Schools, early childhood education facilities, and alternative learning environments have the opportunity to serve local foods to students as part of their farm to school program. Local foods can be served in the classroom, cafeteria, or other locations depending on the structure of the learning environment.
The Arkansas Legislature defines local food as food products that are grown in Arkansas and/or packaged and processed in Arkansas. This definition comes from the Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Act.
If you are a farmer wanting to sell to schools, use the Farmer Flowchart as a guide for getting started. Another important resource to review is the Farm Food Safety Checklist if you are a produce grower. Schools may ask you to provide documentation related to your food safety practices, and this checklist walks you through the areas they may ask about.
In addition, keeping up with regulations to ensure your farm is using best practices can be daunting. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service provides science-based, on-farm food safety knowledge to fresh fruit and vegetable farmers, packers, regulatory personnel, and others interested in the safety of fresh produce in Arkansas. Learn more about their produce safety courses here.
To find schools to sell to that already buy local food, search on the Local Procurement Map.
In this presentation, Sarah Lane, former Farm to School and Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, gives a brief overview of the Farm to School program and how farmers, producers, and makers in the state can begin the process of selling to schools.
As part of the 2020 Arkansas Farm to School Network Conversations, Ekko Barnhill from Barnhill Orchards and Sean Pessarra from Heifer Ranch led a discussion on how they connect to schools to sell their locally grown produce. Topics such as crop planning and marketing were discussed.
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture and University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service hosted a virtual event to create more opportunities for local food in schools. Child Nutrition Director Ally Mrachek and farmer Randy Arnold shared their first-hand experiences buying and selling local food.