WASHINGTON, October 22, 2013 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today introduced USDA's first Farm to School Census for the school year 2011-2012, which indicated that schools participating in farm to school activities purchased and served over $350 million in local food.
According to USDA’s announcement, more than half of participating schools plan to purchase local foods in future school years.
"An investment in the health of America's students through farm to school activities is also an investment in the health of local economies," Vilsack said. "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 in the cafeteria.”
Forty-three percent of public school districts across the country reported having an existing farm to school program in place, with another 13 percent of school districts surveyed committed to launching a farm to school program in the near future.
Vilsack added that through these efforts, schools can meet the new meal standards implemented last school year and demonstrate the role local food can play in school meals.
School districts that missed the opportunity to respond to the census earlier in the year to respond can submit information regarding farm to school practices through November 30, 2013.
USDA's Farm to School Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which authorized USDA to change food menu guidelines in schools. In mid-November, USDA will announce approximately $5 million in FY2014 Farm to School grants to various school districts.
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