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by intern Julia Landau

An exciting new study, highlighted in Medical News Today, suggests that farm-to-school programs can be implemented without raising food service costs. And that’s just one of the perks.

The study, entitled “Farm-to-School Programs: Perspectives of School Food Service Professionals,” also found that there is a direct relationship between sourcing locally and students’ fruit/vegetable consumption. School food service professionals suggested that having met or learned about the farmers providing these foods made the act of eating the produce more personal for students.

That being said, what happens when food comes from a local food distributor rather than directly from the farmer? For many schools, sourcing from a distributor provides a more feasible option than from multiple individual farmers. In that case, education about the origins of the food can provide a key link to healthier school eating habits.

On the farmers’ side of the equation, interviews with school food service professionals suggested that schools are attractive markets for local farms. Oftentimes schools can make use of “outsize” and imperfect items, such as smaller apples and twisted carrots. As opposed to the retail market, schools may have more flexibility in regard to product appearance and size.

This study contributes to a growing body of research supporting local food sourcing for schools. Food service professionals are proud to serve it, students feel encouraged to eat it, and farmers have another market to sell it.

“Farm-to-School Programs: Perspectives of School Food Service Professionals” by Betty T. Izumi, PhD, MPH, RD; Katherine Alaimo, PhD; Michael W. Hamm, PhD can be found in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 42, Issue 2, (March/April 2010) published by Elsevier.