How State Departments of Agriculture Grow Farm to School
Georgia Department of Agriculture
In 2014, the Georgia Department of Agriculture implemented a farm to school program, “Feed My School,” to help school nutrition programs utilize locally grown foods. Through identifying barriers to sourcing Georgia grown products and creating practical solutions for school nutrition directors, the department has reached over one-third of the state’s K-12 population.
“Georgia Grown Test Kitchens” have tremendously aided the formulation of new meals and program implementation methods as they develop, test and share menu plans for schools across the state. Following the Feed My School program’s initial success, the department of agriculture has set a new goal to include 20 percent locally grown products in every school meal. To learn more about the Feed My School program and the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s goals, visit www.FeedMySchool.com.
New Jersey Department of Agriculture
The New Jersey State Department of Agriculture hosted a program this September to recognize New Jersey farmers’ farm to school efforts. This year’s winner, recognized during the 8th Annual Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week, was Terhune Orchards.
Terhune Orchards regularly hosts classes from schools and events for children all year round. The orchard currently has a tour program that explores how crops grow, and life on the farm. Also, in one of the orchard’s barns, it features a life size story about corn showing the growth stages of corn until it is ready for harvest. “We feel strongly that it is important to show children how food is grown and to teach them about the importance of eating healthy,” said Gary Mount, Terhune Orchards owner and operator.
During the 2017-18 school year, the influence of the Jersey Fresh Farm to School Program led to 255 schools purchasing some local produce from their main distributor, 223 districts buying local produce directly from farms, 212 districts using a curriculum that ties cafeteria meals to healthy eating education and 114 districts organizing field trips to farms.
West Virginia Department of Agriculture
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is collaborating with the West Virginia Department of Education and West Virginia University Extension Service on a USDA Farm to School Implementation Grant project totaling $91,540. Together, they are designing and executing a two-year strategic plan that expands market opportunities for farmers. In addition to benefitting farmers, the project will increase awareness of West Virginia agriculture and provide resources to farmers, buyers and producers statewide. Stay updated on the program’s progress by visiting the West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s website.
On a federal policy level, NASDA supports increased funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program from $5 to $15 million in order to incubate more farm to school programs throughout the United States. We also encourage Congress to provide additional regulatory flexibility to school food procurement practices. In order to provide this clarity, Congress should expand existing local procurement and geographic preference language to specifically allow “local” as a product specification for school food, provided competitive bidding is maintained.
For those looking to learn more about their state’s farm to school initiatives, or if you have ideas on how to collaborate, NASDA suggests contacting your state department of agriculture. Search NASDA’s directory here.