Food Waste Reduction through Farm to School Programs

Published 1:36 pm Monday, October 31, 2022

October is Farm to School Month! The USDA Farm to School Program helps schools incorporate local foods into meal programs and supports local food and agriculture education through grants, research, and technical assistance. Less plate waste may be a benefit for schools implementing farm to school. According to the 2019 School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study (SNMCS), approximately 21 percent of calories available in school lunches were wasted – 31 percent of vegetables and 41 percent of milk were discarded from lunch trays. Evidence from the SNMCS indicates participation in a farm to school program was associated with a lower percentage of waste for calories in the School Breakfast Program, and higher participation in the National School Lunch Program.

Farm to school can encompass serving local foods in meals, growing school gardens, and composting food scraps. A USDA Farm to School Grant is a great way for schools to get started. Boulder Valley School District in Colorado used part of their 2019 USDA Farm to School Grant to address food waste by creating a district-wide composting program and tracking food waste in kitchens and cafeterias.

Applications are being accepted now for USDA Farm to School Grants, and USDA expects to award up to $12 million in competitive grants to eligible entities in Fiscal Year 2023. Learn more about the FY23 Farm to School Grants. Complete applications must be submitted on by 11:59 p.m. ET on Jan. 6, 2023.

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Learn about other funding opportunities that support food loss and waste reduction, and sign up for the USDA Food Loss and Waste newsletter to receive updates. Stay up to date on the latest Farm to School news by subscribing to the monthly Farm to School e-Letter, The Dirt.

Visit USDA’s Food Loss and Waste website for more information about USDA’s Food Loss and Waste efforts.