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New Farm To School Census: Local Food Purchasing Increasing
On Tuesday, October 20, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new Farm to School Census data confirming the multiple benefits of farm to school programs for kids, communities, and farmers. These early results from the latest Farm to School Census provide data on the 2013-2014 school year.
Early Results Are In – and Positive!
Census data confirms that farm to school programs increase local market opportunities for farmers. Investments in local food purchasing increased by 55 percent, from $385.8 million in the 2011-2012 school year to $598.4 million in the 2013-2014 school year. Additionally, 47 percent of schools currently buying local food plan to further increase their purchases in the future.
In addition to new market economic gains for farmers, farm to school activities also provide a variety of other social benefits. The census results reveal that 75 percent of respondents participating in farm to school programs enjoyed one or more of the following benefits:
- reduced food waste;
- lower school meal program costs;
- increased school meal participation; and
- greater community support.
The number of schools participating in farm to school programs is also on the rise. Early results indicate 42,173 schools engage in farm to school activities. Farm to school activities may include:
- healthy, nutritious school meals and snacks incorporating food products from local and regional sources;
- school gardens; and
- lessons in health, nutrition, food and agriculture.
The Census, the second Farm to School Census released by USDA, includes public, private, and charter school districts from across the country.
National Day of Action
Released during Farm to School Month, the Census is a timely reminder of the importance of farm to school programs. On Thursday, October 22, organizations across the country took part in a Big Day of Farm to School Action to promote farm to school programs. During the day of action, organizations and individuals called on their legislators to increase support for farm to school in the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization.
Increased support for farm to school programs depends on Congress taking action on their child nutrition duties in the next few months. We concur with Secretary Vilsack, who said “Congress should act quickly to reauthorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to build on the success of farm to school and the healthier school meals and continue our momentum towards a healthier next generation of Americans.”
USDA Still Accepting Survey Responses
Through November 20, 2015, USDA will continue accepting survey responses from school districts that would like to submit new responses or update their responses. School districts that have not yet participated are encouraged to create new survey responses here, and any changes to existing responses can be emailed to Matt Benson with the USDA Farm to School Program at email@example.com.
Final Census data will be available in early 2016.
This post originally appeared on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's blog.