Assistance to Farm to Cafeteria Projects
Community Food Security Coalition

The Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Bill offers a timely opportunity to link nutrition and agriculture policy to improve children's health and benefit family farmers. The Coalition's proposal, "Assistance to Farm to Cafeteria", creates a win-win situation: children have access to farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, and farmers not only increase their incomes, but become more involved in their communities. The proposal--in S. 995 "Child Nutrition Initiatives" Act and H.R. 2626 "Farm to Cafeteria Projects" Act--would provide $10,000,000 annually for allocations of up to $100,000 to school districts or nonprofit organizations to create farm to school projects. This one-time infusion of resources requires a 25% match of funds or in-kind contributions.

Need for the Initiative:

The development of life-long eating habits begins during childhood. By encouraging children to eat healthy foods, they have a better chance of avoiding serious illness later in life, such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • The “epidemic of obesity” is becoming an increasingly well-known phenomenon. More than 25% of Americans under 19 are overweight or obese - a number that has doubled in the last 30 years.
  • Less than 13% of school-age children eat the recommended amount of fruit, and 20% eat less than one serving of vegetables.
While the health of our nation's youth related to diet is declining, the health of America's independent farming sector is also declining. These facts are less well-known:
  • Of all occupations in the U.S., farming is facing the greatest decline. It is no longer listed as an occupation in the U.S. census, as farmers comprise less than 2% of the population.
  • The farmer share of the food dollar has dropped drastically from 41 cents in 1950 to 20 cents of every dollar in 1999.
The proposal addresses these negative trends by providing resources for the following:
  1. Initial capital expenses such as cold storage facilities, food preparation equipment, salad bars and other kitchen improvements.
  2. Initial additional labor costs, for researching the location of regional farms and crop availability, menu planning based on regional products, and staff training.
  3. Experiential nutrition education linking local agriculture to healthy diets through hands-on activities such as school gardens, visiting local farms, and field trips to farmers' markets.

Farm to School Success

In California, in one elementary school of 500 students, 5 - 10 students were choosing the salad bar with produce purchased through conventional means. When the produce was purchased directly from the farmers, the average number of students choosing the salad bar increased to 120.

The Farmers' in the New North Florida Cooperative began selling collard greens to 13 schools in one county. Six years later, they are selling to 15 school districts in 3 states, and serving 300,000 students annually.

The New York State Legislature has established an annual NY Harvest for NY Kids week that connects students to agriculture through visits to farms and farmers' markets, farmers in the classroom and other hands-on farm-school activities.

In the Maine Healthy Foods from Healthy Soils Program, elementary school children experience the cyclic nature of agriculture. They participate in every aspect of the cycle of food production from compost formation, planting, harvesting, and recycling back to the soil.

Satisfied Customers

"The most valuable benefits of the Farm to School Project are to the kids in our schools. We are building relationships between school children and the whole food system, from farm to cafeteria. All of us are learning where food comes from, how it is grown, and how important New York agriculture is to our quality of life."
Ray Denniston, Food Service Director for Johnson City Consolidated School District, New York

"This is a great way to diversify and stay in business."
Michael Nash, farmer, GROWN Locally Cooperative, Postville, Iowa

"The students are understanding more about nutrition, but they're also planting vegetables, seeing how food is served - and then they're composting the leftovers. It helps kids see that we're dependent on agriculture and can keep the cycle going."
Clark Bryant, Principal, Pioneer Elementary School, Davis, California

"The goal of farm to school programs is to help kids develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime, while providing a new, consistent market for farmers. It's a natural link."
Marion Kalb, Director of the National Farm to School Program

"The salad bar rocks."
a 6 year old student in the Ventura School District, Ventura, CA

For Additional Information, Please Contact the Community Food Security Coalition:

Marion Kalb

National Farm to School Director
P.O. 363 Davis, CA 95617
(530) 756-8518, Ext. 32

Thomas Forster
Policy Director
110 Maryland Ave NE, #307 Washington, DC 20002
(202) 390-2722

Sarah Borron
Policy Associate
110 Maryland Ave NE, #307 Washington, DC 20002
(202) 543-8602