Pennsylvania Food Education to Increase Consumption of Locally Grown Food
This project works to immediately increase sales of locally grown foods in Greater Philadelphia area schools, while building interest and support among young people for sustaining agriculture in the region. The project will increase student knowledge about local farming, the food system, food purchasing, nutrition, and diet. It will also build sustainable connections between local farms and urban communities through farmer visits to schools and students visiting farms.
In the past 18 months The Food Trust partnered with the Keystone Agriculture Innovation Center, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, local produce distributors, processors and the Philadelphia School District for this project. The partnership has made significant progress toward establishing systems that bring locally grown produce into Philadelphia schools. To date, 714,000 fresh Pennsylvania grown apples have been purchased by Philadelphia Archdiocese schools and kindergarten classrooms. The apples were consumed by students attending these schools throughout the city. Thus far, $73,000 of produce has been purchased by the parochial schools. Public kindergarten school programs have purchased $30,000 of produce. Although total sales of $103,000 are below projected volume figures, they represent major steps forward for the farm to school movement in Pennsylvania. They also attest to the inherent challenges in linking local farm products with schools.
The project’s performance targets create new markets for small and medium-scale growers with diversified operations. The targets contribute to farm profitability and help to sustain agriculture in the region. Targets include:
1) Forty Philadelphia area farmers will market local, fresh produce to at least five area schools for lunch, after school, and summer feeding programs. Sales contracts of an estimated value of $350,000 will be negotiated between local farmers and the Archdiocese Nutrition Development Services (NDS) to integrate local, fresh produce into school cafeterias during the school year and summer feeding programs. Contracts are expected to increase annually by 10%.
2) Nine Philadelphia area schools will build sustainable connections with local farms and urban communities, evidenced by ten student farm tours and twenty farmer visits to schools annually, which will reach 700 students.
3) Sixty percent of participants (based on a random sampling) will reach a clear understanding of farming, the food system, food purchasing and marketing, nutrition, and diet. The participants’ learning text will be the criterion-referenced food and farming lesson packets developed by the project.
• Farmer commitment to marketing local produce to Nutrition Development Services (NDS).
• Farmers and NDS reach agreement on purchase parameters of fresh local produce, signing contracts estimated to increase 10% annually.
Status: Through a partnership with The Food Trust, Keystone Agriculture Innovation Center, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, NDS has piloted one dynamic farmer to test the initiative. After speaking with the farmer, it was very clear that he had an interest in marketing his produce to schools. He now makes bi-weekly deliveries to their central distribution center.
• Seven hundred students participated in class presentations by area farmers and visits to farms, developing an understanding of farming and farm life.
Status: Classrooms and farms were identified. Presentations and farm trips took place in the Spring and Fall of 2005 540 students and 12 teachers have been on farm trips. 3 lesson plans have been completed by all classes involved in farm trips
• A team of agriculture and nutrition professionals developed food and farming lessons. Teachers were trained on the lessons in February 2005, for implementation in March 2005.
• Forty teachers, 20 from nine elementary and middle schools in the Greater Philadelphia area and 20 teachers from the Archdiocese Schools were trained on using the lessons.
• At least seven hundred students received instruction on farming and the food system, food purchasing, nutrition and diet through project-developed lesson packets.
• Sixty percent of students in participating schools demonstrate mastery in knowledge of farming and the food system, food purchasing, nutrition and diet from project-created and tested lessons.
Status: Evaluations will occur at the end of School Year 2006. As of December 2005, 540 students and 12 teachers have been on farm trips. 3 lesson plans have been completed by all classes involved in farm trips. (how many lessons, and how many teachers and students- need numbers here)
Status of Objectives
Objective 1: Increase sales of locally grown foods in area schools
Status: Currently, we have connected one farmer with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools to provide apples on a bi-weekly basis for the entire school year. From September 2004 to June 2005, over 450 students in 4 kindergarten classes in Philadelphia received local snacks three times per week. In September of 2005 the program expanded and the number increased to over 900 students in 10 schools. The Food Trust and the Farmers’ Market Alliance sponsored a tour of the Philadelphia Regional Produce Terminal for local farmers in May of 2005. By midsummer, over 10 Lancaster county farmers were making weekly deliveries to the Terminal. This provided a consistent supply of local produce for snacks in the kindergarten program well into the late fall. Over the past summer, The Food Trust made contact with a local produce distributor already delivering produce to schools in the Philadelphia area. He also had access to a local fruit and vegetables processor. This allowed us to expand the kindergarten program. More schools are to be added in the Fall of 2006. PA state representatives have noticed the success of this program and are investigating a pilot expansion across the state.
Objective 2: Increase student knowledge about farming, etc.
Performance Target: 60% of participants (based on randomized sampling) will reach a clear understanding of farming, etc. “from the criterion-referenced food and farming lesson packets developed by the project.”
Status: Teachers are continuing to utilize the three lessons developed: Farming and the Food System, Food Purchasing, and Nutrition & Diet. Evaluation results will be available at the end of this school year.
Objective 3: Build sustainable connections between local farms and urban communities
Performance target: Nine Philadelphia area schools will build sustainable connections with local farms and urban communities, evidenced by 10 student farm tours and 20 farmer visits to schools annually, which reach 700 students.
Status: Eight schools took an estimated 500 students to visit four farms in the Spring and Fall of 2005. At the farm visits, farmers showed students the process from seed to harvest. Students also had the opportunity to sample produce growing in front of them. . As a follow-up activity, teachers had students journal their farm trip experience. More trips are planned for Spring 2006.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Overall, the project is proceeding according to plan. The farm to school transactions are below estimated projections., While the transactions created thus far for schools to purchase fresh produce have been very successful, the total sales of these transactions are less than the originally estimated $350,000 for the life of the project. at current levels of product sales transactions. Assuming no increase in volume or additional contracts, projected sales would reach just above $200,000 by the end date of the project in December 2006. However,we do anticipate an increase in sales as the project builds momentum.
Challenges encountered are:
1. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is very committed to bringing more produce into their schools, but the volume of sales thus far is lower than originally projected. We hope to increase these sales over time.
2. Awarding of new contracts in the School District of Philadelphia will be difficult for subsequent years because contracts are often awarded to large companies that have the lowest bid on produce continuously throughout the year. It is difficult for local farmers to compete because their product is often seasonal; quantities may vary; produce must be “ready to eat” and delivered; and prices may or may not be the lowest price available.
3. The Keystone Agriculture Innovation Center of Penn State University was very helpful in developing links between the Archdiocese and farmers at the beginning of this project. Unfortunately in the spring of 2005 the Center lost their funding and had to cease operations.
4. In addition, the level of commitment present at the Archdiocese to purchase local farm product has not yet been discovered within the Philadelphia Public Schools. We believe this to be an important factor for success.
1. The Food Trust and the Farmers’ Market Alliance sponsored a tour of the Philadelphia Regional Produce Terminal for local farmers in May of 2005. By midsummer, over 10 Lancaster county farmers were making weekly deliveries to the Terminal. This provided a consistent supply of local produce for snacks in the kindergarten program. Another tour is planned in the Spring of 2006 to encourage more local farmers to deliver produce to a central location more suitable for pick-up by a large institution.
2. Utilizing a portion of SARE funds, The Food Trust has added a new position, a Local Food Coordinator. One of the responsibilities is to act as a liaison between farmers, distributors and school food service personnel.
3. Philadelphia School District, CEO Paul Vallas stated recently that he wants to source only local apples in all Philadelphia Schools. We are actively investigating how we can help them achieve this goal.
4. In the Fall of 2005, Aramark took over operations of 1/3 of the food service contracts in the Philadelphia Public Schools. Aramark has stated that they are interested in our work and we will begin discussions with them in early 2006.
In summary, we intend to continue to develop sources of supply. But unless we develop more demand at the schools, or expand enterprise models,, we will not reach the projections we hoped to achieve.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia agreed specifically to work directly with one farmer to pilot the system. For the months of September 2004 through December 2005, an average of 14,000 apples per week were sold to the Archdioceses Food Service. In addition, over 900 students in 10 kindergarten classes in Philadelphia received local snacks three times per week from September through December. These snacks were fresh sliced fruit, fresh vegetables and muffins. Sales achieved are below projections originally estimated. Although we anticipate increases to occur as the project builds momentum, current levels of product transactions (assuming no increase in volume or additional contracts), project sales to be just above $200,000 in December 2006. The project has forged inroads into the schools in Philadelphia that have proven very successful, albeit more difficult to achieve than originally planned