USDA: Farm to School program responsible for better school meal outcomes

By Whitney Forman-Cook

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2015 - The Agriculture Department says its Farm to School Grant Program, created under the Obama administration's Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, has increased the number of school meals sold, bolstered consumption of healthier foods in schools, and helped to reduce plate waste.

Together we can feed the Bees"

USDA says the program has helped 12,300 schools establish or expand their farm-to-school programs, providing more nutritious meals with local ingredients to 6.9 million students. 

“Farm to School is one of many tactics and resources that USDA makes available to help schools successfully serve healthier meals to kids,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a release. “Congress should act quickly to reauthorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to build on the success of Farm to School and the healthier school meals and continue our momentum towards a healthier next generation of Americans.”

According to preliminary results from USDA's Farm-to-School Census, school districts that participate in farm-to-school programs are purchasing more locally grown food.

During the 2013-2014 school year, schools purchased $598.4 million worth of local food - a 55 percent increase over the 2011-2012 school year, when the first Farm to School Census was conducted, USDA said. And almost half - 47 percent - of respondents indicated that they plan to increase local food purchases in the coming years.

The census also shows that 17 percent of those school districts say the program reduced plate waste, 28 percent said it improved acceptance of healthier school meals, 21 percent said it lowered school meal program costs, and 39 percent said it increased support from parents and community for healthier school meals.

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