survey say they participate in farm to school activities. That’s 5,254 districts and 42,587 schools! As a result, 23.6 million schoolchildren now have access to local food at school. These programs help them develop healthy eating habits and understand what goes into growing the food that ends up on their plates.

The cornerstone of any Farm to School program is creating procurement relationships with local farmers and producers. For tips on how to get started, check out the Local and Regional Procurement section and our Procurement for Scratch-Cook Operations Webinar. Also be sure to utilize our farm-to-school recipes

Harvest of the Month

What is Harvest of the Month?

Harvest of the Month (HOTM) is an ongoing event that encourages students to become engaged in the importance of local food, seasonality, and sustainability. Each month, the district features a different fruit or vegetable that reflects the growing season in your state.

Understanding our agricultural footprint is vital to the future of our kids’ health and our planet. Start your Harvest of the Month planning by designating a featured fruit or vegetable for every month of the school year. We suggest incorporating these foods into your monthly menu so that kids can also experience the produce in a meal. Take advantage of our farm-to-school recipes section and our Harvest of the Month collector cards, posters, and stickers to help develop your program.

A school meal program incorporating a Harvest of the Month (HOTM) model creates multiple opportunities for students to experience and learn about local food. With HOTM as your school meal theme, nutrition education and marketing activities can be designed to educate students about seasonal, local, and healthy foods. In addition, HOTM programs can often lead to students taking lessons home with them, which supports both parents and kids in making healthy choices in their daily lives. Incorporating nutrition education and marketing tools such as HOTM tasting events, chef demonstrations, rainbow days, student art contests, Harvest of the Month collector cards, harvest festivals, farm visits, farmer’s market days, and school gardens are all part of a comprehensive Farm-to-School program. 

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