2013 Virginia Weight of the State Conference Richmond, Virginia Virginia Farm to School Programs: An Opportunity to Connect Local Foods to Schools for Improved Student Health and Nutrition Matt Benson, PhD Candidate, Graduate Research Assistant Kim Niewolny, PhD, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist Department of Agricultural and Extension Education Virginia Tech Project Background • Goal is to enhance the Virginia Farm to School Program through research, educational programming, and the development of a Virginia Farm to School Program Resource Guide. • Project activity supported by 2010 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant. • Project led by Virginia Tech in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and project steering committee. • Results from two phase mixed methods research study (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Project Steering Committee Agriculture in the Classroom, Virginia Farm Bureau Tammy Maxey and Ron Saacke Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture Morgan Maloney Fall Lines Farms Molly Harris Goochland County Public School System Lisa Borthwick Harrisonburg City Public School System Andrea Early Local Food Hub Emily Manley National Farm-to-School Network Alyssa Densham Virginia Department of Agriculture Leanne DuBois Virginia Department of Education Catherine Digilio-Grimes Virginia FAIRS Chris Cook What is Farm to School? • A program that: • Connects schools (K-12) and local/regional farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, • Improves student knowledge through agricultural, health, and nutrition education, and • Supports local and regional farmers (National Farm to School Network, 2013). Farm to School in the U.S. • Today, Farm to School programs exist in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. (National Farm to School Network, 2013). • In 2001, state governments began to enact legislation supporting Farm to School (Benson & Lott, 2012). • To date, over 36 jurisdictions have passed at least 74 state policies supporting Farm to School programs (Benson & Lott, 2012). • In 2011, federal legislation (HR 1645) established October as National Farm to School Month (National Farm to School Network, 2011). Virginia Farm to School Program • A result of legislation passed in 2007 (SJR 347) (Virginia General Assembly Legislative Information System, 2007). • VDACS and VA DOE provide co-leadership. • Program development has primarily been through policy initiatives, educational events, and pilot projects. • Legislation passed in 2010 (HJR 95) established the second week of November as the Virginia Farm to School Week (Virginia General Assembly Legislative Information System, 2010). VCE’s Connection to Farm to School • Virginia Cooperative Extension has a connection to Farm to School through each of its four program areas. • 4-H Youth Development, • Agriculture and Natural Resources, • Community Viability, and • Family and Consumer Sciences. • VCE also has a connection to Farm to School through it’s impact team in local foods/food safety. • Across the nation, Extension is being asked to help address pressing social issues/concerns and Farm to School programs are seen as one way of addressing these concerns. Phase 1: Virginia Farm to School Survey • Population: Virginia school nutrition directors. • Goal: To explore Virginia Farm to School Program interest, knowledge, and implementation practices. • Phase 1 Research Methods: Developed online questionnaire from PA instrument. Work group reviewed and pilot tested instrument. Instrument implemented during fall 2011. Survey Results • Received 85 responses (N=138) for a response rate of ~62%. • Majority of respondents (55%) stated they were very knowledgeable of the Virginia Farm to School Program. • No respondent stated that they had never heard of Farm to School. • Half of respondents (51%) stated they classify local food as food raised or produced within Virginia. Top Virginia Farm to School Activities • 86% of respondents served meals featuring local foods. • 47% of respondents purchased local food using ‘geographic preference’. • 45% of respondents developed purchasing relations with local farmers. • 40% of respondents invited a farmer to a school to support education about local food production and agriculture. • 36% of respondents planted a school garden. Top Farm to School Potential Benefits 1. 2. 3. Purchasing local food increases support of Virginia farms and/or businesses (mean=3.55). Schools support their local economy and local community by purchasing local foods (mean=3.43). Purchasing local food enhances school division public relations (mean=3.39). Top Farm to School Potential Challenges 1. 2. 3. The seasonal availability of local foods (mean=3.34). The inadequate supply of local foods (mean=3.13). Delivery issues with local foods (mean=2.99). Scale: 4=Strongly agree, 1=Strongly disagree. Likelihood of Purchasing and Serving More Local Foods 1. If local food was available from the company who I normally purchase from (mean=3.53). 2. If there was one place for ordering local foods from multiple farmers (mean=3.43). 3. If local foods were more available (mean=3.34). Top Activities to facilitate more Local Food to Schools 1. List of local suppliers and food products from local sources (mean=3.55). 2. Assistance in developing a system for buying local food (mean=3.23). 3. Better food safety information about local foods (mean=3.17). Scale: 4=Strongly agree, 1=Strongly disagree. Virginia Farm to School Week Results • 57% of respondents participated in 2009. • 61% continued to purchase local food throughout the 2009-2010 school year. • 61% of respondents participated in 2010. • 69% continued to purchase local food throughout the 2010-2011 school year. Familiarity with Farm to School Organizations • Virginia School Nutrition Directors were most familiar with Virginia Cooperative Extension (79%, N=67). • Virginia Grown (VDACS) was the second most familiar Farm to School organization/program (72%, N=61). Virginia Foods Purchased for Farm to School Fruits Vegetables Vegetables Meats Other Apples Broccoli Onions Chicken Butter Blackberries Cabbage Peppers Ground beef Cheese Cantaloupe Carrots Radishes Pork Eggs Honeydew Collard greens Spinach Flour Nectarines Cucumbers Squash Milk Peaches Eggplant Sweet potatoes Strawberries Green beans Turnips Tomatoes Kale White potatoes Watermelon Lettuce (assorted) Winter squash Phase 2: Qualitative Research Qualitative questions were developed from previous Farm to School research (Izumi, 2008), and derived from VA survey results. Qualitative Methods * School Nutrition Directors Specialty Crop Farmers Food Distributors 2 Focus Groups 1 Group Interview & 2 Individual Interviews 2 Interviews Themes from School Nutrition Directors Theme #1: Farm to School is viewed as one strategy to improving the school food environment. The cafeteria manager explained how her school nutrition director had implemented these changes by stating: “She has done it very gradually. To see what she and the others who are involved have accomplished, there are kindergarteners, first graders, eating beautiful little salads which I would have never seen.” Themes from School Nutrition Directors Theme #2: Educational trainings on Farm to School help facilitate local and regional foods to schools. One participant stated “I think meetings like this are where we first heard about Farm to School.” Another participant agreed and said “Yeah that is exactly what I was going to say. I went to the very first Farm to School conference, because I know Andrea and Trista were there and spoke. You were there. Leanne was there.” Themes from Food Distributors Theme #1: Farm to School programs create an opportunity to network diverse agrifood system stakeholders together. “I think one reason we’ve been pretty successful is our ability to have relationships both with our farmers and with the institutions that were selling to.” She explained… “I think about our ability to have these really good relationships with both the farmers and the people that are buying the food. And to be able to share the information inbetween the two.” Themes from Food Distributors Theme #2: The annual Virginia Farm to School Week is one method for increasing participation in the Virginia Farm to School Program. When asked if they thought the Virginia Farm to School Week had a positive impact, one participant stated, “Yes, it definitely has. Because what it has done is given people a reason to get their feet wet, and try it out. So they have an excuse or a reason to pursue local food for this one week.” Themes from Specialty Crop Farmers Theme #1: Farmers had different motivations for participating in Farm to School programs such as student health and nutrition, agricultural education, and farming lifestyle preferences. One farmer participated because they saw it as a way to connect kids to agriculture and farming while potentially improving student health. She stated: “People need to know where their food is coming from. Ultimately, we pay for what we put in our mouth.” One participant explained: “I want kids to eat fresh… I want kids to have the experience of a turnip, kale, collard greens, corn, real sweet corn…. “It is about the kids, I want kids to experience natural food, real natural food.” Themes from Specialty Crop Farmers Theme #2: Challenges exist for farmer participation, such as price and delivery/logistics of distribution. One participant explained:“The price point was the big, big stumbling block. They (school divisions) get subsidized food and there is only a limited amount of dollars. But the meat they get commercially is below cost and they are buying it from big corporations that are making their money on pennies.” Another farmer said: “The logistics [was] a challenge because the school was not prepared to help with the distribution at all. So I physically had to hand deliver all of it to each school. Conclusions • Development of Farm to School activities/ programs in Virginia is increasing. • Virginia School Nutrition Directors are knowledgeable about Farm to School and are supporting Farm to School activities in a variety of different ways. • There are a number of challenges that exist for Farm to School in Virginia: primarily related to supply & distribution of local foods. • Virginia Cooperative Extension is a good program partner for assistance with local and regional Farm to School program development. “Everything is right about farm to school: healthy fresh food, enhanced economic opportunity for farmers, and education for children about where food comes from. That’s a trifecta!” –Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture From USDA Farm to School Team 2010 Summary Report, July 2011. 23 References Benson, M., & Lott, M. (2012). Strengthening farm to school programs— A policy brief for state & local legislators. Portland, OR: Community Food Security Coalition. Brockwell, P. (2007). Farm-to-School task force report (SJR 347). Senate Document No. 18. Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. National Farm to School Network. (2011). Farmtoschoolmonth.org. Retrieved from National Farm to School Network website: http://www.farmtoschoolmonth.org National Farm to School Network. (2013). Farmtoschool.org. Retrieved from http://www.farmtoschool.org Virginia General Assembly. (2007). Virginia.gov. Retrieved from http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?071+ful+SJ347+pdf Virginia General Assembly. (2010). Virginia.gov. Retrieved from http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?101+ful+HJ95+pdf Thank you! Kim Niewolny, Ph.D Assistant Professor/Extension Specialist Agricultural & Extension Education Virginia Tech 540-231-5784 [email protected] Matt Benson Ph.D. Candidate Agricultural & Extension Education Virginia Tech 540-522-0762 [email protected] Pictures from a 2009 Rappahannock County Virginia Farm to School Day.