Friday, October 23, 2015

Farm-to-school program has increased consumption of healthier food and reduced waste

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that its Farm to School Grant Program, created under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, has increased the number of school meals sold, improved consumption of healthier foods in schools and helped to reduce plate waste, Whitney Forman-Cook reports for Agri-Pulse.

"Farm to school is one of many tactics and resources that USDA makes available to help schools successfully serve healthier meals to kids," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. "Farm to school partnerships have a proven track record of encouraging kids to try, like and eat more healthy foods and creating new market opportunities for the farmers that grow them."

Nationwide, more than 42,000 schools have farm-to-schools programs, according to the release.

Farm-to-school programs work in conjunction with school meal programs, and according to preliminary results from the USDA Farm-to-School Census, 17 percent of school districts that participate have reduced plate waste; 28 percent are more accepting of healthier school meals; 17 percent have increased participation in school meals; 21 percent have lowered the school meal program costs and 39 percent have more support from parents and their community for healthier school meals.

The Census report also found that since the inception of the program two years ago, there has been a 55 percent increase in the local purchase of foods, to $598.4 million in 2013-14 from $385.8 million in 2011-12, with almost half of the respondents planning to increase their local food purchases in the coming years.

“Congress should act quickly to reauthorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to build on the success of Farm to School and the healthier school meals and continue our momentum towards a healthier next generation of Americans," Vilsack said in the release.

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