What is Farm to School?
Farm to School enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools. Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips. Farm to school empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. Farm to school implementation differs by location but always includes one or more of the following core elements:
Procurement: Local foods are purchased, promoted and served in the cafeteria or as a snack or taste-test
Education: Students participate in education activities related to agriculture, food, health or nutrition
School gardens: Students engage in hands-on learning through gardening.
National Farm to School Network
The National Farm to School Network is an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing, school gardens and food and agriculture education into schools and early care and education settings. The mission of the National Farm to School Network is to increase access to local food and nutrition education to improve children’s health, strengthen family farms, and cultivate vibrant communities.
The Montana Department of Agriculture is a National Farm to School Network Montana Supporting Partner.
Montana Farm to School Network
Farm to school is rapidly growing in Montana despite a short growing season and long distances between towns. Through partnerships, networking, and a strong dose of Montana-style resourcefulness, schools throughout the state are overcoming barriers to serve local foods, provide farm to school education, and grow school gardens. The state is home to many farm to school partnerships and programs, including:
The Montana Farm to School Leadership Team works through partnerships across the state to build farm to school initiatives that help kids eat healthy, connect kids with agriculture and nutrition through education, support Montana farmers and food producers, foster economic vitality, and strengthen communities. This team is formed of agencies and organizations with statewide focus and influence that are key to the success of farm to school in Montana. The Montana Department of Agriculture is a member of the Montana Farm to School Leadership Team.
Montana is still home to more cattle than people, so it makes sense that schools throughout Montana are serving local beef in their school meals. The Montana Beef School Coalition works together to help schools serve Montana beef in school meals. The coalition studies successful programs and in 2016 published the Montana Beef to School Case Study Report.
The Montana Harvest of the Month program showcases Montana grown foods in Montana schools and communities. Each month, participating K-12 schools and after school programs (early care and education programs will be included soon) focus on promoting one locally grown item (e.g., winter squash) by serving it in at least one meal or snack, offering taste tests to students, and doing educational lessons and activities.
Lentils: Montana Harvest of the Month