School districts get locally produced foods from a variety of sources

A horizontal bar graph showing the percentage of school districts that used local food sources for farm-to-school activities during the 2018-19 school year

USDA encourages schools to serve locally grown and raised foods, including fresh produce and meat. During the 2018–19 school year, approximately two-thirds of U.S. school districts participated in farm to school activities, according to USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s 2019 Farm to School Census. Of the participating school districts, 78 percent reported purchasing some quantity of local food during the school year. About 43 percent of school districts reported purchasing local foods from produce distributors. USDA’s Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (USDA DoD Fresh) was an equally common procurement source for school districts. USDA DoD Fresh allows districts to use USDA funds to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables through the DoD and provides information to districts on the food sources. USDA Foods, which refers to the commodities donated by USDA to school districts for use in school meals, was the third-most common source with 36 percent of respondents indicating they used the program to source local foods, followed by 26 percent of respondents that sourced from individual food producers. Broadline distributors (distributors offering several types of products), grocery stores, and school or community gardens and farms were each used by about 17 percent of respondents as local food sources. This chart is updated from one that appeared in Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems released January 29, 2015.

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