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Start a farm-to-school initiative

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Source: Local Futures

Farm-to-school, also called local food-to-school (to acknowledge important non-farm, traditional food sources) is a movement focusing on directing the enormous food purchasing power of schools and universities to support local, small-scale, organic farmers and other food producers. This in turn improves children’s health and nutrition, benefits the environment, and imparts a vital, holistic education about and connection to food.

Take action

In the US:

  • Shift procurement policies in private and public schools with Vermont FEED’s Local Food Procurement Toolkit and Farm to School Planning Toolkit, featuring information, paperwork templates, and forms specific to schools.
  • Make use of Getting Started With Farm to School, by the National Farm to School Network, providing “simple first steps [that] will help you develop a lasting farm to school initiative in your community.”
  • Change your university’s procurement policies and demand healthy, local, sustainable food with the Real Food Challenge’s guides and tools, found on their Resources page.
  • Create a student group to mobilize against industrial food in universities with Uprooted and Rising’s Take Action page.
  • Use farm-to-school programs to educate about the broader food system with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum, “designed to empower youth, teach them about their local food system, engage them in meaningful, hands-on learning activities that also strengthen their school’s Farm to School program and link them directly with farmers in their community.”
  • Check out the Farm to School policies and policy advocacy tools, and the State Farm to School Policy Handbook for those working to advance the farm to school movement through supportive policies, from the National Farm to School Network.
  • Find resources “to implement, sustain, and maintain your farm to school program” from the US Office of Community Food Systems.
  • For Native American communities, see the Native Farm-to-School Resource Guide, from the First Nations Development Institute.

In Canada

Get inspired

  • The Mouans-Sartoux’s Municipal Farm-to-School Program in France involved a town council purchase of an old farm estate that was slated for development and designation of over 100 hectares of land in the area as protected farmland. The municipality also set a goal that 100% of the food served to children in the region’s public schools should be local and organic, and updated their procurement policies to make it easier for small producers in the area to meet school catering needs.
  • In Five Things We Can Learn from Brazil’s School Meal Program, Colleen Kimmett reports on how Brazil spends over $1 billion per year on its national school food program, which stipulates that at least 30 percent of food purchased for the program must come from small family farmers, providing “an incentive for farmers to organize in co-operatives so they can meet schools’ demands for large quantities of high quality produce.”
  • The Brazil school food program has informed the Purchase from Africans for Africa program, linking smallholder agriculture with school feeding through local procurement for hundreds of schools in numerous African countries. It has also influenced the Sustainable Schools program in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • The farm-to-school movement in Canada is connecting students to healthy, local foods in hundreds of schools across the country, and supporting local food producers with some $16 million in annual spending, according to the Benefits of Farm to School report from Farm to Cafeteria Canada. In Quebéc, under the government’s bio-food program, participating schools sourced up to 87% of salad bar ingredients from local producers, as shown in Salad Bars Bring Local Food to School: Recognizing Local Procurement in 9 Quebéc Schools.
  • Farm to school programs benefit local economies and farmers, public health and nutrition, and the environment. Read more in The Benefits of Farm to School from the National Farm to School Network in the US.
  • In 2021, the National Farm-to-School Institute at Shelburne Farms in Vermont, US, secured $5 million of federal funding.
  • In The Next Chapter for Farm to School: Milling Whole Grains in the Cafeteria, Hannah Wallace reports that “Oregon’s legislature has been funding farm-to-school projects since 2007, when it budgeted for a permanent, full-time farm-to-school manager position. In July [2021], the legislature re-upped the Oregon Farm-to-School Grant Program, setting aside $10.2 million in funding for schools to purchase and serve Oregon-grown foods.”

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