UC researchers, who in earlier work took photos of student lunches showing that children prefer fresh fruits and vegetables from salad-bar programs, will be part of a new W.K. Kellogg grant to gather data about the state of farm-to-school programs in the Western United States.
Farm-to-school programs connect local farmers who can provide fresh, seasonal produce with school food services to integrate fresh fruits and vegetables into school lunches.
Gail Feenstra, food systems analyst at the statewide UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), and Jeri Ohmart, SAREP program assistant, will collaborate with researchers at Occidental College in Los Angeles to do a survey of farm-to-school programs in selected California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska and Wyoming school districts. This is part of a national effort to gather data on the needs of farm-to-school programs.
In the last five years, farm-to-school salad bar programs have taken root at many school districts across the country, Feenstra said.
"We are getting input from food-service workers, Cooperative Extension personnel and others about future farm-to-school program needs," said Feenstra. "The data we gather for our survey will help food-service directors and farm-to-school program leaders network within their regions and share information about program operations."
Feenstra said the results will help food-service personnel find the local fresh fruits and vegetables that are integral to the lunch programs.
"It will also help support small- and mid-sized farmers by connecting them with food-service buyers," she said.
As part of the grant, Feenstra and Ohmart are organizing an April meeting in Davis with Western states representatives to share information.