Farm to Institution

Support procurement of local foods in schools, hospitals, and early care and education centers.


Farm to institution programs enable institutions to purchase fresh, seasonal foods from local farmers. For example, hospitals can start on-site farmers’ markets and farm stands to serve patients and staff or they may choose to purchase food for their cafeterias from local farms. Schools and early care and education (ECE) centers can partner with local farms to get fresh food for their cafeterias. Local foods can be provided to students in salad bars, fruit and vegetable bars, breakfast and lunch entrees, or taste testing and snack programs. Schools can independently implement farm to school programs and state and local policies can support and encourage farm to school programming.

Wisconsin Examples

University of Wisconsin Hospital: In January 2016 University of Wisconsin Hospital lowered the price of its salad bar and started sourcing all of its lettuce locally. In the first month after the salad-bar price change, sales were higher—more than 5,000 additional salads were sold compared to the previous month.

CIAS F2S Success Story: Ensuring Meaningful Farmer Participation in Farm to School. This example from Manitowoc County recognizes the importance of strong relationships between local farmers and schools.

Equity in Practice

Recognizing Inequity: If farm-to-institution programs are primarily established in high-resource schools, early care centers, hospitals, or other institutions, this strategy may increase rather than decrease health inequities.

Advancing Equity: Assisting lower-resourced schools or hospitals with starting farm-to-institution programs may help decrease health inequities. Including educational programming along with providing fresh, local food may also increase knowledge and awareness of healthy foods.

Implementation Resources

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Farm to School: The WI Department of Public Instruction hosts a Farm to School website with resources for farm to school grants, school gardens, nutrition education, and recipes.

The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems: This UW-Madison based center provides farm to school toolkits for producers and school nutrition directors, Harvest Medley vegetable blends for school food services, the Great Lakes Region Farm to School Network and farm to school outreach, training and technical assistance.

The National Farm to School Network: In addition to a large database of diverse resources, this network provides case studies of farm to school programs in multiple states.

ChangeLab Solutions F2S Model Resolution: ChangeLab Solutions provides a model school board resolution for establishing a farm-to-school program.

USDACommunity Food Systems Videos and Webinars: USDA has hosted webinars throughout 2016 on integrating farm to school strategies in native communities. Each webinar featured a guest speaker to share tips, stories, and best practices for keeping local food traditions alive in child nutrition programs that serve tribal populations.

A Roadmap for Farm to Early Care and Education: This resource from the National Farm to School Network includes a basic overview of the early care and education sector, information for getting started with farm to early care and education, and a list of state early care and education agencies and contacts.

Reach for the Stars with Farm to Preschool: This resource, put out by the North Carolina Farm to Preschool Network, helps child care centers and family child care homes integrate farm to preschool activities into their curriculum while addressing the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS).

Assessment Tools

UW-Madison CIAS Farm-to-School toolkit: This toolkit, created by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, has a number of different evaluation tools that can be used for assessments, from surveys to interview questions for various stakeholders.

USDA Farm-To-School Toolkit: This toolkit put out by the USDA contains multiple assessment and evaluation tools.

Colorado F2S and Spark Policy F2S evaluation toolkit: This overview toolkit suggests a number of specific evaluation tools based on what the user is looking for. It also has a virtual tour of the toolkit on video.

Bearing Fruit: Farm to School Program Evaluation Resources and Recommendations: This kit offers multiple evaluation and assessment tools for farm to school programs.