Getting Started with Farm to School
Helpful Tips to Launch Your Effort
Here are some steps to get started:
Assemble your team
Involve your school’s wellness committee, food service staff or volunteers who work in the lunchroom. Don’t forget the family and consumer sciences teacher, physical education 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.
Determine your goals
Farm to School has three components, often referred to as the three Cs: cafeteria, curriculum and community. If possible, create goals that include all three elements. If you are just starting, keep those goals simple.
Identify the products and menu items you want to source locally
Five sourcing models are:
- Purchase locally from a distributor
- Locate and purchase directly from a farmer
- Purchase at a farmers market
- Use a “forager.” This is someone who works with the farmer and food service staff to make sure everyone’s needs are met
- Enter into a “growing contract” with a farmer
For help finding farmers in your area, check out the Minnesota Grown Farmer Wholesale Directory.
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. But, you have to get the word out.
Get staff on board
School staff may need more information or skills to make Farm to School successful. Consider a training on knife skills for food service staff or sharing a list of education resources with your teachers. This is a helpful step to ensure buy-in for your efforts.
Determine your evaluation plan
How are you going to know what worked and what didn’t? 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 results with others, especially staff and parents.