Farm to School Advocacy

Make your voice heard

National Farm to School Network has a vision of a strong and just food system for all, and we seek deep transformation toward this vision through farm to school – the ways kids eat, grow, and learn about food in schools and early care and education settings.

As the national voice of the farm to school and farm to early care and education (ECE) movement, NFSN promotes farm to school and farm to ECE policies that advance our Call to Action: that 100% of communities will hold power in a racially just food system.

We provide policy analysis, education, and advocacy opportunities to ensure that our public policies position farm to school as a win for kids, for farmers, and for communities

How We Can Support Your Advocacy

National Farm to School Network provides the following policy and advocacy support to help you stay informed and share your farm to school stories with decision makers: 

  • Office hours for NFSN Partner organizations to consult with our policy staff. Current Partners can sign up for office hours here.
  • Quarterly roundtables with Partners on state policy developments in farm to school.
  • Tools for a wide spectrum of stakeholders to understand policy impacts and voice their opinion to policymakers.

Join us in advocating for farm to school policies that support your community!

  • Become an NFSN Partner organization. Learn more here about the benefits of Partnership and our Partner Network. 
  • Explore policy resources tailored for farm to school and farm to ECE in our Resource Hub.
  • Stay in the know: NFSN provides up-to-date policy information each week on our This Week in Farm to School newsletter. Sign up here.

For further information about farm to school policy, contact our policy staff.

Federal Farm to School Policies

Farm to School Landmark Accomplishments: 

  • Patrick Leahy Farm to School Grant Program: The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act created the first permanent federal farm to school grant program, with $5m per year in mandatory funding. Thanks to the work of farm to school advocates across the country, and the leadership of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, activities to start, grow, and sustain farm to school have a committed baseline of support through this competitive grant. 
  • USDA Farm to School Census: Since 2013, USDA has collected data on farm to school activities across the U.S. by surveying school food authorities (SFAs) that participate in the National School Lunch Program. This research helps understand the growth of farm to school activities across the country, and the impact of this movement for kids, producers, and communities. 

National Farm to School Network provides policy tracking, analysis, and advocacy opportunities across issues that affect nutrition education, gardening, and local purchasing, and that shape the broader economic context of our food system, including: 

  • Farm Bill: This package of nutrition and agriculture policies, renewed every five years, powerfully shapes the direction of our country's food and farm industry. Through advocacy and coalition participation, NFSN advocates for local food support and to ensure that federal investments promote a more just and resilient future for farming. Learn more about NFSN's priorities for the next Farm Bill here.
  • Annual Appropriations: The yearly Congressional budget process provides the opportunity to allocate funding to key priorities, such as the Farm to School Grant Program and the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production, and to prevent harmful restrictions ("riders") on how agencies can carry out these important programs. 
  • Child Nutrition Reauthorization: The Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR) authorizes federal school meal and child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, among others. The package of bills that make up CNR is meant to be reauthorized every five years, but the last CNR to pass was the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This 2010 landmark bill created the federal Farm to School Grant Program, established the Community Eligibility option for schools to feed more kids, and set long-term goals for nutrition. That makes this upcoming CNR a once-in-a-decade opportunity to strengthen the programs that feed our nation's kids. 
  • Agency Actions: Rules and regulations, as well as the ways that federal agencies implement laws passed by Congress or Presidential directives, have tremendous influence on how well national programs like school lunch can integrate farm to school activities, and how well they serve the kids and communities they impact.
  • Farm to School Act of 2023: The Patrick Leahy Farm to School Grant Program is one of the only dedicated sources of funding to meet the growing demand for farm to school activities. It is important to enact common sense measures to expand and improve the program, based on a decade of implementation, at the earliest opportunity. Learn how the Farm to School Act of 2023 would benefit your communities here.
  • Values-Aligned Universal School Meals: Now is the time to invest in nourishing school meals for all kids—and value everyone who gets it to their table. Just as farm to school is a triple win for kids, farmers and communities, policies that expand healthy school meals embedded with the core values of farm to school have the potential to radically transform our food system for the better. Our Who's At The Table campaign supports win-win policies that get us closer to a just, equitable food system that promotes the health of all school children and benefits producers, workers, educators, and their communities. Whether you are a parent, educator, farmer or farmworker, explore our campaign resources and take action.

State Farm to School Policies

State policies are catalysts for innovation in gardening activities, hands-on nutrition education, and local purchasing. NFSN supports farm to school advocates to promote meaningful policies that fund and facilitate this work in their states or territories. 

As of December 2020, 46 states, the District of Columbia (DC), and one US territory introduced a combined total of 546 bills and resolutions supporting farm to school activities. Of those, 43 states, DC and the US Virgin Islands successfully passed farm to school legislation including 170 bills enacted and 70 resolutions adopted. 

For more in-depth information, see the State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2020, co-authored by National Farm to School Network and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School. This resource summarizes and analyzes every proposed farm to school bill and resolution introduced between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2020. It enables readers to search bills by both jurisdiction and topic, and includes analysis of trends, case studies, advocacy resources and more.

NFSN also provides real-time information on current state legislative sessions through our Policy Map.

Local farm to school policies

There are a variety of ways to support farm to school through policy at the local level. These include:

  • Local School Wellness Policies: All school districts receiving federal funds for school meal programs are required 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. Visit USDA's catalog of resources for wellness policy examples and tools.
  • Purchasing Policies and Commitments: 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. Groups like the Urban School Food Alliance estimate that their 19 member districts spent $927 million on school meals in 2023. USDA Food and Nutrition Service offers a comprehensive guide on how to implement local purchasing within procurement regulations.
  • Municipal Support: Local governments, or organizations such as food policy councils convened by a city, have many options for promoting farm to school directly. They can also facilitate urban agriculture, community gardens, or other activities that indirectly contribute to a vibrant local food system. The Healthy Food Policy Project offers a database of policies and case study resources to showcase these local options.

Find More in Our Resource Hub

Visit the Resource Hub and toggle on the "Policy" topic to find more free resources to learn more and take action.