184816 Farm to school: Perspectives of school food service professionals

Monday, October 27, 2008: 9:00 AM

Betty T. Izumi, PhD, MPH, RD , School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Katherine Alaimo, PhD , Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Michael W. Hamm , C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Farm to school programs are at the cutting edge of efforts to improve the quality of school meals. Advocates hope that such programs will improve children's health through increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables while simultaneously boosting farmers' incomes. This study was designed to assess why school food service professionals (SFSPs), farmers, and food distributors participate in farm to school programs and how they characterize the program's potential to meet its goals. Using a case study method, seven SFSPs, seven farmers, and four food distributors participating in one of seven farm to school programs located in the Upper Midwest and Northeast regions of the United States were each interviewed twice and relevant documents were collected to cross-check findings and enhance validity of the results. Data were analyzed using thematic codes and displays. This presentation focuses on the perspectives of SFSPs. Our analysis suggests that SFSPs are primarily motivated to buy locally grown food because doing so helps them to achieve their dual goals of providing children with nutritious foods that they will eat and staying financially solvent. Relationships with farmers and vendor flexibility emerged as important variables that mediated this outcome. The results of this research suggest that some of the benefits attributed to farm to school may be lost if small-scale distributors and farmers are replaced by large-scale distributors that rely on generic standards of food quality. Understanding SFSPs' motivations for buying locally grown food is critical to the sustainability of this program.

Learning Objectives:
Describe the diversity of farm to school programs in the United States. Articulate potential explanations for anecdotal reports of positive impact of locally grown food on children’s fruit and vegetable intake. Describe potential role for distributors in facilitating farm to school relationships.

Keywords: School-Based Programs, Sustainability

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: The data I will present is part of my dissertation research. I have been involved in farm to school, school-based nutrition programs, sustainable agriculture for more than 10 years. Izumi, B. T., Rostant, O. S., Moss, M. J. & Hamm, M. W. (2006). Results from the 2004 Michigan Farm-to-School Survey. Journal of School Health, 76(5), 169-174. Izumi, B.T., Conner, D., Hamm, M.W. (June 2007). Farm-to-School: Motivations Among Farmers and School Food Service Directors. Agriculture Food and Human Values Annual Conference. Victoria, British Columbia. Izumi, B.T., Rostant, O.S., Moss, M.J., Chung, K. & Hamm, M.W. (July 2005). Results from the 2004 Michigan Food Service Director’s Farm-to-School Survey. Society for Nutrition Education 35th Annual Conference. Orlando, Florida. Izumi, B.T., Rostant, O.S., Moss, M.J., Chung, K. & Hamm, M.W. (June 2005). Farm-to-School Development in Michigan: A Food Service Director’s Context for Implementation. Agriculture, Food and Human Values Conference. Portland, Oregon.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.