Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat
Frequently asked questions
How do I get started?
It’s easy! There is a lot of help available for schools to make their program a success. Check out our step by step page and the resource section. Also visit http://www1.extension.umn.edu/food/farm-to-school for a variety of resources to get you started and keep you going.
Won’t buying local foods cost more?
In a recent survey, 53 percent of the MSNA School Nutrition Directors who responded reported cost as a barrier to Farm to School. Yet, the majority of them indicated they intended to expand their Farm to School program in the next year. Many have found creative ways to overcome the cost barrier including using the Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program or selling local foods on the ala carte line for a higher price. It is also important to note that nearly one half of those surveyed did not consider cost to be a significant barrier. Furthermore, some schools have noted a significant increase in their school meal participation rate when they instituted a Farm to School program, thus increasing their revenue.
Won’t buying local foods take more time?
Brenda Braulick, Food Service Director from Sartell-St. Stephens Public Schools probably sums it up the best: “I knew that providing Farm to School for our students would require a commitment in terms of the logistics and this would be a learning experience for them as well as for us. Even though there has been a time commitment on my and my staff’s part, I feel it is worth the effort to provide these wholesome local foods to our students.” There are many ways to purchase local foods. Some schools work directly with a farmer who delivers the food, some hire or utilize a volunteer who identifies a farm or farmer the school can purchase foods from, whereas others utilize a distributor that a farmer has sold their product to. Each school has different needs. Determine what will work best for your situation to get you started.
But, kids won’t eat these foods will they?
This does not seem to be the case. Evaluation of Farm to School programs show that kids on average eat one more serving of fruits and vegetables each day when they have a Farm to School program at their school. Not every child will eat winter squash, but many food service directors have been surprised that a lot of children like it. Furthermore, taste testing has been shown to be critical to increase acceptance since many children are unfamiliar with even the most basic of foods such as cucumbers, whole apples and corn on the cob.
Can school lunch programs legally buy or accept donated produce from a famers market or directly from a grower to serve to students?
The answer is yes! Sometimes local sanitarians have concerns about purchasing local foods. For that reason, the MN Department of Health, MN Department of Agriculture and University of MN Extension have reviewed the state and federal laws associated with these questions. These agencies worked together to create several fact sheets to answer food safety questions that often come up. Those fact sheets can be accessed at http://www1.extension.umn.edu/food/farm-to-school/toolkit/sourcing-food/regulations.html
Is it worth the effort?
Most food service directors that are doing Farm to School indicate they plan to continue their work. According to Lyn Halvorson, Winona Public School Food Service Director, "Our program has received some really outstanding PR. This is turn makes our parents very happy. Staff are really on board in their support of this program. This has been an opportunity to be recognized in our schools as a nutrition education resource. We are giving kids an opportunity to try products that they may not have an opportunity to eat at home."