Fruits and vegetables top the list of locally produced foods purchased by U.S. school districts
Many U.S. school food authorities—the entities that operate school food services in public, private, and charter schools—purchase local foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and proteins for their district’s cafeterias. In addition to buying locally produced foods, many school districts participate in other farm to school activities, such as product-specific promotions, taste tests of local foods, onsite edible gardens, and field trips to farms. Approximately two-thirds of U.S. school districts participated in farm to school activities during the 2018-19 school year, according to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service 2019 Farm to School Census. Of the school districts that participated, 78 percent reported purchasing any local foods during the school year. Fruits and vegetables topped the list of local foods purchased in 2018-19, at 85 percent and 82 percent of school districts, respectively. Further, 68 percent of school districts reported buying locally produced milk and 29 percent reported buying local grains, including baked goods. Approximately a third of school districts reported purchasing other local dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, and sour cream (31 percent), and about a quarter purchased locally produced proteins like meat, eggs, seafood, nuts, and seeds (27 percent). This chart is updated from one that appeared in the March 2015 Amber Waves article, “Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods”.
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