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Economic Research Service to Conduct Farm to School Survey

October 15, 2010

On Friday, October 15, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) filed a notice in the Federal Register announcing its plans to conduct a nationwide survey of existing Farm to School efforts.

The farm to school initiative at USDA is an effort “to connect schools (K – 12) with regional or local farms in order to serve healthy meals using locally produced foods.” Visit USDA’s farm to school website for the initiative here.

ERS plans to contact 50 State agriculture departments, 50 State education departments, 50 State Farm to School coordinators, and 50 State cooperative extension offices in order to develop a comprehensive list of school districts currently engaging in Farm to School activities.  (To view the Farm to School Network’s nationwide list of farm to school projects, go to the Network’s website.

ERS will then gather information from these school districts on a variety of topics, including:

  • What types of Farm to School activities the district offers (e.g., local foods week, school gardens, direct local sourcing of meals, agri-science programs, etc.)
  • How many schools within the district participate in Farm to School activities, and the participation rate within each school
  • What kinds of school nutrition programs are available in the district (e.g., National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, School Milk Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program)
  • What level of external grant funding the district is receiving for Farm to School-related activities

ERS aims to keep the data-collection process as simple and respondent-friendly as possible (responses will be voluntary), so it is inviting the general public and public agencies to send comments for the next 60 days about any aspect of the planned survey, specifically whether the survey is necessary to the functioning of USDA, whether the estimated burden on survey respondents is accurate, and any ways to enhance the quality of the survey or reduce the burden on the respondents.

The survey is expected to begin sometime around the new year, pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget, and will run for about four months.  After the survey is completed, ERS will use the data to more fully complete its Food Environment Atlas, which details a variety of food-related data, including local food options and existing Farm to School activities around the country.

Farm to School works closely with USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, and ERS economist Katherine Ralston recently wrote a blog post for Know Your Farmer announcing the upcoming survey and outlining the ERS vision for the future of the initiative.

Categories: Local & Regional Food Systems

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