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Farm to School Program: Tips, Tools & Guidelines for Food Distribution & Food Safety (Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry) http://www.okfarmtoschool.com/wp-content/uploads/cover-TOC.pdf

Vermont Farm to School: A Guide for Using Local Foods in Schools (Vermont FEED)

  • What does “locally grown” mean?

    Each district or school has the opportunity to define local in the way/s best suited to its purchasing goals. For example, a specific-mile radius or within the county or the state may be used by a school or district to define local. A school or district may choose to define local differently for different products or at different times of the year.

  • Why is “locally grown” food better than food produced elsewhere?

    Food grown locally is harvested at its peak of freshness and delivered from the farm to the school within a short period of time. Therefore, the food is high quality and high in nutritional value.

  • Will kids eat fruit and vegetables?

    Research studies have shown that kids will eat more fruit and vegetables when they have access to a variety of high quality fresh items and that they are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they participate in educational activities related to these foods.

  • How can I locate places to buy local food?

    The PA Preferred program is designed to identify locally sourced Pennsylvania products. The PA Preferred logo can be found on product packaging and signage in grocery stores, farm markets, restaurants and other food outlets where you can find Pennsylvania products. Click here for more information about PA Preferred.

  • What types of fruits and vegetables are grown in PA and when are they available?

    A wide variety of fruits and vegetables are grown in Pennsylvania. Click here for a list of fruits and vegetables grown in Pennsylvania indicating when each is available.

  • What are the various mechanisms used by schools to purchase local foods?
    • Some schools purchase products directly from a farmer. The foodservice director contacts a farmer (or the farmer may contact the foodservice director) and they work out an arrangement for providing local foods. In some school districts, in the spring, the school foodservice director and the farmer identify foods the school can use in the coming school year and both sides agree on a price and an amount of product.
    • Some farmers form cooperatives and work together to distribute, market, and sell their products.
    • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is another option. CSA subscribers pay farmers upfront for operating costs and then receive a share of the farm’s harvest.
    • Some schools work through their distributor and request local food products whenever possible and the names of the farms from which they purchase.
  • How is delivery of local foods handled?

    Delivery arrangements are often unique and must be worked out between schools and farms. Farmers may not be able to deliver to individual schools within a district but may deliver to a central facility. Then, the school must decide how to get the food to the various schools. Farmers may be willing and able to add destinations to their established delivery routes. For example, a farmer may be able to add a delivery to a school on the same day he/she is delivering to other sites such as farmers’ markets. If a school is purchasing from several local farms, the farms may be able to collaborate to have one farmer do the deliveries.

  • How do I address the barrier that fresh PA produce is not available during some months of the school year?

    Pennsylvania farms will not be able to provide all the fruits and vegetables that school foodservice programs need. However, school foodservice directors can take advantage of local produce when it is in season. It is suggested that school foodservice directors allow flexibility in their menus to allow for the use of local items when they are in season. Some local produce can be frozen and stored. (However, canning is not allowable and if vacuum-packaging is being considered, a procedure and HACCP plan must first be approved. In addition, some farmers and farmer cooperatives may have facilities where items can be stored.

  • Do bidding and purchasing requirements for school meals programs discourage use of local foods?

    Actually, USDA regulations encourage purchase of local foods. The 2008 Farm Bill included language that encourages schools to purchase food from local producers. USDA guidance documents specify that the geographic procurement preference option may only be applied to the procurement of unprocessed agricultural products (only those agricultural products that retain their inherent character). USDA also clarifies that local agricultural products that have been handled or preserved by the following techniques meet the definition of unprocessed and geographic preference may be applied: cooling, refrigerating, freezing; size adjustment through size reduction made by peeling, slicing, dicing, cutting, chopping, shucking, and grinding; drying/dehydration; washing; the application of high water pressure or “cold pasteurization”; packaging (such as placing eggs in cartons) and vacuum packing and bagging (such as placing vegetables in bags); butchering livestock, fish and poultry; and the pasteurization of milk.

  • Are there food safety issues related to purchasing produce from local farms?

    To help minimize food safety risks, all farms should use safe practices in growing, harvesting, packing, handling, storing, and transporting the produce. The safety of the water and fertilizer used and worker hygiene/sanitation are particularly important. Some farms have formal food safety audits such as in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) certifications. Click here to learn more about GAP.

    If you are considering buying from local farms that have not participated in formal food safety audits, visit the farm to observe and ask questions to help determine whether food safety practices are being followed. For example, ask the farmer if they have a food safety plan, and what steps they are taking to minimize contamination. If the farmer does not have a plan, have the farmer complete a self certification checklist such as the Iowa “Checklist for Retail Purchasing of Local Produce” You can also contact your local cooperative extension office for assistance.

    Most schools require farmers from whom they purchase products to have product liability insurance. Schools should communicate with their legal departments to make decisions about the level and type of liability insurance they will require. For more information, see "USDA Community Food Systems Implementing Farm to School Activities: Food Safety."

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