Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has announced the findings of USDA's first Farm to School report. The report is based on visits to 15 school districts that were involved in farm to school related activities in varying capacities. USDA's Farm to School Team found that communities are passionate about providing locally grown products to schools and work hard to overcome challenges such as the limited availability of local agricultural products and difficulties with processing and storage.
"By working closely with school nutrition professionals, the Obama Administration is promoting initiatives that provide kids with access to nutritious foods and information to teach them healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime" said Merrigan.
Merrigan told those attending the 2011 School Nutrition Association national convention in Nashville, Tennessee that farm to school programs are a great way to bring more fresh, local produce into school cafeterias and support local farmers as well. Many schools are also using Farm to School programs to teach students where their food comes from through nutrition education.
The USDA Farm to School Team was established late in 2009 as a result of discussions within the department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative - which seeks to create new economic opportunities by promoting local and regional food systems that help keep wealth in rural communities.
Merrigan also announced that USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service and Food Nutrition Service will conduct a pilot for acquiring fresh fruits and vegetables to build on farm-to-school programs in Florida and Michigan. The pilot will use commercial distribution models already in place and allow schools to obtain locally grown produce. Additionally, USDA's National Agricultural Library published a new resource titled 'Farm to School: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography. To view the bibliography, please visit the USDA Farm to School Web site at www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/srb1102.shtml.