Farm to school in Ohio is on the rise thanks to a growing network of state government agencies, agricultural groups, community organizations, universities, school administrators, food service personnel, educators, students, parents, farmers and community members. The Ohio Departments of Health, Education, and Agriculture support farm to school at the state level. The Ohio State University Extension provides leadership for the statewide farm to school program.
At the local level, OSU Extension’s county and regional offices collaborate with local partners to provide farm to school related training and educational programming for parents, students, schools, producers, and supporting agencies. In 2014, six regionally-focused workshops were held throughout the state. While the overall goal of these workshops was to increase the capacity of communities to provide locally produced foods in schools, each workshop had a unique local planning committee, audience, and topics. Out of over 300 total workshop participants, one-third said they plan to apply what they learned over the next year.
The regional workshops are followed by the 2015 statewide conference. The theme is “Local Foods across the School Meal Tray”, featuring general sessions about Farm to School opportunities and challenges in Ohio, healthy school breakfasts, procurement methods, and scratch cooking in schools. Breakout sessions focus on four food categories—proteins, dairy, fruits & vegetables, and whole grains— featuring panels of producer groups, growers, and food service personnel. Ohio Farm to School continues to grow our efforts to provide youth with greater access to fresh, local foods and to agriculture and nutrition education programs that increase students’ understanding of food systems and how food choices affect health, environment, and community.
In 2012, one in three Ohio school districts were engaged in farm to school activities. Approximately three quarters of school foodservice directors reported purchasing local foods, and 57 percent were interested in purchasing more local foods in the future. The kinds of local products schools are purchasing include fruit, vegetables, fluid milk, other dairy products, and baked goods. Apples, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and milk round out the top five most purchased local products. Opportunities for growth abound for products like herbs, vegetables, meat or poultry, plant-based proteins, and eggs. Out of nearly $53 million spent on school food in the 2011-2012 school year, school districts invested $5.5 million toward local foods.
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