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The National Farm to School Network is the voice for the farm to school movement
and the leading resource for information about national, state and local policies
that impact farm to school.
We represent millions of Americans who believe that
all students deserve equal access to healthy, local foods as well as education
opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips. Farm
to school empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while
strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities.
Federal, state and local policies affect a community's ability to implement farm
to school practices. It is critical to stay informed and share your farm to school
stories with decision makers. For information about farm to school policy,
contact Erin McGuire, NFSN Policy Director, or Natalie Talis, NFSN Policy Associate. Join us in advocating for farm to school policies that support your
UPDATE: Farm to School Act of 2015 introduced in Congress
It’s been a busy year for policy in the farm to school world! Developments in federal, state and local policy have advanced opportunities for the expansion of farm to school activities, while also creating new legislative champions and advocates.
Learn how the National Farm to School Network supported farm to school leaders in Hawai'i as they advocated for state legislation that created a statewide farm to school program and established a funded program coordinator position.
Federal farm to school policies
There are many federal food and agriculture policies that impact the farm to school community. About every five years, the United States Congress renews two massive pieces of legislation: the Farm Bill and the Child Nutrition Act (or CNR for Child Nutrition Reauthorization). Additionally, in 2010 the Food Safety Modernization Act was passed, the first major overhaul of our nation’s food safety practices since 1938. Some details about each of these important pieces of legislation follow:
2014 Farm Bill: Section 4202 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 established a new pilot program for up to eight states to explore procurement alternatives – including local procurement – for unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Section 4209 of the bill creates a food and agriculture service learning program.
2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Section 243 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 provided $5 million per year in mandatory funding for the Farm to School Grant Program, a major victory for the National Farm to School Network and farm to school champions across the country. Learn more about NFSN's current campaign for farm to school support in the 2015 reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.
2010 Food Safety Modernization Act: The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 (FSMA) provided new regulations both for produce farms and for facilities processing food for human consumption. In other words, FSMA impacts everyone. Farmers and food hubs involved in producing, aggregating or processing food for schools are all impacted.
2008 Farm Bill: Section 4302 of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 established a geographic preference option to improve opportunities for local procurement in school meal programs.
2004 Child Nutrition Reauthorization: For the first time ever, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 established a federal farm to school program, though the program was not funded at that time. The bill also required all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program or other federally-funded school meal programs to have a school wellness policy by the 2006-2007 school year.
State farm to school policies
Farm to school started as a grassroots movement built on programs. Now 39 states and Washington, D.C. have institutionalized these practices with statewide legislation.The National Farm to School Network’s State Farm to School Legislative Survey 2002-2014 provides a summary of each bill related to farm to school that was proposed between 2002 and 2014. The survey also includes analysis and infographics on state farm to school legislative trends; case studies on successful farm to school advocacy efforts; and additional resources to help advocates learn about and replicate the wide variety of existing state farm to school laws, policies and programs.
Click the map at the right to enlarge it in a new window.
Local farm to school policies
There are a variety of ways to support farm to school through policy at the local level. These include:
School wellness policies: The 2004 Child Nutrition Reauthorization required all school districts receiving federal funds for school meal programs to adopt a local school wellness policy. These policies address both nutrition and physical activity and involve parents, students, school food authorities, teachers, school boards, school administrators and the public. School wellness policies are an opportunity to encourage farm to school activities such as school gardens, farm tours and local procurement. To learn more, visit the Team Nutrition website. For model school wellness policies that include farm to school, view this resource developed by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) Coalition.
School district procurement policies: Public institutions – including schools – have significant purchasing power and can encourage the production of and access to healthy, farm fresh foods in their region and communities. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District signed on to the “Good Food Purchasing Pledge” in October 2012. This is a comprehensive and metric-based food purchasing policy developed by the LA Food Policy Council.
School district fundraising policies: School or district level policy can guide practices related to healthy fundraising. For example, many schools across the country have eliminated sugar-sweetened soft drinks from campuses through policy change. Smart, healthy policies can support a wide variety of farm to school fundraising endeavors such as allowing a farm-stand on the school campus or creating criteria for products included in fundraising efforts.
Food policy councils
Food Policy Councils (FPCs) – which range in scope from
the local to the state level – are increasing in number in the United States,
and many of these councils directly work on farm to school activities like local
procurement. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s
Food Policy Network, between 2012 and 2013, there was a nine percent increase
in the number of FPCs. Of the 196 U.S.-based councils listed in the
Food Policy Network Directory of Food Policy Councils in North America, 33
of them specifically list schools as a top priority.
Share your story
Policies shape and impact every aspect of our daily lives much more than we can imagine.
From healthcare to transportation to defense, elected officials at all levels of government make policy decisions that impact us. Food and agriculture policies are no exception; they dictate what foods are grown and raised in the US and by whom, food quantities and prices, and thus who has access to what food. Through advocacy and education, you can shape farm to school policy. You are a constituent with a vote and an important story to tell. Have you identified a needed policy change? Did you receive a USDA Farm to School Grant or are you part of a Food Policy Council? Does your state have farm to school legislation that supports your work? Tell us your farm to school story.
Click the button below to share your story by filling out a short form on our website.