A study released in July 2021 by The Farm to School Census and Comprehensive Review examined the impact of edible gardens on the overall health of children in U.S. schools. A total of 18,832 school food authorities (SFAs) were invited to complete the 2019 Census and included survey participation from public, private, and charter SFAs as well as residential childcare institutions (RCCIs) in the 50 States, U.S. territories, and Washington D.C. A total of 12,634 SFAs completed the 2019 Census (67 percent) from all 50 States as well as American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C. These are some of the results… by the numbers.
34.3 percent of the 12,334 Schools researched by the 2020 Census had edible gardens
One third of responding School Food Authorities operate edible gardens where food is grown. Gardens are a popular way to teach students where their food comes from, to inspire youth toward careers in agriculture, and to produce food for use in Child Nutrition Program meals or snacks.
$1.26 billion is the amount of national spending on local foods by SFAs
Farm to school SFAs estimated that they spent about 20 cents of every food dollar to buy local food during the 2018-2019 school year.
Among these, 52 percent served garden produce as a part of their education activities
Roughly 48 percent used garden produce in school meals.
Approximately 34 percent of F2S SFAs reported holding taste tests or cooking demonstrations of locally grown foods.
Another 31 percent conducted student field trips to farms, farmer’s markets, producers, or processors
Most F2S SFAs that participated in Federal meal programs served local foods as a part of those programs, including 72 percent of those participating in the National School Lunch Program, 68 percent of those participating in the School Breakfast Program, and 79 percent of those participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
42 percent of F2S SFAs perceived the benefits of farm to school participation as higher quality foods, while 31 percent saw increased student knowledge about local and healthful foods, and 26 percent noted an increased consumption of items in school meals.