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Community Food Systems

USDA Research Supporting Farm to School

Last Published: 12/16/2013
  • Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
    ARS has a national network of USDA scientists conducting projects across the country. The goal of this agency is to develop solutions to agricultural problems that affect Americans every day, from field to table. Several ARS projects relate directly to local and regional food systems and have the potential to benefit future farm to school efforts. For example, one ARS project is assessing the economic potential of local food production on the east coast through geographic analysis. Other projects focus on urban agriculture, season extension technologies and linking traditional supply chains to a more local network. 
  • Economic Research Service (ERS)
    ERS conducts research to inform public and private decision-making on economic and policy issues involving food, farming, natural resources and rural development. Many ERS projects involve local and regional food systems and may have an impact on farm to school. ERS has developed a Farm to School Census, in collaboration with Occidental College and the National Farm to School Network, that will be released in 2012. This Census will gather information on all aspects of farm to school activities and will serve as national baseline for further research. In addition, ERS has conducted economic and policy analyses of local food markets, organic agriculture and fruit and vegetable consumption.  
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)
    NASS conducts hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture. The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years and collects national, state, and county-level data on farm production, marketing methods and demographic information. Additionally, for the first time, the 2012 Census of Agriculture will ask producers if they market products directly to retail outlets (including restaurants, grocery stores, schools, hospitals, or other businesses) that in turn sell directly to consumers.
  • National Agricultural Library (NAL)  NAL houses the world’s largest agricultural information collections and serves as the portal for a national network of state land-grant and USDA field libraries. NAL provides a number of bibliographies and reading lists, including the Farm to School Bibliography, which documents existing research and resources on Farm to School efforts around the country and also will help identify research gaps for this to. Three of its specialized centers, outlined below, relate directly to Farm to School and local food systems.   
  • NAL’s Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC)AFSIC specializes in identifying resources about sustainable food systems and practices, including community food systems, urban agriculture and gardening, value-adding, and organic agriculture. AFSIC supports USDA's effort to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture and farmers worldwide.
  • NAL’s Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) FNIC provides credible, accurate, and practical resources for nutrition and health professionals, educators, government personnel and consumers.
  • NAL’s Rural Information Center (RIC) RIC provides services for rural communities, local officials, organizations, businesses and rural citizens working to maintain the vitality of America's rural areas. This center will help rural communities collect ideas on how to become part of the local supply chain.

For additional tools/resources on farm to school evaluation, please visit the National Agricultural Library’s Farm to School and School Garden and visit our Resources webpage.  A list of taste testing evaluation tools can be accessed through NAL’s Healthy Meals Resource System