State Farm to School Programs
The Farm to School program seeks to improve the health of children by bringing locally produced foods into school cafeterias and providing educationally enriching experiences such as farm field trips, school gardens and nutrition classes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a survey of school district participation in the program, and estimates as of the 2012-2013 school year, over 3,800 school districts representing over 21 million students are buying local products. These school districts collectively purchased more than $350 million of locally produced foods.
Download the Excel Version of the Table: "Farm to School Census"
The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 created the Farm to School program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program aims to improve the health of children by providing locally produced fresh foods in cafeterias and educationally enriching experiences such as farm field trips, school gardens and nutrition classes.
As part of its first-ever Farm to School Census, the USDA surveyed 13,000 school districts across the country to assess the use of the program in the 2011-12 school year.1 More than 8,800 districts returned the survey, representing a 67 percent response rate. Of the districts that responded to the survey, approximately 43 percent—or more than 38,000 schools representing more than 21 million students—indicated they had purchased local products for their students, investing more than $354 million in local farms. An additional 13 percent indicated they would be participating “in the near future.”2
The Farm to School program gives states flexibility to define what constitutes a local product. According to the USDA, districts base definitions on mileage from schools or locations within a country, region or state. Definitions can encompass more than one state and vary as a result of growing seasons and product availability.3
Districts in all 50 states participated in the Farm to School program during the 2011-12 school year, but participation varied widely. Among the states with more than 80 percent of districts responding to the survey, Hawaii, Delaware and Maryland had the most school districts participating in the program.4
- Hawaii achieved a 100 percent participation rate, although it is important to note the state has just one school district.
- In Delaware, 95 percent of school districts participate, with the remaining districts indicating they plan to implement the program in the near future.
- In Maryland, 91 percent of school districts participate in the program, and the remaining districts plan to start in the near future.
The Farm to School program has significant economic benefits for local food producers. Across the country, school districts that responded to the survey purchased more than $354 million in local food. Among the states with more than 80 percent of districts responding to the survey, Nevada, Utah, and Maryland spent the highest percentage of their total school food budgets on locally produced food.5
- Of Nevada's $47.8 million total school budget, $21 million - or 44 percent - went to locally produced food. Half of the districts report they plan purchase more local foods in the future.
- Utah districts spent $3.5 million on locally produced food, 38 percent of their total school food budget. 38 percent of the districts plan to buy additional local food in the future.
- Maryland school districts spent $8.5 million on locally produced food, representing 21 percent of the total school food budget. 63 percent of these districts plan to buy more local foods in the future.
1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. "Food to Farm Census: National Overview." http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/census#/national
3 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. "10 Facts about Local Food in School Cafeterias." http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/F2S_10_facts.pdf
4 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. "Food to Farm Census: State and District." http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/census#/map