Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Florida Farm to School initiative?
Florida’s Farm to School initiative enhances the connection that communities have with local growers. The initiative seeks to increase the amount of Florida products served in schools, offer healthier options for Florida’s children and get students involved in nutrition and agriculture education through school garden activities.
How does the Florida Farm to School initiative benefit schools?
Researchers have observed increases in school meal participation when Farm to School programs are present. In addition to nourishing students, an increase in meal participation may result in increased revenue for the school food service program.
How does the Florida Farm to School initiative help farmers?
The initiative connects farmers with new opportunities that benefit their communities and their profitability. Farms of all sizes can provide Florida products to meet schools’ nutritional needs. By working with schools, farmers and producers can plan what, when and how much to produce.
Schools that purchase locally raised or grown agricultural products help to support local producers. Additionally, local agriculture can benefit local and state economies by creating job opportunities and keeping money in the community.
Do schools wishing to purchase Florida products have to comply with procurement rules?
Yes. Schools must comply with all federal, state and local competitive procurement rules.
Can schools specify a geographic preference on procurement documents?
Yes. The 2008 Farm Bill allows schools operating Child Nutrition Programs to purchase unprocessed agricultural products, both locally grown and locally raised. It also allows institutions to use a geographic preference.
Is locally grown produce inspected?
Not in most cases. Therefore, schools need to wash and prepare the produce the same way they would wash and prepare produce purchased from distributors. Schools are encouraged to ask for food safety documentation on programs the growers are currently using (i.e., GAP, HACCP, etc.).
Does purchasing the locally raised or grown product through the Farm to School initiative reduce the school’s commodity entitlement funding?
No. The Farm to School initiative is not part of the commodity program. Schools contracting with local farmers pay for their purchases from their own food service account.
What is the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ role in the Farm to School initiative?
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services leads the Farm to School initiative by:
- Connecting schools with local farmers, producers and distributors
- Developing agricultural and nutrition-based lesson plans featuring Florida products
- Offering workshops on developing and sustaining school gardens
- Providing training for school food service staff on preparing fresh foods
- Creating school food service recipes that incorporate Florida products
How can I help support the Farm to School initiative?
You can support the initiative by:
- Encouraging schools to serve local Florida products
- Talking to children about nutrition and making healthy food choices
- Encouraging hands-on learning by starting a school garden
- Teaching children about agriculture by visiting a farm
- Supporting the state’s economy by buying local Florida products