Feedback can help shape farm-to-school markets

businessThe Virginia Department of Education has received a grant to further develop the Virginia Farm to School Program to increase the number of farmers providing food for school lunches.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 68 of Virginia’s 132 school divisions have some type of farm-to-school program, and another 30 are working to establish programs.

To help expand the network, Virginia farmers have been asked to complete a Virginia Farm to School 2018 Survey of Producers. The survey, conducted by Virginia Tech, is part of an effort to evaluate and develop farm-to-school opportunities within Virginia.

The USDA created a national farm-to-school program a decade ago to provide locally sourced, healthy food in schools and to assist smaller farmers in marketing their products to school lunch programs.

“The Virginia Farm to School Program provides increased market opportunities for farmers, helps raise awareness about Virginia-grown products and supports local agriculture,” explained Chris Cook, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation assistant director of rural development. “Replying to the survey will provide valuable data to support growers’ participation in this expanding program and increase access to fresh locally grown food in schools.”

The USDA reported that schools with strong farm-to-school programs reported higher school meal participation, reduced food waste and increased willingness by students to try new foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

Nationally, schools purchase nearly $800 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food processors and manufacturers.

The online survey can be found at  virginiatech.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cIpp9heCavctCDz.

 



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