National Farm to School Program
Farm to School Projects - Is There a Need?
In schools, physical education programs have been
cut, while the presence of high caloric junk foods has increased.
Children nation-wide are experiencing an epidemic of obesity. Since
1981, obesity has increased by 106% in the United States. 31% of
children are overweight. Obesity rates among children have doubled in
the last 10 years and tripled for adolescents. Children born in the year
2000 have a 33% chance of becoming a diabetic if they're boys and 39%
if they're girls. For the first time in 200 years, today's children are
likely to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
The situation is just as sobering on the farm side
of the equation. At the same time that obesity has reached epidemic
proportions, family farming is facing its own crisis. It is facing the
greatest decline of all occupations in the U.S. Less than 2% of the
U.S. population is involved in farming, and the federal Census Bureau
has declared the number of farms "statistically insignificant." The
farmer share of the food dollar has declined from 41 cents in 1950 to 20
cents in 1999. The bleak outlook for earning a good living by farming
is discouraging to the younger generation, with nearly half of farmers
over age 55, and only 8% of farmers under age 35. With increasing costs
for land and water, fewer marketing outlets, and the growth of suburban
sprawl and agribusiness, family farmers find themselves selling the farm
to feed their family. Many farms remain in business only because of
family members who have other jobs and provide off-farm income.
Where does farm to school fit in? It is not a
cure-all, but it can be considered one strategy in a basket of
strategies. Farm to school is flourishing in the U.S. There are over
1,000 school districts in 32 states that have farm to school programs.
In this context, farm to school refers to the purchasing component, but
farm to school programs are the most effective when they are combined
with agriculture and nutrition education. Visits to farms or farmers'
markets, the creation of school gardens, inviting farmers into
classrooms to talk to students, and compost and recycling programs, are
all important ways to reinforce farm to school efforts. It's like
connecting the dots . . . making the connection between what's eaten in
the cafeteria, and what's taught in the classroom.
How do Farm to School Projects Work?
Farm to School projects are as different as the
communities in which they exist. A major factor that influences how they
operate is the local agriculture found in the region. The seasonality
of crops is much different in California, where crops grow year-round,
than in Maine, which has a short growing season. Areas with warmer
climates may organize a complete salad bar, while those with colder
climates might provide some of the ingredients for school meals and
The movement to organize a Farm to School project has come from
farmers, schools, parents, and community groups. School food service
staff are key in design and implementation. Principals, students, school
board members and teachers can also be influential in setting up a
project. Some projects are organized from "the bottom up" - initiated by
parents or farmers, while others have come from "the top down" -
initiated by the school board or administration. Either way is fine, as
long as the effort is inclusive of all parties. Including as many
players as possible will improve your chance of success by incorporating
the ideas and concerns of all involved. Farm to School projects can
involve anywhere from one to twelve farm products, and operate
year-round or for two months. There is no one blueprint; successful
projects are "custom-made" for each community.
For examples of Farm to School projects around the country, go to www.farmtoschool.org and click on a state.
What Assistance does the Farm to School Program Offer?
Workshops and Presentations
The Program is organizing workshops and presentations across the
United States to: 1) inform folks about farm to school projects; and 2)
bring together farmers, school food service directors, parents, and
community organizers to address the barriers and opportunities involved
in creating a Farm to School project.
CFSC held its third National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in March, 2012, in Baltimore, MD. See the Events page for a history of previous Farm to School conferences.
Contact Marion Kalb, CFSC's Farm to School Program Director,
with your questions about starting a Farm to School Program.
Assistance will be provided on a variety of topics, including
how to find farmers, working with school food service directors,
and creating a town hall meeting. A packet of information
on Farm to School projects is presently being developed.
Healthy Farms, Healthy Kids
Evaluating the Barriers and Opportunities
for Farm-to-School Programs. A review of existing Farm to
School projects nationwide. A must have for everyone interested
in this topic. Learn more.
The following tools are in pdf format unless otherwise noted.
Download the following case studies in pdf format.
Community Food Security Coalition Publications
You can find descriptions and instructions for how to obtain the following publications on the publications page of this website.
- A Growing Movement: A Decade of Farm to School in California
By Anupama Joshi and Moira Beery of the Center for Food & Justice at Occidental College
This is a brand new resource from the California Farm
to School Program at the Center for Food & Justice. The farm to
school movement began in California more than 10 years ago. This report
tells the story of work undertaken by farm to school proponents in
California and chronicles the emergence of the program, and the impacts
it has had on students, farmers, and communities around the state.
Download the report (pdf)
- Go to the Farm to College website to view additional publications
Possible Funding Sources for Farm to School Programs
USDA: Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service
Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program, Fund for
Rural America, Community Food Projects, Community Supported
Agriculture and a variety of other funding programs are listed
here. A must see.
USDA Office of Community Development
Notices of Funding Availability - search by Department, grant
deadline, and key words.
USDA: Food and Nutrition Service
Lists grants for state agencies including Team Nutrition and
Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP).
Community Foundation Locator
Lists foundations by state with an easy-to-use U.S. map graphic.
Also uses maps to show locations of each community foundation.
USDA: Rural Development
Rural Business Enterprise Grants, Rural Business Opportunity
Grants, focuses on funding for agricultural marketing and
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education
Organized by region, funds new markets for farmers. Also funds
multi-institutional, collaborative approaches including non-profit
organizations, university staff and farmers.
This website allows you to access and search the
center database for possible funding opportunities.
directories are also made available. For a $20
monthly fee you can access more detailed foundation information from
Important resources, not to be overlooked, are local foundations. Because
they are local, they are interested in funding what’s happening
in their own backyard, and tend towards funding start-ups
and special projects. A conversation with your local reference
librarian should help turn up these sources.
Some city agencies - such as those dealing with community development,
anti-hunger programs and school and youth programs - may have
funds available for special projects. Elected officials often
have small pots of money they can distribute at their own
discretion for projects in their districts.
In some states, the state health department may have funding
available through the Nutrition Network. The following states
have Nutrition Network programs:
contact information, contact Marion Kalb (below), National Farm to School
major Protestant denominations, including Presbyterians, United
Methodist, and United Church of Christ, have expressed interest
in funding community food security projects. They tend to
be very sophisticated and are looking for alternative approaches
to traditional feeding programs. Local churches may also be
interested in funding projects in the areas they serve.
Major Corporations and Corporate Foundations
While national foundations tend to have large amounts of funding
available, it is generally difficult to secure this funding.
Good sources of information for these foundations are:
- The National Network of Grant makers - 1996 Directory - call 619-231-1348
- The periodical, "Chronicle of Philanthropy"
- Various foundation directories generally available in major libraries.
Read the archives or join the Farm to School/Farm to College email list.
To join, click on "Join this Group" in the top right corner.
For more information about this program, contact:
Marion Kalb, Director
National Farm to School Program
Community Food Security Coalition
PO Box 4877
Santa Fe, NM 87502
Phone and fax: (505) 474-5782