Farm to School Efforts Double in Minnesota

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Ben Lilliston
Communications Director
(612) 870-3416
blilliston@iatp.org

Farm to School Efforts Double in Minnesota

Demand from students, farmers and schools grows for farm to school programs

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn - The number of Minnesota school districts
purchasing fresh food from local farms has more than doubled in the last 15
months, according to a survey released
today
by the Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA) and the
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

Farm to school programs link school children with local
farmers and farm products, including fruits and vegetables, meat, grains and
other items. Farm to school provides fresh, healthy food choices, helps
children develop healthy eating habits and supports small and mid-size farmers.

The survey gathered input from MSNA’s membership,
which includes foodservice professionals from nearly 100 public school
districts serving approximately 550,000 K-12 students across the state.
Sixty-nine districts reported purchasing Minnesota-grown products in 2009, more
than double the figure from late 2008. Further, 77 percent of the districts now
involved with farm to school initiatives expect to expand their activities in
the upcoming school year, a sign that these programs are taking root and
growing. 

“Farm to school benefits our students, communities,
farmers and the local economy throughout the state,” said MSNA President
Mary Anderson. “This is a very positive program on so many levels.
The  potential for growth is enormous.”

“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.”

Other key findings from the survey
include:

  • The most commonly used local foods were apples,
    potatoes, peppers, winter squash, sweet corn and tomatoes. A growing number of schools
    are also purchasing Minnesota-grown bison, wild rice, dried beans and grains.
  • Nearly 43 percent of school districts purchasing
    Minnesota-grown food in 2009 did so by purchasing directly from a farmer or
    farmer co-op.  
  • While 84 percent of the survey respondents
    reported purchasing foods grown in Minnesota, 35 percent also purchased foods
    grown in neighboring areas of Wisconsin, Iowa and/or North or South Dakota.
  • 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 and
    grains, dairy and meat.  The survey also showed strong interest in
    expanding student education about Farm to School and growing food in school
    gardens.

In the coming year, IATP and MSNA will build on the growing
momentum for Farm to School to expand farmer involvement, increase foodservice
staff training opportunities, work with more students and increase public
awareness

IATP’s work on
expanding farm to school initiatives is supported in part by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota as
part of Prevention Minnesota, Blue Cross’ long-term health improvement
initiative that is working to tackle the root causes of preventable heart
disease and cancer.

You can learn more about the farm to school survey at iatp.org and mnsna.org.

The purpose of Minnesota School Nutrition Association is
to provide our members opportunities for professional development and to build
relationships that make a difference in the lives of children. www.mnsna.org.

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The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.

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