Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture shared some exciting news: preliminary results from the new Farm to School Census are in, and the numbers paint a vivid picture of the thriving farms, healthy kids, and robust economies that result from farm to school activities.
More than 10,000 school districts from across the country have responded to the census so far, and in the 2013-2014 school year, those districts report spending approximately $598 million on local food.
Equally important, 75% of those school districts report that farm to school programs do at least one of the following:
- Increase student participation in school meal programs
- Reduce meal costs by buying local and in season
- Decrease food waste at mealtime, and
- Increase community support
These early results confirm what we have long known to be true: Farm to school is a win-win-win for farmers, children, and communities.
At Ecotrust, we are proud to support these efforts across our bioregion by serving as Western Regional Lead for the National Farm to School Network. And, we are even prouder that earlier this year, our home state of Oregon allocated approximately $4.5 million for farm to school. This investment will ensure that — for the first time — local food can be made available on the lunch line of every school district in our state.
We are now working to launch a new website on behalf of the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network — a group of schools, farmers, businesses, state agencies, and others that actively support farm to school initiatives and policy actions. The website will dive deeper into the impacts of farm to school in Oregon with data compiled from the national census, the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Grant Program, and individual programs across the state. Making this data publicly accessible will allow our state to continue to set ambitious goals and measure our progress in the years to come.
True to its name, this Farm to School Month has been quite a month for farm to school.