In an effort to demonstrate the economic value of Farm to School, the Center for Rural Studies (CRS) at the University of Vermont recently conducted an economic impact study of local food procurement by Vermont schools for the Vermont Farm to School Network with funding provided by the Vermont Community Foundation. Key findings from the study include:
- Vermont schools spent $915,000—or 5.6% of all food purchased—on local foods during the 2013-2014 school year;
- Every dollar Vermont schools spent on local food contributed an additional sixty cents to the local economy, resulting in a $1.4 million overall contribution to Vermont’s economy;
- If 75% of Vermont schools doubled their local food spending (from 5.6% to 11.2%) the total economic impact would increase to $2.1 million.
The results and implications of this economic impact study will be the topic of a workshop at the 2016 Vermont Farm to School Conference on November 3rd. If you are interested in attending the conference, learn more and register here.
The full report, “Economic Contribution and Potential Impact of Local Food Purchases Made by Vermont Schools,” can be found here.
This study demonstrates the positive impact Farm to School programming has on our local economy by supporting food producers, thereby allowing them to grow their businesses and support other businesses like distributors and retail outlets. Just imagine the possibilities if more of the remaining 94.4% of food budgets was spent on local products!
The findings of this study help to measure the Farm to School Network’s progress towards their goal of having 75% of Vermont schools purchasing at least 50% of their food from local or regional sources by 2025. As the findings indicate, Vermont schools have quite a way to go to meet the Network goal, but the economic impact of meeting the goal would be highly beneficial for the state.
Farm to school programming in schools doesn’t only have positive impacts on the economy. It also has educational and health benefits for students. Farm to School programs enhance nutrition education, promote agricultural literacy, and serve as a platform to incorporate all subjects in an engaging and tactile way. Moreover, they help expose students to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are critical to a healthy lifestyle. Vermont schools with Farm to School programs have reported twice the national average in vegetable consumption and students who know a farmer or grow their own food indicate that they eat more fruits and vegetables. Improved student health also has long-term economic implications in the form of reduced healthcare expenditures in the future.
Almost all Vermont schools are engaged in Farm to School at some level, and we are working hard to make sure that this programming is strong in every school throughout the state, incorporating Farm to School into the classroom, cafeteria and community. With such a robust Farm to School movement in our state, we have a great opportunity to expand our food and farm economies by supporting the procurement of local food in schools.
If you’d like to learn more about the study or the Farm to School Network, please contact Ali Zipparo at Alexandra.Zipparo@vermont.gov or (802) 505-1822.