Farm to School connects schools (K-12) and local farms by serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing food, farm, and nutrition education, and supporting local, family farmers.
Activities can include featuring fresh, local food in school meals, hands-on cooking and taste testing, edible school gardening, field trips to farms, and standards-based experiential learning in the classroom.
One of the first farm to school programs was established by a school nutrition director over twelve years ago—and now there are over 2,000 in the U.S. School nutrition directors and their cafeteria staff have a huge opportunity to introduce children to fresh, local produce through school meals, but they also face challenges that need to be thoughtfully addressed before launching a farm to school program.
The resources below cover farm to school basics, procurement and geographic preference guidelines, food safety, recipes and ideas for leveraging your community to help.
- Farm to School 101: This brief document provides an overview of what farm to school is, why it’s important, and a few steps to get started.
- 10 Facts About Local Food in School Cafeterias: This fact sheet from the USDA explains how the agency supports the procurement of local food, and what programs can be used to source local.
- Guidelines for Purchasing Local Food and Food Safety Tips: This document provides the basic facts you need to know about state and federal regulations and allowances surrounding local food procurement at schools.
- Georgia Department of Education Farm to School Implementation Handbook: This handbook provides a thoughtful overview of Farm to School, and tips on how school nutrition directors can start their own programs. Harvest calendars and seasonal availability guides, food safety information, and a list of Georgia farmers are also included.
- Organize a Farm to School Meeting: This handy guide has tips for organizing your first farm to school meeting, including who to invite and a sample agenda.
Finding and Procuring Local Food
- Finding, Buying, and Serving Local Food–An Introduction to Procurement: This USDA webinar (originally recorded on Jan. 9, 2014) covers basic procurement fundamentals relevant to the Federal Child Nutrition Programs. Topics include informal and formal procurement methods, and maintaining competition.
- Tips for Working with Farmers: This concise guide is full of helpful information for buying from local farmers. It includes information on what’s in season when in Georgia, how to start and build relationships with farmers, and language to include in a purchasing agreement.
- Using DOD Fresh to Purchase Local Produce: This USDA fact sheet details how to use the Dept. of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to buy fresh, local produce.
- Geographic Preference: What It Is and How to Use It: Also from the USDA, this fact sheet explains how to use “geographic preference” when procuring locally grown and raised products.
- Georgia Organics Good Food Guide: The Good Food Guide is a great tool to find small, family farms, farmers markets, and restaurants that serve local food in your county.
- 2010 Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Directory: From apples to zucchini, this Georgia Department of Agriculture Guide helps you find farmers in Georgia that have what you want.
Using Local Food
- Guide for Using Local Food in Schools: This guide was developed by Vermont FEED, and includes a step-by-step process for starting local purchasing in your school, success stories about farm to cafeteria relationships, and seasonal recipes and menu ideas. While this guide was created for Vermont schools it still has lots of very relevant material.
- Guide for Successful Taste Tests: This guide will help you organize taste tests of new food with kids and use their feedback in creating school meals.
- Preparing Local Food in the Cafeteria: This short video documents school nutrition staff from the City Schools of Decatur learning knife skills, creating some simple meals using fresh, local ingredients, and enjoying a delicious meal together.
- Sample Recipes: This great guide contains 45 easy-to-follow recipes developed by the Massachusetts Farm to School program. Serving sizes for 50 and 100, and nutritional analysis are included for each.
- USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Recipe Box: These quick, delicious, and cost-effective recipes are meant for every type of cook.
- New Cuisine Cookbook: This cookbook, developed by Vermont school nutrition professionals with support from the New England Culinary Institute, includes 78 kid-tested and approved recipes that meet new USDA dietary guidelines and feature local, seasonal foods. The cookbook can be downloaded by chapter here.
- Pecks to Pounds: This great resource from the Maryland Dept. of Agriculture translates common products from farm language to kitchen language. How many peaches are in a bushel? 48 pounds!
Food Safety Tips
As school nutrition directors and staff know, food safety is paramount. Local food can be as safe or safer than food that travels hundreds of miles from farm to plate. Check out these resources to learn about safety requirements, concerns, and questions you should ask local farmers prior to purchase.
- Food Safety Checklist for Purchasing Local Produce: An excellent list of safety concerns to pay attention to, questions to ask of your local producers, and safety requirements to follow.
- Information on GAP (Good Agricultural Practices): Information on safety practices, audits, and certification.
- Handling Fresh Produce at School: This is a great resource for handling fresh produce once it arrives at your school or kitchen. It provides detailed advice on how to receive, wash, store, and prepare fresh produce in schools in accordance with nation-wide safety procedures.