The USDA's first Farm to School Census, taken during the 2011-12 school year, reveals more than 38,000 schools and 21 million students are taking part in the national program, serving more than $350 million in local food.
"An investment in the health of America's students through farm to school activities is also an investment in the health of local economies," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vislack said in a release. "We know that when students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm they'll be more likely to make healthy choices i
When schools invest their food dollars into their local communities, all of agriculture benefits, including local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food processors and manufacturers, he added.n the cafeteria."
Area products purchased and served by districts across the country include fruits, vegetables
and milk, which top the list. There was an interest to implement plant-based proteins, grains and flour, and meat and poultry in the future, the census reports.
Breckenridge Public School District in Minnesota participates in the Farm to School program and took part in the census. In the 2011-12 school year, the district noted local purchases of fruit, vegetables and grain/flour, with future interest in purchasing dairy products, meat and poultry, beans/nuts/seeds, baked goods and herbs.
The district reported spending $1,500 in total food costs for the 2011-12 school year, with just 1 percent of that spent on locally-produced food.
In Minnesota, of approximately 345 public school districts, 252 completed the survey. The majority, 71 percent, said they are participating in farm to school activities. Eighty-six schools are growing edible gardens in the state, or about 17 percent of the schools. The census also revealed that 37 percent of districts in Minnesota are promoting locally produced foods at school in general, 27 percent are holding taste tests or demos of locally produced foods and 24 percent are celebrating Farm to School Month.
The census can be viewed online here. The Farm to School program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
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