(NAFB)--USDA is celebrating National Farm to School Month. On Tuesday - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted important strides made in offering healthy, local food to millions of school children through USDA’s Farm to School program - emphasizing the program’s role in creating economic opportunity for America’s farmers and ranchers. In the 2011-12 school year - according to USDA’s first-ever Farm to School Census - more than 38-thousand schools participating in program activities purchased and served more than 350-million dollars in local food to their 21-million students. More than half of the participating schools plan to purchase even more local foods in future school years. Vilsack said an investment in the health of America’s students through farm to school activities is also an investment in the health of local economies. When schools invest their food dollars in their local communities - Vilsack said all of agriculture benefits.
Forty-three percent of public school districts across the country reported having an existing farm to school program in place. Another 13-percent of those surveyed committed to launching a farm to school program in the near futures. Fruits, vegetables and milk topped the list of local products currently offered in schools across the country - while census respondents indicated an interest in local plant-based proteins, grains and flour and meat and poultry in the future.
Farm to School Census results are available online www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/census.