Several months ago I wrote about Futurist Amy Webb. She is the founder of the Future Today Institute, which in 2017 published a comprehensive Tech Trends Annual Report. The report identified over 100 trends (such as "Bots" and "Deep Learning") that will have an impact on the future of society. The report breaks down each trend into several components. Utilizing their template (with a few modifications) I've put together my own analysis on the trend Farm to School.
Today about 30% of all school districts in the US have a Farm to School program. As obesity and malnutrition remain prevalent among children, schools will establish partnerships with farmers to supply fresh and locally grown food to school cafeterias.
In 2010 the Obama administration introduced updated nutrition standards to school lunch and breakfast programs via the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Today over 90% of schools in the US adhere to the standards. The standards require minimum fruit and vegetable servings, and restrict certain macronutrients. Companies such as Revolution Foods and Gourmet Gorilla have seen tremendous success by introducing fresh and real food for schools. The Chef Ann Foundation are providing tools such as The Lunch Box with resources and grants to help districts establish Farm to School programs. As seen with Brigaid, professional chefs are leaving the corporate restaurant world and bringing fresh cooking principals to school cafeterias. School based farms such as the Encinitas Unified School District Farm Lab and products such as the Charlie Cart are connecting nutritional education with locally grown foods. States such as Colorado and school districts such as San Diego unified are presenting a template and proving that a Farm to School program can be successfully implemented at a large scale.
There is a lot of variety across school districts as far as the level of implementation and challenges within a Farm to School program. Some districts feel they cannot implement a program due to a shortage of staff, equipment, or cost. Others have a robust program and continue to actively add farmers to their supply network. The biggest challenges for districts are transportation of product from the farm to schools, packaging and storage, food safety, transparency regarding inventory (how much product can farmer deliver), and food prep requirements. For example a district may need corn supplied without husks, because they don't have the staff or tools to do this. Other challenges include establishing relationships with new farmers, working through logistics (invoicing, delivery schedule), kitchen staff shortage, ill-equipped kitchens, and food costs. Establishing a network that seamlessly connects a Farmer to a District will ensure the programs success. The network will provide transparency regarding a Farmer's supply and cost, manage invoicing that adheres to USDA guidelines, and coordinate delivery and storage requirements.
Newly introduced legislation: the Farm to School Act of 2017. If passed it would increase mandatory annual funding of the USDA Farm to School grant program from $5 million to $15 million. Any new legislation around the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Sam Kass and Acre Venture Partners. Chef Ann Foundation. National Farm to School Network. Incumbent food service management companies such as Aramark, Sodexo, Maschio's Food Services. Chefs Move to Schools initiative. FoodCorps. Revolution Foods, Gourmet Gorilla, Charlie Cart and Brigaid. USDA's Farm to School Census.
Good to know
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally subsidized program where districts receive cash subsidies from the USDA for every meal they serve (if that meal meets the USDA meal requirements). Therefore a school may only have $1 - $1.50 to spend per meal that offers quality ingredients at an affordable price for students. A standardized definition of a "local" product is non-existent. To some districts it can mean within a 50 mile radius of a school, to others it's within the state.