USDA’s Farm to School Program is housed in the Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS). OCFS helps child nutrition program operators incorporate local foods in the National School Lunch Program and its associated programs, as well as the Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program. In addition, OCFS staff works with tribal communities to respond to their desire to better incorporate traditional foods into our meal programs. OCFS accomplishes this through grant making, training and technical assistance and research.
The Food and Nutrition Service has seven regional offices around the country; in each is a Farm to School Regional Lead available to provide farm to school related support to state agencies and other entities in their region. A list of regions, along with the names and contact information for regional and national USDA Office of Community Food Systems staff, can be found here.
Learn more about our work: Farm to School at USDA, 2012-2015: Four Years in Review.
To receive information and updates from USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems, please sign up for our E-letter.
Final Results of the 2015 Farm to School Census are In!
We asked and you answered. The results of the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census have been tallied and we’re happy to report good news: farm to school works!
An investment in the health of America’s students through farm to school programming is also an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2013-2014, school districts purchased nearly $800 MILLION in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. That’s a 105 percent increase over the $386 million of local food purchased in the 2011-2012 school year when the first Census was conducted. Forty-six percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years.
Through farm to school, healthy habits are taking root all across the country. At the national level, 42 percent of school districts that responded to the Census are operating farm to school programs as of the 2014-2015 school year and another 16 percent have plans to start in the future. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country in large and small, rural and urban schools alike.
The “One in a Melon” award! Now through April 15, USDA is running a contest for school districts to win a “One in a Melon” award. Parents, teachers, community stakeholders and even students can visit the website and nominate their favorite farm to school program to receive this award. One school district from each state with the most nominations will win. “One in a Melon” award winners will be announced before school lets out this year. VOTE NOW!
Updated Farm to School Grant Program Schedule
Exciting change is underway with the USDA Farm to School Grant Program! The Child Nutrition Act, the authorizing legislation for the grant program, is currently in the reauthorization process in Congress. The most recent version passed by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry includes changes that impact the scope of the grant program.
In anticipation of change, there will be a delay in the release of the FY2017 request for applications from February to September. In addition to preparing for the potential changes in the authorizing legislation, a schedule change will allow time to review the program’s current policies and procedures, taking into account feedback from past applicants and grantees, and program evaluation results.
We will continue to keep you updated on the USDA Farm to School Grant Program through our E-letter and our website. Thank you for your understanding during this time of exciting change!
Below is the anticipated updated schedule:
September 2016: Release FY2017 request for Farm to School Grant applications
November 2016: FY2017 Farm to School Grant applications due
May 2017: Announce awards
Fact Sheet: School Gardens
With more than 7,000 school gardens across the nation, many school districts are using gardens to grow healthy habits in cafeterias, classrooms, and communities. This new fact sheet provides guidance on using school garden produce in the cafeteria, agriculture education, food safety, incorporating gardens into Summer Food Service Programs and early child care settings, staffing, and funding.
Fact Sheet: Integrating Local Foods into Child Nutrition Programs
The opportunities for serving local foods in child nutrition programs are abundant. Not only can local foods span the plate, operators can serve local foods in all types of programs. From childcare to afterschool settings, through the school-year and during summer months, the steps outlined in this new fact sheet will help program operators find, buy, and incorporate local foods into any child nutrition program.