Farm to School

I was thinking about a friend of ours who used to work for Portland Public Schools setting up school gardens.  She was doing Ameri Corps and I noticed, when serving myself, that there was a push for host sites that fostered farm to school programs.  I found this site, which showcases some current programs nationwide (no surprise here, Oregon is really into farm to school).  It sounds eerily familiar though, connecting farmers to school children, ensuring farm viabilityandnutrition, while respecting each community’s specific needs (no regulations here folks).  Of course implementing a farm to school program depends on state laws and regulations, but is this just another lunch program that provides for middle class students (and farm subsidies)?  Could something like this work in Philadelphia?

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  1. It does work in Philadelphia! (Well, at least on a small, if growing, scale.)

    Common Market ( is a “food hub,” a wholesaler for a host of local growers. It works by aggregating small-scale farmers under one umbrella–this way, they can benefit from the price/distribution economies of scale usually enjoyed by commercial food-service companies.

    Common Market delivers fresh produce to all sorts of area institutions. Here’s a selection of current clients:

    -The School District of Philadelphia
    -three school districts in South Jersey
    -a bunch of local private schools incl. Penn Charter, Springside, etc.
    -Shire Pharmaceuticals
    -Jefferson Hospital.

    See this Flying Kite story for more: . Read it–I think it will be a useful counterpoint to Levine’s closing chapters on the rise of public-private partnerships, which she argues have worrisome consequences.

    • Hmmm, my only question is which schools/how is the district buying from them? Are they making full meals or just a veggie cup? Meal production would depend on whether or not the school has a functioning kitchen. The Flying Kite story raises another issue, for Philly specifically, and that is Aramark.
      Good point though that PPP’s may not always be so sinister.

  2. One note on the the Flying Kite piece. The author fails to explore the structural/political/historical forces that bound the possibilities for improving school lunches. As Levine explains, the federal/state/local funding problem, the agriculture surplus issue and the perception of subsidized school lunches as welfare for the poor might have more to do with the intrusion of private food-service into schools than a simple matter of “choosing” non-local produce.


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