Montpelier, April 1, 2016 – Vermont is in the farm to school spotlight once again this month as recently released Farm to School Census data ranks Vermont 2nd in the nation in farm to school engagement. With 78% of Vermont districts reporting, Vermont schools spent more than $1.5 million in local food in the 2013-2014 school year. The top three districts, Washington Central SU, Burlington School District, and Milton Town School District, spent a combined $168,000 on local food purchases, excluding fluid milk.
This continued national leadership can be attributed to the Rozo McLaughlin Farm to School Act of 2006, which established the Vermont Farm to School Grant Program. The grant program has contributed to the establishment of a strong statewide farm to school network, the development of regional farm to school nonprofits, and a robust inter-agency partnership to support farm to school programs, including of the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Agency of Education, and Department of Health.
Other census highlights include:
· Vermont schools spent an average of 17% of their foodbudgets on local food
· Almost 100% of Vermont schools surveyed are buying local fruits and vegetables
· Vermont has 85 gardens at schools throughout the state
“Farm to School programs are an important tool to help students understand the value of nutrition, develop healthy eating habits, and appreciate where their food comes from, creating a culture of change in the classroom, cafeteria, and community,” said Agricultural Secretary Chuck Ross. “We are thrilled with the recent Farm to School census data. The results are an affirmation of the hard work undertakenby students, teachers and staff, farmers, community members and partner organizations throughout the state, as well as the support and commitment of Vermont legislators and the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.”
Nationwide, schools report that farm to school programs can increase the number of students purchasing school breakfast and lunch, improve consumption of healthier foods at school, and reduce plate waste. The programs are also heavily focused on nutrition education, helping teach children where their food comes from and exposing them to lessons about healthy eating. The census data also showed that school gardens, which can be both teaching tools and a sources of fresh produce, have nearly tripled over the past two years.
“We now have valuable data from schools on the local products they are buying, the gardens they are planting and the many methods they are using to teach children where their food comes from,” said Deborah Kane, Director, USDA Office of Community Food Systems.
In order to establish realistic goals for national Farm to School initiatives, the USDA conducted the first nationwide Farm to School Census in 2013. In 2015, the USDA conducted a second census to measure progress against the goals established in 2013. Of the 18,000 public, private and charter school districts survey, approximately 70% (12,585 districts) responded. To view the full results, visit: https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov.
About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment. www.Agriculture.Vermont.Gov