What is Farm To School?
Iowa Lawmakers passed Farm to School legislation in 2007 to establish a program that would:
- Link elementary, secondary, public and non-public schools with Iowa farmers;
- Provide schools with fresh and minimally processed Iowa-grown food for inclusion in school meals and snacks; and
- Encourage children to develop healthy eating habits and provide them with hands-on learning activities.
The Farm to School Program is coordinated by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) in partnership with the Iowa Department of Education and a seven-member Farm to School Council.
Iowa’s Farm to School mission is to encourage and promote the purchase of locally produced food in our schools, strengthen the farm economy and offer educational opportunities to improve child nutrition and health.
Farm to School Producer Directory
The Farm to School Producer directory can be used by both schools in order to find locally produced food, and by producers to list their products available to schools.
Fresh Connect Food Database
FreshConnect is a new statewide database that offers immediate access to buy or sell Iowa products. This database offers current availability and provides contact information to that buyer.
Sellers: Does your farm have product not committed but available for sale? Share what you have available or need help selling. Iowa’s food hubs, schools, and other institutions are looking to procure local products.
Buyers: Browse the availability and make a connection with the farm or business to arrange a purchase. The availability is updated daily.
Farm to school programs feature school purchases of food (commonly fresh fruits and vegetables) from local farmers. Nutrition lessons can be coordinated with the fresh produce being served for lunch. Programs can also include Ag-in-the-Classroom curriculum, school gardens, food tastings and cooking classes, and farm visits, all of which get kids excited about healthy food.
Locally grown usually means grown nearby and includes anything grown in Iowa.
Locally grown food can be offered as part of a hot lunch, breakfast, as snacks or, as in some schools, offered on a salad bar.
Senate File 601 passed in 2007 has given initial funding for the farm to school program in Iowa. The program is being coordinated through both the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Department of Education. Prior to this year no funding has been appropriated from state appropriations.
Tammy Stotts is the Iowa farm to school coordinator. She works to promote the program and connect farmers and schools. Tammy can be reached at the Iowa Department of Agriculture, Ag Diversification and Market Development Bureau, phone 515-281-7657 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Farmers can list their products on the Farm to School Directory. New listings must be approved before they appear on the directory. Farmers can also call and make an appointment directly with a local school district. Take your business materials (price and crop list, business card, references) and perhaps a sample for the Food Service Director. Or you can inquire about existing farm to school programs that might connect you to a group of farmers that sell or deliver together. Contact the Farm to School Program at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
Farm to school programs contribute to children’s health by helping kids develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. According to research into existing farm to school efforts, students choose significantly more servings of fruits and vegetables when given the choice of high quality, farm-fresh produce. When they are well-nourished, children learn better.
Farm To School Initiatives
CARES Act Funding
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced the creation of a Local Produce and Protein Program. Gov. Reynolds has allocated $500,000 through CARES Act funding to help Iowa schools purchase locally-grown products from Iowa farmers impacted by COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions. The funding will be awarded through three grant programs administered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.