What is Farm to School?

Farm to School brings healthy, local and sustainable food into schools and provides students with hands-on learning opportunities that develop food literacy, all while strengthening the local food system and enhancing school and community connectedness.

Core Elements of Farm to School

Farm to School empowers students and school communities to make informed food choices while contributing to vibrant, sustainable regional food systems that support the health of people, community and environment. Farm to school activities differ by school, but always include the following three elements:

Healthy, Local Food

Schools source local food in a variety of ways, including through direct farmer relationships, food distributors, schoolyard farms, or the harvesting of wild or traditional foods. When local food arrives in schools, it is often served in the form of a salad bar, hot lunch program, tasting activity, fundraiser, or community celebration.

Hands-on Learning

Food literacy is a critically important component of Farm to School. Step into any school offering a Farm to School activity and you will find students learning about food in the school garden, greenhouse, kitchen, lunchroom or classroom. They may also be getting ready for field trips to local farms, forests and shores.

School & Community Connectedness

The most successful and sustainable Farm to School activities are built upon strong relationships between schools and farmers, community members, and support organizations, tapping into local knowledge, passion, skills and resources.

Sustainable Regional Food Systems

The Farm to School BC Network and movement is dedicated to supporting the development of sustainable regional food systems in British Columbia. Please refer to the short paper published by the BC Food Systems Network on Regional Food Economies to get a sense of what a regional food system entails.

With regards to sustainable food systems, Farm to School BC follows the following definition:

A sustainable food system is a collaborative network that integrates several components in order to
enhance a community’s environmental, economic and social well-being. It is built on principles that
further the ecological, social and economic values of a community and region. According to Pothukuchi and Jufman (1999), a sustainable food system:

  • is secure, and therefore reliable and resilient to change (including climate change, rising
    energy prices, etc) and accessible and affordable to all members of society;
  • is energy efficient;
  • is an economic generator for farmers, whole communities and regions;
  •  is healthy and safe;
  • is environmentally beneficial or benign;
  • uses creative water reclamation and conservation strategies for agricultural irrigation;
  • balances food imports with local capacity;
  • adopts regionally-appropriate agricultural practices and crop choices;
  • works towards organic farming;
  • contributes to both community and ecological health;
  • builds soil quality and farmland through the recycling of organic waste;
  • supports multiple forms of urban as well as rural food production;
  • ensures that food processing facilities are available to farmers and processors;
  • is celebrated through community events, markets, restaurants, etc;
  • preserves biodiversity in agro-ecosystems as well as in the crop selection;
  • has a strong educational focus to create awareness of food and agricultural issues; and
  • is fairly traded by providing a fair wage to producers and processors locally and abroad.