Research Article| Volume 42, ISSUE 2, P83-91, March 2010

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Farm-to-School Programs: Perspectives of School Food Service Professionals



      This qualitative study used a case study approach to explore the potential of farm-to-school programs to simultaneously improve children's diets and provide farmers with viable market opportunities.


      Semistructured interviews were the primary data collection strategy.


      Seven farm-to-school programs in the Upper Midwest and Northeast regions of the United States.


      Seven school food service professionals, 7 farmers, and 4 food distributors recruited from 7 farm-to-school programs.

      Phenomenon of Interest

      Interviews probed why farmers, school food service professionals, and food distributors participate in farm-to-school programs and how they characterize the opportunities and challenges to local school food procurement.


      Data were analyzed using thematic coding and data displays.


      School food service professionals described 3 motivators for buying locally grown food for their cafeterias: (1) “The students like it,” (2) “The price is right,” and (3) “We're helping our local farmer.” Students' preference for locally grown food was related to food quality, influence of school staff, and relationships with farmers. Buying food directly from farmers and wholesalers was associated with lower prices and flexible specifications, and the “local feel.”

      Conclusions and Implications

      Understanding school food service professionals' motivations for buying locally grown food is critical to the sustainability of farm-to-school programs.

      Key Words

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