Farm to school programs involve efforts to bring locally produced foods into school cafeterias; facilitate hands-on learning activities such as school gardening, farm visits, and culinary classes; and integrate food-related education into standards-based classroom curriculum. This research summarizes common achievements, challenges, and lessons learned of USDA Farm to School Program grantees.
Study Design, Setting, Participants, Intervention
USDA's Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS) annually funds school district involvement in farm to school through its Farm to School Grant Program. From 2013 to 2016, USDA funded 300 projects in all 50 states including 152 school districts or charter school programs in 42 states and territories.
Outcome Measures and Analysis
Staff in OCFS performed a qualitative analysis on final reports submitted by 83 school districts that received a USDA Farm to School grant between 2013 and 2015. Themes were grouped by achievements, challenges, and lessons learned using USDA's farm to school curriculum which includes 12 separate planning and implementation modules.
Initial findings suggest common achievements included developing school gardens and establishing multi-component education programs (such as ‘Harvest of the Month’) while challenges related to staff turnover and lack of dedicated personnel resources. School districts often described lessons learned in terms of increasing program outreach and sustainability by developing core activity areas.
Conclusions and Implications
Findings from this study inform support services for future grant recipients and enable OCFS to further develop resources for partnering school districts, state and local agencies, tribal organizations, and non-profit entities. Results will also be used to describe effective practices for other schools planning and implementing farm to school activities.
© 2017 Published by Elsevier Inc.