Farm to school programs reach over 25.5 million students, report says

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 5, 2015 - The number of farm to school programs in the U.S. increased 430 percent between 2006 and 2012, according to a report released by the National Farm to School Network (NFSN).

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The State Farm to School Legislative Survey: 2002-2014 asserts state governments are the drivers behind the upward trend.

“State governments play a crucial role in the growth of farm to school,” Helen Dombalis, policy and strategic partnerships director for NFSN, said in a press release. “The success of states like Alaska, Oregon and Texas is having a domino-like effect across the country, paving the way for more state legislatures to encourage farm to school initiatives through policy.” 

In 2014 alone, 21 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) passed 41 farm to school bills - an increase of 64 percent from the previous year. As of October 2014, 39 states and D.C. had enacted such legislation, the report found.

According to 2012 census data, those states and D.C. are home to more than 40,000 schools and with over 25.5 million students participating in farm to school programs.

The report, prepared by researchers at Vermont Law School's Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, also found that state support for school gardens and local food is on the rise. Some key findings: 

--In 2014, 73 new bills and resolutions advancing farm to school initiatives were introduced by state legislatures, with more than half being enacted into law.

--The legislative endeavors are showing greater support for school gardens. Last year states proposed 11 such bills and enacted eight pieces of legislation. In all, the number of bills and resolutions encouraging, establishing and or funding school gardens increased by almost 50 percent over similar bills from 2002-2013.

--States are also emphasizing the role farm to school plays as part of broader local food system initiatives. In 2014, there was an increase in legislation to establish statewide food system departments, including the California Office of Farm to Fork and the Washington, D.C. Food Policy Council, as well as an increase in legislation to encourage the development of local food hubs.

In addition to an analysis of state farm to school legislative trends, the survey includes descriptions of all the farm to school bills proposed, enacted, or defeated between 2005 and 2014 and several case studies of successful farm to school programs.

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