Farm to School
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Farm to School is a program that connects schools with local farms. Specific aspects of these programs may differ depending on the individual Farm to School program, however, Farm to School programs are generally created for three purposes:
- Help students eat more nutritious foods and promote healthier lifelong eating patterns
- Support the local economy and local farmers
- Teach students about the origins of their food and how it is grown
Schools can obtain food for a Farm to School program through different sources. The most common sources for a Farm to School program are local distributors and local farmers, however, some schools consider school gardens, on or off of school property, to be a Farm to School program as well. School gardens usually involve gardens operated by a school or a school district, on or off school property, to produce food for use in the school food program and to promote nutrition, physical activity, and/or curricular and co-curricular activities. For purposes of this discussion, “Farm to Schools” refers to situations in which a school obtains food from a local distributor or local farmer. “School garden” will refer to gardening programs which are operated by a school or school district.
Many Farm to School programs begin by providing locally grown unprocessed fresh fruits and vegetables to schools. At the same time, some Farm to School programs may also include locally produced meat, poultry and dairy produce, wild rice, cereal and other grain products, and herbs, in addition to fresh vegetables and fruits. Different legal issues may develop as schools expand their Farm to School programs beyond providing unprocessed fresh vegetables and fruits.
The federal government now allows and encourages schools to apply a geographic preference to their food purchasing decisions in order to increase their purchases of local products. This allows schools to increase their farm-to-school and other local purchases even if they are not the lowest price available.