University of Iowa Press acquisitions editor Catherine Cocks is helping the press build a new list of publications on a topic everyone’s interested in these days: food. Recently, she asked Brandi Janssen, an anthropology PhD student at the University of Iowa who’s writing her dissertation on local food production, some questions about the rapidly growing “Farm to School” or F2S movement.
Catherine: What is “Farm to School” and what are the reasons for it?
Brandi: Broadly, Farm to School includes programs that link locally produced foods to K-12 schools. These efforts include, but are certainly not limited to, adding locally produced foods to school lunches and classroom snacks, providing nutrition and agricultural education, and developing school gardens. Farm to School programs generally aim to improve the quality of food served in schools and increase student knowledge of agriculture and food production, both in the classroom and through hands-on gardening activities and farm field trips. In addition, Farm to School programs develop and expand markets available to local farmers by increasing institutional purchasing of local food.
Catherine: When did these efforts start, and how widespread are they?Brandi: It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact start date, as Farm to School efforts have been developing independently across the United States over the past ten to fifteen years. In 2004, however, the National Farm to School Program was officially authorized in the Farm Bill. [This is the omnibus act on agriculture and food policy that Congress enacts every five years.] While no funds for Farm to School were appropriated in that bill, the federal recognition was significant. In 2010 the Farm Bill included over $5 million in funding for Farm to School projects. Currently [in 2013], the National Farm to School Network reports that there are over 2,500 individual Farm to School programs serving over 10,000 schools, spread throughout all 50 states.