Early Farm to School Census Data Paints a Bright Picture

Preliminary census data is out on Farm to School, and the news is good! Figures for school year 2013-2014 show strong farm to school programs mean:

  • More purchases of breakfast and lunch at school.
  • Students eating healthier food at school.
  • Less food plate waste, thanks to tastier food choices.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released the initial results in October, national Farm to School Month. He pointed out that schools purchased nearly $600 million worth of food locally in school year 2013-2014, a 55% jump over purchases noted in the first census in 2011-2012.

Growing local food purchases creates new marketing opportunities for farmers and ranchers. We are really excited to see this, both for rural Nebraska and for communities elsewhere.

Schools have until November 20, 2015, to participate in the Census survey. Here in Nebraska, 56% of districts have responded. We can do better! School districts can review, update, or respond to the Census here through November 20.

If you are a school district and you haven’t yet completed the Census, please do so today! Even if you aren’t a school staff member, you can help. Check out the preliminary survey results and see if your district participated. If not, encourage them to do so.

The last Farm to School Census showed 49 districts in the state of Nebraska practicing farm to school. We also learned what items the cafeteria was most likely to purchase locally and the economic impact of these local purchases.

You can access the results of the 2013 survey for your state here. If you live in Nebraska, look here.

Information gained from this survey is a tool to strengthen the farm to school focus in your state, and to describe the need and value for farm to school in your communities. For the Center for Rural Affairs, the more information we can gather from this USDA effort, the better results we can bring for farm to school.

The final Farm to School Census results will be released in early 2016. We’ll keep you posted.