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Did you know, the average piece of conventional produce in the U.S. travels 1,500 miles, while local produce only travels around 100 miles? Not only can local foods be fresher and cheaper, but they often retain more nutrients, with less preservatives. Sounds like a win, right? What matters most is our children having access to the fresh, local, nutritious food for their developing minds and bodies. Farm to School is cost-effective and benefits children while also benefitting the community, from teachers to parents, to farmers. Bring your community together by making farm to school an opportunity for growth in your district.

Benefits of Farm to School

  • Public Health – Students increase health-related knowledge and consume more fruits and vegetables, leading to overall better nutrition habits.
  • Environment – Connects children to where their food comes from, which helps lessen plate waste, improve eating habits, and build a stronger community.
  • Economic Impact – Creates a direct market opportunity for local farmers, increasing economic activity in the community.
  • Education and Achievement- Increases knowledge of gardening, agriculture, and nutrition. It provides the opportunity for hands-on learning and enhances academic achievement.
  • Community Engagement – Increases awareness of local foods and support for healthier school meals

Schools are not just serving local food at mealtime, they are planting gardens and providing educational opportunities to turn the cafeteria into a classroom. Here are some suggested steps for getting started with a school garden project.

1) Find a garden team and develop a vision for the future

  • Involve administrators, parents, teachers, students, and food service staff
  • Create a vision for the school garden
  • Determine how the garden will benefit the school, community, and students
  • Learn how it will be incorporated into school activities
  • Develop your action plan and set goals

2) Garden Design

  • Determine your garden space- whether you have a plot of land or a few containers, all gardens come in different shapes and sizes
  • Consider resources- soil, water, drainage, sunlight, plants
  • Identify a garden coordinator

3) Research Grants and Funding

  • Research and apply for grants, ask for donations, set up fundraisers
  • Ask local businesses to donate supplies- gloves, tools, plants, and soil

4) Plant the Garden

  • Research when and what to plant by using planting guides and asking experienced growers
  • Promote planting day to develop awareness by school website, social media, and newsletters

5) Garden Maintenance

  • Design a schedule for maintenance
    • Watering, fertilizing, mulching, weeding, composting
  • Create a plan for student involvement
    • Coordinate garden activities and curricular activities
    • Examples: Math- How much can you plant per square foot? Science- How do bugs benefit the soil? What is a seed?
  • Seek community involvement when school is not in session

6) Celebrate the Harvest!

  • Allow students to taste the fruits and vegetables from their labor
    • Plan classroom tastings, serve the food as a snack, make recipes using your gardens fresh ingredients

Grants and Funding

  • The NEA Foundation Learning and Leadership Grant- Deadline October 15, 2019The NEO Foundation is a public charity whose mission is to improve public education for all students. Grants are available to current members of NEA who are educators in public schools or public institutions of higher education or education support professionals. Preference is given to proposals that incorporate STEM and/or global learning into projects, which can include farm to school activities. Learn more about this grant and apply here.
  • Annie’s Grant for Edible School Gardens- Deadline November 1, 2019Annie’s strives to connect kids to school gardens, to help them think holistically about food, their communities, and planet. This grant is for public, private and charter schools interested in starting a school garden. Learn more about this grant and apply here.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize- Deadline November 4, 2019Culture of Health Prize recognizes communities that have come together around a commitment to health, opportunity, and equity through collaboration. The Prize elevates the compelling stories of community members who are working together to transform neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and more—so that the opportunity for better health flourishes for all. Learn more about this prize and apply here.

Are you interested in getting started with the Farm to School movement? From procurement and meal planning to starting a school garden, we can help. At Dietary Solutions, we are committed to helping schools deliver results that lead to positive nutritional outcomes for children. Contact us today for your free consultation.

Article Resources


Pirog, Richard S. and Benjamin, Andrew, “Checking the Food Odometer: Comparing Food Miles for Local versus Conventional Produce Sales to Iowa Institutions” (2003). Leopold Center Publications and Papers. 130. 


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