What is Farm to School?

"At a time when obesity rates among our kids continue to rise, we need to do more to educate families and their children about the value of healthy, nutritious lifestyles and choices. One of the best places to do that is in our schools, where we know students form the foundations of lifelong eating habits."

- Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy

National Farm to School Census (USDA 2015, based on participant responses)

  • 42% of districts surveyed participate in farm to school activities
  • 42,587 schools and 23.6M students were engaged in farm to school activities
  • $789M was spent on local food by these schools
  • 1,516 districts are bringing local foods into preschool programs
  • 7,101 school gardens have sprouted up across the country 
  • 1,039 school districts are serving local foods in summer meals.

Vermont’s Farm to School Program

  • Nearly 2/3 of Vermont schools offer farm to school programming, and 95% of those serve local foods.
  • 28,024 Vermont students participated in farm to school activities in the 2011-2012 or 2012-2013 school years.
  • 38 districts had Pre-K participation in the 2011-2012 school year.
  • Vermont districts spent $1,380,280 on local products in the 2011-2012 school year, an average of 16.2% of their food budgets on local foods - the highest of the New England states.
  • Since 2007, Vermont’s Farm to School Grant Program has supported 96 schools (30% of Vermont public schools).
  • Schools with farm to school programs report twice the national average in vegetable consumption.

Sources: UVM Center for Rural Studies; USDA Farm to School Census; VT FEED, FINE

Farm to school is a comprehensive strategy that connects student learning and experiences in the Classroom, Cafeteria, and the Community. The goal is to help students establish a lifelong positive relationship with food while supporting a more just food system. The strategies used to achieve this shift are: serving healthy local food in schools, improving student nutrition, providing hands-on food systems based learning opportunities, and developing meaningful relationships between community partners, schools and students. Farm to school supports youth in connecting the dots of where their food comes from and how their food choices impact their bodies, the environment, and their communities at large.

The 3-C Approach

Farm to school is a comprehensive strategy that extends beyond farm fresh salad bars and local foods in cafeterias. Vermont FEED has helped to pioneer the “3-C” farm to school approach, which integrates the Classroom, Cafeteria, and the Community.

In The Classroom

Vermont FEED offers guidance around standards-based farm, food, and nutrition curriculum. Farm to school education provides a real-life context for learning across all disciplines—science, math, art, language arts, foreign languages, and more. Engaging students in hands-on opportunities, such as planting school gardens, cooking food from scratch, and visiting local farms, establishes meaningful connections to the curriculum and deepens student understanding.

In The Cafeteria

Each year more than 30 million children in the United States participate in the National School Lunch Program. In Vermont alone, 15.5 million school meals are served annually. If school lunch can be produced and consumed sustainably, be highly nutritious, taste great, and support the local economy, it is a win-win for everyone! Farm to school programs strive to show that school nutrition and the cafeteria is integral to the school day and the education of the whole student. This is done by incorporating local and seasonal foods into school meals, building expertise in school nutrition staff through professional development, reducing waste, and making nutritious food accessible to all students. Activities like taste tests and cooking lessons introduce students to new foods and empower them to make healthy choices that last a lifetime.

In The Community

Farm to school strengthens the community and local economy. Youth learn about their connections to food and farms and develop leadership skills. Farmers develop relationships with schools and other local institutions that can help them expand their markets. Activities like community dinners, service learning, fundraisers, and harvest festivals involve the whole community in the local food culture.