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Tracking the impacts of farm-to-school purchasing programs.

This study expands upon previous efforts to estimate economic impacts of farm-to-school purchasing in one state, but holds national import. Several large produce firms currently grow sufficient produce for schools, yet sales to schools have been limited. Interviews with stakeholders in three school districts within South Carolina documented that no data trail currently exists sufficient to allow meaningful and comprehensive evaluations of farm-to-school purchasing efforts and subsequent impacts. Purchasing records are kept inconsistently; competing definitions of the term “local food” frustrate efforts to compile meaningful reports that fully evaluate the impact of these programs. Furthermore, bidding processes, prevailing infrastructure, and support systems limit local purchasing in the first place. More flexible bidding contracts and financial incentives may boost local trade. New software systems that allow better recordkeeping will allow program-purchasing goals to be fully developed.

Author(s): Megan Phillips Goldenberg1, Kenneth A. Meter1, Olivia M. Thompson2