What can participating in farm to school achieve?
If just $1 were spent on local food for each of the 697,337 public school students in Louisiana per month during the school year, $6,276,033 of school food dollars would go to local producers, bolstering our local economy.
Farm to school means more fresh, local food is on the menu. Across the state, school districts engaged in farm to school report serving higher-quality foods in school meals and increased participation in school meals.
According to the 2018-2019 USDA Farm to School Census, nearly 70% of child nutrition programs in Louisiana serve local foods.
The primary goal of school nutrition services programs is to serve healthy, appealing food to our students. Good nutrition is critical to health, happiness, focus, and academic achievement for Louisiana’s students, and it is challenging work.
Across Louisiana, schools and communities have expressed a growing enthusiasm for farm to school programs to provide nutritious food, support local farms, and educate students about healthy eating, agriculture, and the environment.
Farm to school enriches the connections communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and educational practices at schools and preschools. Students gain access to healthy, local foods and educational opportunities, like school gardens, cooking lessons, and farm field trips. Farm to school empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities.
There are multiple strategies to improve the health of children and communities through farm to school. These simple first steps will help you develop a plan and decide the best plan for your school(s). Start small, and assess where you are and where you’d like to be.
Take the Local Procurement Assessment.
Are your goals centered on:
- Procurement of local food to be served in school?
- Establishing a school garden?
- Integration of farm to school in the curriculum?
- All of the above?
Establish one or two attainable goals to get started. Start small and build your program. Some ideas include:
- Identify menu items that you would like to transition to local products.
- Find a farmer or distributor to connect you to local items.
- Plan a local meal event.
- Offer culinary training to assist food service staff with incorporating farm-fresh items in meals. Click here to request farm to school advice or a training.
- Bring a farm to school planning team together.
- Identify opportunities to connect to a school garden.
- Bring a farmer into the cafeteria.
- Host a taste test featuring local products or recipes.
Promote farm to school in your school and community.
- Display Louisiana Harvest of the Month posters in the cafeteria or classroom.
- Promote local foods on bulletin boards throughout the school.
- Use the Louisiana Harvest of the Month school newsletters (print and electronic) to engage parents and staff.
- Post special local foods events and taste tests on the school or district website.
- Invite local media to your events or share your farm to school journey with local media.
- The resources on this page will help ensure that child nutrition program operators have the resources and knowledge necessary to incorporate local foods into their day-to-day operations. While many of the resources featured here were developed with K-12 schools in mind, much of the information is equally relevant to early child care facilities and summer feeding sites.
- Contact us! We are happy to help you make a plan or connect you with producers in your area. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local Farm to School Policies
- There are a variety of ways to support farm to school through policy at the local level. These include:
- School wellness policies: The 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act required all school districts receiving federal funds for school meal programs to adopt a local school wellness policy. These policies address both nutrition and physical activity and involve parents, students, school food authorities, teachers, school boards, school administrators, and the public. School wellness policies are an opportunity to encourage farm to school activities such as school gardens, farm tours, and local procurement. To learn more, visit the Team Nutrition website. For model school wellness policies that include farm to school, view this resource developed by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) Coalition.
- School district procurement policies: Public institutions – including schools – have significant purchasing power and can encourage the production of and access to healthy, farm-fresh foods in their region and communities. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District signed on to the “Good Food Purchasing Pledge” in October 2012. This is a comprehensive and metric-based food purchasing policy developed by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council.
- School district fundraising policies: School- or district-level policy can guide practices related to healthy fundraising. For example, many schools across the country have eliminated sugar-sweetened soft drinks from campuses through policy change. Smart, healthy policies can support a wide variety of farm to school fundraising endeavors, such as allowing a farm stand on the school campus or creating criteria for products included in fundraising efforts.
"Farm to school is enhancing the classroom environment. Along with providing local produce, you can expose the students to where their food comes from through farmer visits to the school. We may never know the impact that truly has on a child or classroom, so to me it’s worth it. When we’re putting the kids first, it’s all worth it."– C. Finney, Lafayette Parish School System Child Nutrition Services
Supporting a Healthy School Environment
Nutrition departments across the state participate in the popular Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), which supports a healthy school environment by increasing students’ exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables. Schools are encouraged to offer food and nutrition education along with a nutritious snack, making FFVP a perfect component of your farm to school program. You may already have a main produce distributor, but did you know that you can utilize a separate procurement solicitation with local farmers and producers to provide new and exciting produce for your FFVP? Serving vibrant, fresh, and local produce entices students to try new fruits and vegetables while educating them about their local agricultural community.
Farm to School Meet-and-Greet Events
Events such as a Farm to School Meet-and-Greet help spread the word about your interests in local food and can be advertised in local and social media. The director of special projects at Capitol City Produce says, “We realize that connecting with growers is often a grassroots effort, and it takes the help of the LSU AgCenter and the Southern University Ag Center to make the connection through their outreach efforts.” Farm to School Meet-and-Greet events can help you get to know the growers in your area; learn about their farm operations, planting, and harvest plans; and share your food purchasing needs. A grower’s potential may not be realized without the chance to meet, visit, and discuss local food possibilities.
Louisiana Harvest of the Month
Louisiana Harvest of the Month officially launched in the 2018-19 academic year. Since then, local produce, educational activities, school gardens, and marketing programs have been implemented at over 500 schools across Louisiana. Each October, the Louisiana Farm to School Conference hosts the Great Louisiana Satsuma Peel as a way to highlight Citrus Harvest of the Month and showcase the small Louisiana fruit, which is similar to a tangerine. Conference attendees come together to enjoy peeling and eating fresh Louisiana satsumas. Your school can incorporate satsumas into its farm to school celebration this October by participating in the Great Louisiana Satsuma Peel.