In 1996, only two schools nationwide bought food directly from farmers in their region through what are called farm-to-school programs. Today, these programs exist in over 2,000 U.S. schools – and a new pilot program in Michigan and Florida could send that number ticking quickly upward.
Farm-to-school programs are a win-win-win for America’s farmers and ranchers, our students, and our schools. Last year, members of USDA’s Farm-to-School team visited fifteen schools across the country to check out their programs and were amazed by what they saw: “Kentucky Proud” signs posted next to locally-sourced food in the cafeterias of Montgomery County, KY public schools; twenty local products for lunch at schools in the Independence, IA Community School District; students at Harrisonburg, VA public schools who knew the name of the farmer supplying lettuce for their salad bar.
By partnering with farms in their area, these and other schools across the nation have been able to increase the quantity of fresh, healthy and locally-grown food available to students. They are also supporting the community by buying from farmers who work local land and employ local residents. Teachers love farm-to-school arrangements too: in schools that implement them, local products and visits to farms have been incorporated into science, math, and health classes.