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What is farm to school, and how does it
contribute to vibrant communities?
What is farm to school?
Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education sites.
Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips.
Farm to school empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing
to vibrant communities.
Farm to school implementation differs by location but always includes one or more of the following:
Procurement: Local foods are purchased, promoted and served in the cafeteria or as a snack or taste-test;
School gardens: Students engage in hands-on learning through gardening; and
Education: Students participate in education activities related to agriculture, food, health or nutrition.
Farm to school provides all kids access to nutritious, high quality, local food so they are ready to learn and grow. Farm to school activities enhance classroom education through hands-on learning related to food, health, agriculture and nutrition.
Farm to school can serve as a significant financial opportunity for farmers, fishers, ranchers, food processors and food manufacturers by opening the doors to an institutional market worth billions of dollars.
Farm to school benefits everyone from students, teachers and administrators to parents and farmers, providing opportunities to build family and community engagement. Buying from local producers and processors creates new jobs and strengthens the local economy.
A Growing Movement!
Founded in 2007, National Farm to School Network's first decade of efforts focused on developing a strong network of partnerships across sectors, building awareness about farm to school, and increasing activities at the state and regional levels through training, capacity building, and policy advocacy.
This approach resulted in the unprecedented growth of farm to school from a handful of sites in the late 1990s to more than 42,000 schools in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories – or 42% of all schools – benefiting more than 23.6 million children.
Since 2011, National Farm to School Network has also prioritized early care and education settings (ECE) as touch points for expanding our network and activities. A 2018 Survey of Early Care and Education Providers conducted by National Farm to School Network and Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems found that farm to ECE is reaching far and wide across the country. 49% of respondents from 46 states are already doing farm to ECE activities and another 30% plan to start in the near future. Learn more about our Farm to Early Care and Education Survey results here.