Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released our first-ever Farm to School Census, and the results are promising: last school year, schools served locally-sourced foods to over 21 million students and re-invested over $350 million back into local economies.
Farm to school programs are thriving in not only rural, but also urban districts in every state, with 43 percent of public school districts reporting having a farm to school program in place and an additional 13 percent committed to launching a farm to school program in the near future.
The Census results give us a national snapshot of how schools are connecting with local farmers, ranchers and small businesses—everything from bringing healthy foods into the cafeteria and holding taste tests of local products to helping to plant school gardens and hosting field trips to local farms. USDA’s Farm to School program helps to make these activities possible through research, training, technical assistance, and grants to schools and states.
Beyond that, farm to school programs support the work of parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals and local communities as they raise a healthier next generation of Americans. Research shows that children in schools with farm to school programs eat more fruits and vegetables and are more willing to try and eat the new, healthy foods served in school breakfasts, lunches and snacks—positive steps in the forward in the fight against childhood obesity.