October 2006

Grant Results


From December 2004 through January 2006, project staff at the Community Food Security Coalition worked with local groups in Kentucky, Maine and Oklahoma to organize and run workshops aimed at developing a pipeline for healthy farm-fresh products into school cafeterias.

Key Results

  • The three workshops drew 200 people, including food service staff, school administrators, farmers, teachers and state government workers.
  • At the workshops, each state group either formed a farm-to-school advisory committee or developed future plans for an existing group.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a grant of $45,000 to support the project.

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The need to improve nutrition in the nation's schools is illustrated by these facts:

  • Many children get up to 40 percent of their daily nutrient intake from school meals.
  • Nearly 25 percent of vegetable intake among elementary school children is in the form of French fries.
  • Fewer than 15 percent of elementary age children eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

Farm-to-school (or farm-to-cafeteria) programs work to counteract negative trends in obesity and food intake by incorporating nutritious produce into school lunches, snacks and salad bars.

A 2000 study of the impact of a Farmers' Market Salad Bar on children in three Los Angeles elementary schools, conducted by University of California at Los Angeles researchers, found that:

  • They ate an average of one more serving of fruit or vegetables a day.
  • Their average daily caloric intake decreased by 200 calories.

Farm-to-school programs also build new markets for family farming — an occupation in great decline in the United States.

However, these programs can be challenging to establish and maintain, often involving additional costs and basic changes in the way food is delivered, packaged and procured. According to the project director, engaging all interested parties in the planning process — including school food service staff, school administrators, parents, farmers and community groups — is key to overcoming these barriers.

The Community Food Security Coalition is a membership organization that provides support to groups involved in community-based food and agriculture projects, such as farmer's markets, community gardens, community subsidized farms and farm-to-cafeteria sales. Its overall mission is to increase food security, defined as access for all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

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RWJF is committed to tackling one of today's most pressing threats to the health of children and families — childhood obesity. The goal is to help halt the rise in childhood obesity rates by promoting healthy eating and physical activity in schools and communities throughout the nation.

RWJF places special emphasis on reaching children at greatest risk: African-American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander children living in low-income communities.

According to Dwayne Proctor, team leader of RWJF's grantmaking to address childhood obesity, "Farm-to-school programs aim to address disparities in the school and community setting that contribute to childhood obesity…

"There are less resources and a greater burden on poorer and often minority communities as far as access to healthy foods, fruits and vegetables and access to safe physical activity. By connecting local farmers with local schools you can get better nutrition at a lower price and it's more efficient."

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During 2005, project staff at the Community Food Security Coalition collaborated with three local groups in Kentucky, Maine and Oklahoma to advance the development of new farm-to-school projects. One-day workshops offered in each state:

  • Increased knowledge of steps needed to establish farm-to-school projects.
  • Began a dialogue between farmers and food service professionals about their needs and available resources.
  • Led to action plans and next steps in the organizing process.

The coalition's partners were well-established and interested in farm-to-school programs, but had not yet created them. Together, they represented a mix of urban and rural settings and diverse agricultural contexts and climates in which to test the workshop design.

The coalition staff helped the local groups plan the workshops, including providing contacts in other states, keynote speakers and educational materials. Staff members of the local groups found their meeting sites, arranged meals (serving local food), coordinated logistics and recruited and registered participants.

The Local Groups

  • Community Farm Alliance is a grassroots organization committed to family-scale farming in Kentucky. In 2003, the alliance released a 50-page report, Bringing Kentucky's Food and Farm Economy Home, about Kentucky's farming economy as it moves beyond reliance on tobacco as its main cash crop.
  • Healthy Acadia is a coalition of citizens and organizations committed to community health improvement and positive child and youth development in Maine's Mount Desert Island region. A group of citizens in Hancock County, located in that region, had expressed interest in establishing a local farm-to-school project.
  • The Kerr Center is a nonprofit educational foundation established in 1965 that encourages the development of sustainable food and farming systems in Oklahoma. In 2004, the center launched a pilot program in which local farmers provided watermelons to school cafeterias in six school districts.

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The project accomplished the following:

  • The three workshops sponsored by the coalition and its partners in the three states explored trends in farm-to-school programs and offered guidelines for developing and sustaining them. The one-day workshops, which drew a total of 200 participants, included keynote presentations, panels and large and small group discussions. At least 10 farmers and 12 school food service staff and school administrators attended each workshop.
    • Kentucky: "Healthy Food, Local Farms," held September 30, 2005, in Louisville, Ky., drew 60 registrants representing school food services, food service management companies, farms, school administration, chefs-in-training programs, the Kentucky Park Service and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. The workshop preceded a larger conference held the following day aimed at supporting family-scale farming.
    • Maine: "Hancock County Farm-to-School Workshop," held October 22, 2005, in Ellsworth, Maine, drew 75 people. Attendees included food service staff, teachers, school administrators and farmers, and representatives of farm organizations, state agencies and youth gardening groups. More information on the workshop is available online.
    • Oklahoma: "Oklahoma Food Connection: Connecting Farmers with Customers and Oklahomans with Fresh, Locally Grown Foods," held November 4, 2005, at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla., drew 65 participants, including farmers, food service staff, staff of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and the Department of Defense Farm-to-School program, two state senators, university students and professors. A newsletter article about the workshop is available online.
  • At the workshops, each state group either formed a farm-to-school advisory committee or developed further plans for an existing group. Progress continued after the grant closed.

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The three states continue to work toward creating or expanding farm-to-school programs:

  • Kentucky. The Kentucky state legislature passed a bill in March 2006 that requires state agencies to buy Kentucky farm products if they are available and meet quality and price requirements.

    As of June 2006, staff at the Community Farm Alliance was putting together several pilot farm-to-school projects.
  • Maine. In March 2006, Healthy Acadia received a Sustainable Community Grant from Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Program, to expand countywide efforts to bring more locally produced foods into school cafeterias.

    As of June 2006, the Hancock County Farm-to-School project was working with several schools across the county to establish and sustain purchasing relationships with local farmers. Staff also was developing contacts in the state Department of Agriculture and Education to lay the groundwork for a statewide farm-to-school program.
  • Oklahoma. In May 2006, the state legislature passed a bill creating the Oklahoma Farm-to-School program within the state's Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to assist both farmers and school food service directors. Kerr Center staff testified in support of the bill.

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Workshops to Develop Farm-to-School Programs to Promote Healthy Eating Habits and Reduce Obesity Among Children


Community Food Security Coalition (Venice,  CA)

  • Amount: $ 45,000
    Dates: December 2004 to January 2006
    ID#:  051268


Marion Kalb
(505) 982-3646

Web Site


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(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)


"Food to School: The National Scene." PowerPoint presentation. Venice, Calif.: Community Food Security Coalition, 2005. Available by request from Marion Kalb at marion@foodsecurity.org.

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Report prepared by: Kelsey Menehan
Reviewed by: Karyn Feiden
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Judith Stavisky
Program Officer: Dwayne C. Proctor

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