INDIANAPOLIS — Leaders in the local food movement in Indiana
are helping build the Indiana Farm to School Network, designed to connect farms
with school cafeterias and classrooms.
The Indiana Horticultural Congress was the perfect event for
the fruit and vegetable crop growers from the four corners of Indiana,
coordinators of Hoosier Organic Marketing Education, officials from the Indiana
State Department of Health and the Indiana Department of Education and others
who are interested in the new effort to come together to discuss the program’s
A partnership that began several years ago between the
health department, the department of education, the Indiana State Department of
Agriculture and the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, the Farm to
School Network would incentivize schools to work with local producers to provide
healthy food grown by Indiana producers in cafeterias and at lunch
Of the projects currently in existence under the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School program, fewer than half are
established by law, however, and plenty of challenges, from sourcing to funding
to delivery, continue to exist for program coordinators.
A Farm to School Network also would concentrate on teaching
Farm to School activities could include a wide range of
purchasing and educational programs, including procuring locally-grown foods as
part of the school meals or snack program, using local foods in after-school and
summer nutrition programs, cooking and tasting demonstrations and facilitating
farm visits or classroom visits by farmers.
Kathy Cooley, proprietor of Alpine Berry Farm, a U-pick
operation in Batesville, said she sees a great need for companies or
distributors participating in the Farm to School Network to know the producers
in their area to make a successful connection between the farmers who grow the
food and the children who eat it.
“My interest is not just schools, but institutions,” she
“I’m very interested in getting students and people more
interested in food and presenting farmers as superstars. The grants available
are very encouraging, and I’d love to see blueberry bushes in school gardens.
“The perfect Farm to School program would start with
students being engaged, and the perfect situation would be to connect local
farmers with their neighboring schools and see the grounds at the school used to
teach students about agriculture.”
Jill Pritchard, program manager of diversified agriculture
at ISDA, said it is very important to know which farms are interested in
becoming a part of the Farm to School Network since the project would work
better with multiple schools aggregated together to meet supply and food safety
Producers are concerned that because a Farm to School
program is not part of the department of education’s requirements for children
that it could face challenges.
Brittany Dale, school and community nutrition wellness
specialist at the IDOE, said a number of grants are available and that the Farm
to School Network will be a coordinated effort between schools and producers as
it progresses through the planning stages in the next couple years.
“I can see more of the foodservice directors reaching out to
farmers because they will try to see more of the foods in the schools,” she
said. “This school year has been more focused on meeting the new meal pattern
guidelines, and there will be new regulations for breakfast coming next
Dale said she has created grants that are geared toward
schools so they can decide which opportunities best fit them.
“A Farm to School Network is not required, but it is highly
recommended,” she said. “Schools are very competitive, so when one school sees
another participating in this program, they will want to become involved, as
For more information on the IDOE Farm to School program,
For more information on available nutrition grants, visit