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Survey Finds 36% of U.S. Schools Serve Locally Grown Foods

Survey Finds 36% of U.S. Schools Serve Locally Grown Foods

According to a new survey of schools, 36 percent of U.S. school lunchrooms serve locally grown foods to its students. Big agriculture states, however, weren't among the biggest Farm-to-School participants. 

The survey, conducted during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years by the USDA, found that states like Maine, Vermont, Maryland and Delaware served the most local foods, according to an article on NPR.org.

"Even schools that go local, though, aren't serving up plates likely to pass a locavore test. On average, only about 13 percent of the food budgets at schools serving local food actually went to stuff that was grown nearby," the article said.

According to Katherine Ralston, agricultural economist at USDA, said that "interest in local foods is pretty high," the article said. "And the amount of local food served 'was higher than we expected.'"

When it comes to the 64 percent of schools who aren't serving local food, the survey found that "while 9 percent of all schools said they plan to incorporate local food at lunch soon, fully half simply don't do so at all: 38 percent neither serve nor teach about local food, and another 12 percent don't serve local food but do take part in other local food efforts, like school gardens. [The last 6 percent of schools, curiously, reported they didn't know whether they use local food or not]," the article said.

"It's not a supply problem," said Ralston. According to the article, "more than three-quarters of schools serving local food got it through a regular distribution channel—think Sysco—instead of having to contract directly with individual producers."

According to Ralston, the takeaway is two-fold, the article said.

"One, the annual farm-to-school census still needs tweaks, like asking whether schools serving local food use corporate distributors or local food hubs [many of which have USDA backing]," the article said. "And second: For schools, she says, the news is pretty good: 'It is getting a lot easier to get locally sourced products.'"

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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