A new survey, released Tuesday by the Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA) and IATP, can serve as both encouragement for farm-to-school advocates and as a road map for schools, administrators or farmers looking to get involved in the growing movement. According to the survey, the number of Minnesota school districts purchasing fresh food from local farms has more than doubled in the last 15 months. Even more encouraging is the fact that 77 percent of the districts currently involved in farm-to-school indicated that they expect to expand their farm-to-school activities in the upcoming school year.
“Parents, students and educators know that good nutrition is essential if our kids are to be healthy and ready to learn. Small and mid-size farmers, whose products have largely been absent from America’s lunch trays, can offer our children fresh, less-processed choices and a chance to learn how and where their food is grown,” said IATP’s JoAnne Berkenkamp. “The momentum is rapidly building for farm-to-school programs and it’s great to see schools and farmers embracing this opportunity.”
Some other highlights of the survey include:
- Nearly 43 percent of school districts purchasing Minnesota-grown food in 1009 did so by purchasing directly from a farmer or farmer co-op.
- The biggest barriers to expanding farm-to-school purchases were the need for extra labor and preparation time in the cafeteria, pricing and tight food budgets, and difficulty finding nearby farmers to purchase from directly.
- In the future, schools are most interested in purchasing local vegetables and fruit, with growing interest in bread/grains, dairy and meat.
- The survey also showed strong interest in expanding student education about farm-to-school and growing food in school gardens.