What is Farm to School?
Farm to School provides schools with locally sourced foods that allow students to learn about and taste different fresh, healthy options. For more information on farm to school policies and resources, check out the Farm to School Network.
What are the Benefits of Farm to School?
The Farm to School Program benefits both the school and the community. Purchasing locally sourced foods helps schools develop relationships with farmers, provides hands-on-learning opportunities for students, and boosts the local economy. Farm to School is a win-win for everyone!
The Three Components of Farm to School
Procurement: Local foods are purchased and promoted within the school. Local foods are served as a part of the meal program or used during a taste-test activity.
Education: Students engage in hands-on learning activities focusing on how food is grown and harvested. Lessons can also link to health and nutrition.
School gardens: Schools can start their own garden/gardening club or schedule field trips to local farms/community gardens.
Implementing the Farm to School Program
The Farm to School Program is most successful when utilizing a team approach. Think about who is already invested in the program and what additional support is needed. A multidisciplinary team approach is best, and members can include:
- School Nutrition Professionals
- Local Chefs
- Master Gardeners
- … and more!
How do Schools Determine Which Foods are “Local?”
School districts can determine the area in which products are purchased locally. “Locally” can refer to New England, Massachusetts, specific counties, or certain regions. It is up to each school district/Farm to School Team to determine a definition of “local” purchases.
Some questions to consider when thinking about purchasing locally1:
- What types of local food do you currently, or plan to, purchase? Do you track the amount of local product purchased?
- Through which child nutrition programs do you plan to serve local foods?
- What sources of local foods might work for your program?
- Would you bring in local foods through existing channels, or will new methods need to be established?
For a comprehensive guide on how to implement the Farm to School Program, build a team, procure locally and evaluate efforts, check out the USDA’s Farm to School Planning Toolkit.
For more information on local foods, check out the USDA’s Geographic Preference Fact Sheet.
Massachusetts Farm to School
Massachusetts Farm to School aims to have all schools serving foods from local farms and fisheries and providing education to students and families on supporting their local food community. Massachusetts Farm to School offers free technical assistance, resources and assistance for schools looking to implement the Farm to School Program.
Teachers: Check out the Farm to School Classroom Lessons for grades K-12. Lessons can be filtered by grade and include a full downloadable lesson plan.
School Nutrition Professionals and Administrators: Massachusetts Farm to School provides consulting services for districts interested in building a robust program or sustaining a current program. Services are customized to each district and include, but are not limited to:
- Menu Development
- Action Planning
- Policy Development
- Professional Development
How and Where Families Can Buy Local in Massachusetts
Looking for ways to communicate how families can purchase locally? The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture has a variety of options for purchasing local produce. Share the following resources with families to help them find fresh produce across the state:
MassGrown Map: An interactive map that shows farmer’s markets, dairy farms, farms that deliver and more options for fresh foods across the state.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farms: Interested in purchasing food for your family from a specific farm? By joining a CSA Farm, you have direct access to a farm’s harvest and are supporting that farmer. Although CSA’s typically require a membership, it is often an inexpensive and easy way to purchase local produce.
Massachusetts-Grown Produce Availability Calendar: Not sure what produce is in season? Check out the MA Produce Calendar to find out when fresh produce, dairy, agriculture, forestry and plants are in season.
- United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (n.d.). The USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit. Retrieved from https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/resource-files/F2S-Planning-Kit.pdf