Frequently Asked QuestionsAbout Oklahoma Farm to School
What is Farm to School?
Farm to school allows schools to feature and expose students to a variety of locally produced foods in the school nutrition program. The program looks slightly different in every school site, but always includes one or more of three core components.• Procurement, or purchasing, of local foods that are promoted and served in the school meal, in taste-tests with students or as a snack in the classroom. More information on defining local foods is available at Geo-graphic Preference: What It Is and How to Use It, https://fns-prod.azureedge.
Why should my school participate in farm to school?
Then here is the answer to that question: farm to school emphasizes the use of local foods. When local foods are featured in school nutrition programs, everyone benefits! • Students have increased access to high-quality, fresh foods and tend to choose these foods more often. Students who have healthier diets tend to do better in school.• Schools tend to see an increase in students’ participation in the school meal program. Because students prefer fresh foods, there is less food waste.• Farmers and local producers gain a significant revenue source by opening doors to food service markets. This has potential to create new jobs and strengthen the local economy. To learn more about the benefits of Farm to school, go to Research Shows Farm to School Works, https://fns-prod.azureedge.
How does my school purchase local foods for the school nutrition program?
While sourcing local foods can seem like a confusing and time-consuming process, there are five basic ways to incorporate fresh and local produce into schools. Schools can use one or a combination of all five approaches to meet the needs of the school. The five ways to incorporate fresh produce into schools include the following:1. USDA DoD Fresh 2. Direct purchase through farmers 3. Cooperative purchasing 4. School gardens 5. Local distributors that sell locally Any of the above methods can be used, as long as a description is included in the school districts’ procurement plan. Descriptions of each method and the corresponding procurement plan clause are provided below.
How do I make direct purchases from farmers?
1. School nutrition personnel responsible for purchasing need to know the local producers and what foods are offered. To help identify local producers, use webpages such as the Oklahoma Farm to School at https://okfarmtoschool.com/
How Do Farm-to-School Programs Contribute to Children’s Health?
While Oklahoma students are consuming more calories than they need, they are not eating enough servings of fruits and vegetables. Only 27% of Oklahoma children are eating five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetable. Perhaps this is because they do not see their parents eating healthy foods–only 15% of Oklahoma adults eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, ranking the state last in the nation. Because Oklahoma students eat lunch at school and many eat breakfast there as well, schools and universities have a unique opportunity to improve the nutrition of the students they serve.
How Do I Get My Students To Eat Fruits and Vegetables?
Farm to School Programs Feature Locally Grown Food. What Does Local Mean?
According to the USDA, “There is no consensus on a definition for ‘local’ or ‘local food systems’ in terms of the geographic distance between production and consumption.” Oklahoma Farm to School includes foods grown within the state. It also includes food products where the main ingredient has been grown in the state.
TheSchool Food Authority (SFA) is permitted under USDA regulations to purchase locally grown or locally raised agricultural products and apply a geographic preference when awarding and purchasing locally grown or raised products. Under federal law, school districts will apply a “local” geographic preference to minimally processed foods and determine what is “local” for purpose of the USDA programs such as National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The school district(s) defines “locally grown products” eligible for this geographic preference at two levels: 1. foods grown within the state of Oklahoma as first preference, and 2. within 400 miles of your school district as the second preference.
Is Locally Grown Produce Better Than Produce Grown Elsewhere?
How Widespread Are Farm to School Programs?
How can a school purchase direct from farmers?
Schools using this method purchase foods directly from local farmers, ranchers and farmer’s markets. It provides flexibility to meet the mutual needs of both the school and local producer.
1. School nutrition personnel responsible for purchasing need to know the local producers and what foods are offered. To help identify local producers, use webpages such as the Oklahoma Farm to School at https://okfarmtoschool.com/schools/participating-schools/.
2. Decide how much money will be used to purchase from a local farmer – this will determine the procurement methods to use. The USDA “Decision Tree: How Will You Bring Local Foods into the Cafeteria with Your Next Food Purchase?” provides useful information (https://fns-prod.azureedge).
3. Clearly communicate the school’s expectations by having product specifications. The specifications may include requirements for safe growing, harvesting and storage practices. Tips for writing specifications for locally sourced foods are provided below.
4. Schools solicit quotes for produce on a month-to-month basis, depending on what is affordable and available.
5. Delivery details can often be worked out with the farmers. For example, it may be possible for the farmer to deliver straight to the schools or a central warehouse, or schools may choose to pick up the produce from the farm or farmer’s market.
Example Procurement Plan Language
The District may purchase produce from local farmers or farmer’s markets, from cooperative local farm procurement/bids, from school gardens and from local distributors selling local products. Pricing for farm to school produce should be obtained in manner consistent with the District procurement plan, using the correct method of procurement- informal methods include: • Micro-purchasing for purchases less than $3,500 distributed equitably among qualified suppliers. • Small purchase procedures for purchases more than $3,500, but less than $150,000. Verbal phone quotes are allowed and all qualified suppliers are given the same information. • Formal methods using competitive sealed bids or competitive proposals for purchases equal to or more than $150,000, using the RFP/IFB option.
How Can Farm to School Complement School Meal Programs?
Is There Funding for Schools to Purchase Locally Grown Produce as Part of the Farm to School Program?
How Can Farm to School Programs Benefit Farmers?
The 2005 pilot program involving just six school districts spent over $20,000 on Oklahoma-grown watermelons. These kinds of local sales keep dollars in Oklahoma and benefit communities across the state. The 2006 program involved 35 school districts that spent $44,000 on Oklahoma grown watermelons and honeydew melons. A farm-to-school program could potentially benefit farms of various sizes. Large school districts may be a good market for larger quantities of fruits and vegetables already grown on a commercial scale in Oklahoma, such as watermelons. Smaller-scale local farms could connect with small and medium-sized schools in the state.
Since the Growing Season and the School Year Don’t Completely Coincide, How Can the Farm to School Program Work in Oklahoma?
What Oklahoma-Grown Crops Could Be Served in Oklahoma Schools?
Does Fresh Produce Have to be Inspected by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Before Schools Can Use It?
Schools should write clear, quality specifications for fresh produce and ensure their own inspection upon delivery.
Growers are required to follow safe growing and harvesting practices. Schools with a farm to school plan may work directly with their farmer to further clarify additional food safety requirements. Click here for information on developing school food safety plans.
What Are Some of the Barriers of Farm to School in Oklahoma?
These barriers can be and are being overcome. School districts continue to need information about buying and using locally grown produce along with developing the hands-on learning activities. Farmers also need information and help in connecting with schools and developing distribution and growing plans. Oklahoma created the farm to school program to provide a coordinator to work with the schools and the farmers and help with the development of the extra learning activities that include school gardening, farm visits, indoor learning labs, cooking classes along with nutritional and educational curriculum.
How Do I Find a Farmer to Work With?
You can meet farmers at local farmers markets and talk to them about their interest in selling to your school. You can ask your produce distributor if they are purchasing anything from local growers. Contact Cheri Long, the Farm to School Coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry at 405-249-9234.
Why Should Schools Procure Locally?
With Oklahoma embracing a comprehensive farm-to-school program, it will be in the forefront of innovative efforts to address childhood obesity and improve children’s health for the better while creating many rural economic opportunities.