Good news from the USDA.
Recently we learned some great news about farm to school programs nationwide. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its first-ever Farm to School Census, and it reported that “last school year, schools served locally sourced foods to more than 21 million students and re-invested over $350 million back into local economies.”
That’s a lot of broccoli. A decade ago, this level of farm-to-school programming would’ve been impossible. But thanks to rule changes made in recent years, more schools than ever before are taking advantage of locally sourced foods. According to the USDA, “farm to school programs are thriving in not only rural, but also urban districts in every state, with 43 percent of public school districts reporting having a farm to school program in place and an additional 13 percent committed to launching a farm to school program in the near future.”
We’re glad to see that the Obama administration understands the many benefits of farm to school, which include, according to the National Farm to School Network:
Strengthening children's and communities' knowledge about, and attitudes toward, agriculture, food, nutrition and the environment.
Increasing children's participation in the school meals program and consumption of fruits and vegetables, thereby improving childhood nutrition, reducing hunger, and preventing obesity and obesity-related diseases.
Benefiting school food budgets, after start-up, if planning and menu choices are made consistent with seasonal availability of fresh and minimally processed whole foods.
Supporting economic development across numerous sectors and promote job creation.
Increase market opportunities for farmers, fishers, ranchers, food processors and food manufacturers.
Decreasing the distance between producers and consumers, thus promoting food security while reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and reliance on oil.
To help more schools make the shift and navigate purchasing rules, our friends at School Food FOCUS released Geographic Preference: A primer on purchasing fresh, local food for schools, in partnership with the Harrison Institute for Public Law at Georgetown University. Download here [pdf].
For more, visit www.schoolfoodfocus.org.
Thanks to School Food FOCUS for sharing this valuable resource with us!