Virginia Farm to School Programs

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
• 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
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
• 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.
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
• 45% of respondents developed purchasing relations with local
• 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
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
Top Farm to School Potential Challenges
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
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
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
Ground beef
Collard greens
Sweet potatoes
Green beans
White potatoes
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
Specialty Crop
Food Distributors
2 Focus Groups
1 Group Interview &
2 Individual
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.
• Development of Farm to School activities/ programs in Virginia is
• 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
“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.
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). Retrieved from National Farm to School
Network website:
National Farm to School Network. (2013). Retrieved from
Virginia General Assembly. (2007). Retrieved from
Virginia General Assembly. (2010). Retrieved from
Thank you!
Kim Niewolny, Ph.D
Assistant Professor/Extension Specialist
Agricultural & Extension Education
Virginia Tech
[email protected]
Matt Benson
Ph.D. Candidate
Agricultural & Extension Education
Virginia Tech
[email protected]
Pictures from a 2009 Rappahannock County Virginia Farm to School Day.

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