Results From the 2004 Michigan Farm-to-School Survey

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate Michigan school food service directors' interest in, and opportunities and barriers to, implementing a farm-to-school program. Farm-to-school may be a timely and innovative approach to improving the school food environment and helping food service directors meet their nutrition goals for school meals. Health and agriculture advocates have recognized the importance of farm-to-school in addressing health issues and creating opportunities for farmers and rural communities. Research subjects were 664 food service directors representing school districts across Michigan. Respondents (n = 383) reported a high degree of interest in sourcing food from local producers (73% reported being very interested or interested). Interest was significantly augmented (83%) when respondents were asked to assume that these foods were available through current vendors. Interest was independent of free/reduced lunch participation rate or school district location (rural, suburban, urban location). Food service directors expressed diverse motivations for their interest in farm-to-school, including supporting the local economy and community; accessing fresher, higher-quality food; and potentially increasing students' fruit and vegetable consumption. The most frequently reported barriers and concerns included cost, federal and state procurement regulations, reliable supply, seasonality of fruits and vegetables, and food safety. Michigan school food service directors appear ready to make linkages with local agriculture. However, there is need to address the concerns and barriers through education; inclusion of community partners, such as current vendors; funding; and state and federal policies that support local purchasing. (J Sch Health. 2006;76(5):169-174)