Nutrition: Information for Schools
Eating to learn, learning to eat
Below are the eight steps to creating a successful Farm to School program, and on the right are downloadable tools you can use.
1. Assemble a team
Why a team? Because you simply cannot do this work alone. Who you choose depends on your situation and goals. You may wish to involve your schools wellness committee or perhaps you have volunteers who work in the lunchroom. Don’t forget the FACS or Phy-Ed teacher, school nurse, or Ag Educator who would have an interest in this topic and can help bring information to students in the classroom. Students who are involved can spread the word to other students. Perhaps you have a local farmer or student farmer who would be able to provide great insight. All these people have the potential to help you find solutions to obstacles in ways you hadn’t thought of before.
2. Determine your goals
Farm to School has three components, often referred to as the three C’s: cafeteria, curriculum and community. If possible, be sure to create goals that include all three elements. If you are just starting, keep those goals simple. For support in determining your goals, use the Farm to School annual planning tool.
3. Identify the products and menu items you would like to source locally
You do not need to do this on your own. Take advantage of the ideas and work others have done before you. Check out the websites in the resource section for simple menu ideas for Minnesota foods. For helpful tips see the Top 10 Tips for Farm to School Foods.
4. Begin sourcing
There is generally no wrong way to do this but generally there are five models for you to choose from depending on your needs. They are:
a. Purchase locally from
b. Locate and purchase directly from a farmer
c. Purchase at a farmers market
d. Use a “forager” This is someone who works with the farmer and food service staff to make sure everyone’s needs are met
e. Enter into a “growing contract” with a farmer
To get you started finding farmers in your area, check out the MN Grown Farmer Wholesale Directory.
5. Plan your educational outreach and promotion activities.
Farm to School programs have demonstrated that students are willing to try new foods and choose healthier options. As previously discussed, school meal participation rates generally increase resulting in revenue increases. But, you have to get the word out. For strategies in this area, check out the resources page.
6. Get staff on board
This is especially critical to ensure that students are provided the opportunity to learn more about the food they are eating, where it comes from and how to improve their choices. This then creates excitement about the choices now being offered in the cafeteria.
7. Determine your evaluation plan
How are you going to know what worked and what didn’t work? Some schools have surveyed students in addition to monitoring their meal participation rates, others have monitored price per serving and number of children receiving nutrition education. Set realistic expectations, work toward achieving them and determine what is working and what are the challenges. Be sure to share your positive results with others, especially staff and parents. Check out the National Farm to School Network for more.