LONDON, Ohio — A growing interest in locally raised and produced foods, along with new school meal requirements, could present great opportunities for Ohio farmers, said Julie Fox, Ohio State University Extension Farm to School program director.
“Ohio’s schools are quite diverse in size and scope, but one thing remains the same: students eat a lot of food,” she said.
Schools are increasingly purchasing a variety of foods from local farmers and distributors because new school meal guidelines require an increase in the quantity and diversity of fruits and vegetables, Fox said.
Local farmers can take advantage of this trend by knowing what products schools buy; finding out how products are packaged, priced and distributed; learning how schools operate; developing relationships with school decision makers; and putting together a plan that fits with their business goals, she said.
“By helping farmers understand how schools operate, the Farm to School connection can be easy,” Fox said.
Fox and OSU Extension’s Mary Griffith will present a session titled “Selling farm products to schools,” Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Small Farm Center during the Farm Science Review near London, Ohio. The session will be geared toward anyone interested in helping make the farm to school connection.
Session participants will:
- Listen to school food service directors who purchase local produce, meat, dairy, eggs, grain and value-added foods.
- Understand how school buyers plan, purchase, prepare, serve, and pay for food.
- Hear from farmers who benefit from increased sales and great public relations.
- Determine how to fit farm food safety and risk management plans with what schools require for food safety and student safety.
- Learn how food producers, school personnel and community leaders work together to serve nutritious school breakfast, lunch, snack and summer feeding programs.
“Farm to School in Ohio benefits farmers, students and local food communities,” Fox said. “And, there are plenty of opportunities for everyone to be involved.”
Some farmers choose to supply food through a local distributor, while others choose to supply food directly to schools and provide farm tours, she said. This direct connection generates great public relations for farmers and schools.
October is Farm to School month, and Fox and Griffith also will include information about this in their presentation. For more information about farm to school opportunities, visit http://farmtoschool.osu.edu.
Farm Science Review is sponsored by the Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, OSU Extension, and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Pre-show tickets are $5 at all OSU Extension county offices. Tickets are also available at local agribusinesses. Tickets are $8 at the gate. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 18-19 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 20.