About the Census

2015 Farm to School Census


2015 Farm to School Census Repondent Data (Updated 10/31/16)

2015 Farm to School Census State / National Summary (Updated 1/11/17)

2015 Farm to School Census Questionnaire

 

Introduction

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) formally established a Farm to School Program within USDA to improve access to local foods in schools. In order to establish realistic goals with regard to increasing the availability of local foods in schools, in 2013, USDA conducted the first nationwide Farm to School Census (the Census). In 2015, USDA conducted a second Farm to School Census to measure progress towards reaching this goal.

Survey Design

In 2013, a Farm to School Census questionnaire was developed by USDA and reviewed by external farm to school stakeholder groups. Minor revisions were made to the 2013 questionnaire by USDA before the 2015 Census was fielded. The 2015 Census questionnaire primarily asked public school districts, private schools, and charter schools about their farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year. Those schools and school districts that stated they did not engage in farm to school activities in the 2013-2014 school year were asked to complete a shorter, modified version of the survey.

The Farm to School Census prioritizes gathering procurement data related to local sourcing, with documentation of additional farm to school activities (e.g., the prevalence of school gardens, promotional activities, and curriculum integration, etc.) as a secondary objective. Procurement data includes the types and frequency of local products purchased, the dollar amount spent on all food and local foods, and the degree to which local purchasing is expected to increase, stay the same, or decrease. Additionally, the Census asks respondents to identify benefits and challenges to participating in farm to school activities.

The 2015 Census list frame population included primarily public school districts, private schools, and charter schools from all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC.  A few states included residential childcare institutions and other non-school-based sites participating in the National School Lunch Program. The unit of analysis for each potential respondent was an individual School Food Authority or SFA. In total, the list frame included 18,104 potential respondents.

Data Collection Process

An online website link to the 2015 Census was disseminated to school food service directors in March 2015. Requests to complete the Census came directly from the state agency responsible for administering Child Nutrition Programs. In some states, additional requests and encouragement to participate in the 2015 Census came from interested third-parties. In general, school food service directors received three reminder emails and one reminder phone call to complete the Census between March and May 2015. Data collection officially closed on August 3, 2015 so that a preliminary data set could be developed. Following publication of preliminary data on October 20, 2015, USDA distributed a final request to complete the Census questionnaire to school food service directors that had not completed the Census. As part of this final request, non-respondents received three additional reminder emails. The Census data collection period officially closed on November 20, 2015.

Responses were collected primarily electronically via SurveyMonkey. Additionally, schools and school districts had the option of completing a hard-copy, fax-back version. Approval by the Office of Management and Budget was received prior to distribution of the Census (OMB approval #0584-0593) as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act. Data were gathered at the public school district, private school, and charter school (SFA) level, not the individual school level. Participation in the Census was voluntary and respondents were informed that their responses were not considered confidential.

During the summer of 2015 select respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year were asked to confirm or update responses about their total food budget and the amount of money spent on local foods during the 2013-2014 school year. USDA also asked a few select respondents to confirm their responses regarding the number of schools with school gardens and the number of schools with salad bars during the 2013-2014 school year. USDA updated initial estimates based on the respondent’s answers. Following publication of preliminary data in October 2015, school food service directors were again asked to review and update existing records.

A third-party contractor, Mathematica Policy Research, was responsible for staffing a help line, collecting the completed fax-back surveys and following up with non-respondents during the data collection process. Mathematica Policy Research was also responsible for cleaning the data file and compiling a final dataset.

From a total of 18,104 public, private, and charter school districts in the target list frame, 12,585 schools and school districts completed usable responses for a response rate of 70% percent. Of these, 11,041 usable responses were collected from March to August 2015 (phase one of data collection) and another 1,544 usable responses from October to November 2015 (phase two of data collection).

Non-Respondents

After four weeks of collecting data, USDA randomly identified and surveyed 151 non-respondents by phone to see how they compared to respondents. Non-respondents were asked to complete an abridged set of questions. When comparing non-respondents to respondents, findings show that non-respondents were similar to respondents in terms of the proportion that were engaged in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year.

Results

The results represent final data and include all records collected during phase one and phase two. All of the data were self-reported by each school or school district and may conflict with other data sources. Reported national and state-level averages were not weighted for non-response. Only those respondents who participated in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year completed the full Census questionnaire.

Explanatory Notes for Data Visualizations

Below are explanatory notes for each of the data visualizations developed to display national and state level data. The purpose of this information is to provide more detail about how the analysis was completed.

Homepage

Question 2 of the Census questionnaire asked respondents if the school or school district or any schools in the school district participated in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year. Response options included: (a) Yes, (b) No, but started activities in the 2014-2015 school year, (c) No, but plan to start activities in the future, (d) No activities currently and no plans, and, (e) I don't know. For the analysis, answers (a) and (b) were summed to determine the total percent of respondents currently participating in farm to school. The reported national average was not weighted for non-response.

The total number of respondents participating in farm to school was computed from the number of respondents that selected options “Yes” or “No, but started activities in 2014-2015 school year” in Question 2 of the Census. The total number of schools participating in farm to school programs was computed using the Common Core of Data (CCD) School District Universe Survey File for 2013-14 from the National Center for Education Statistics. Not all respondents are included in the Common Core of Data. The total number of public school districts, private schools and charter schools was identified by each state department responsible for administering Child Nutrition Programs.

The total dollars invested by schools and school districts was calculated by summing all of the responses to Question 23 of the Census questionnaire. The total number of salad bars was calculated by summing all of the responses to Question 15 of the Census questionnaire. The total number of edible school gardens was calculated by summing all of the responses to Question 14 of the Census questionnaire. The total number of schools and school districts including preschool children in farm to school programs was calculated by summing all of the responses to Question 11a of the Census questionnaire. The total number of schools and school districts using local foods in summer meals was calculated by summing all of the responses to Question 17h of the Census questionnaire. Only those schools or school districts that indicated they were participating in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year responded to these questions.

State Map

States are categorized by the percentage of respondents participating in farm to school activities, using a combined total for those that engaged in farm to school activities as of either the 2013-2014 or 2014-2015 school years. Question 2 of the Census questionnaire provided example farm to school activities and then asked respondents if the school or school district or any schools in the school district participated in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year. Response options included: (a) Yes, (b) No, but started activities in the 2014-2015 school year, (c) No, but plan to start activities in the future, and (d) No activities currently and no plans. For the analysis, answers (a) and (b) were summed to determine the total percentage of respondents currently participating in farm to school activities. Reported state-level averages are not weighted for non-response.

Rollover statistics for percentage of food budget spent on local food refers to respondents that participated in farm to school activities in school year 2013-2014 that were able to provide data on total food expenditure and the total dollars spent on local food including fluid milk. Reported state-level averages are not weighted for non-response. Statistics are calculated from Questions 23 and 24 of the Census questionnaire. Question 23 of the Census questionnaire asked respondents that participated in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year to indicate their total expenditures on food during the 2013 – 2014 school year, not counting food donated through USDA Foods or DoD Fresh. Question 24 of the Census questionnaire then asked respondents to indicate how much (in dollars) of their total food budget was spent buying locally-produced food including fluid milk. The dollars spent on all food and the dollars spent on local food including fluid milk for school year 2013-2014 were then summed for each state. The total dollars spent on local food was then divided by the total food dollars spent on all food to estimate each states average percentage of all food bought that was locally sourced.

Rollover statistics on percentage of respondents with school gardens are based on Question 14 of the questionnaire, which asked how many schools have edible school gardens. The percentage figure is calculated as the number of respondents that stated they have at least one edible school garden divided by the number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported state-level averages are not weighted for non-response.

Long Form Narratives

Below are explanatory notes for the long form narratives summarizing select national results of the USDA Farm to School Census. Sharing of secondary data not collected by the USDA Farm to School Census is not described.

Farm to School Overview

Question 2 of the Census questionnaire provided example farm to school activities and then asked respondents if the school or school district or any schools in the school district participated in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year. Response options included: (a) Yes, (b) No, but started activities in the 2014-2015 school year, (c) No, but plan to start activities in the future, and (d) No activities currently and no plans. The percentage of public school districts, private schools, and charter schools participating in farm to school activities was calculated by combining the total for those that engaged in farm to school activities as of either the 2013-2014 or 2014-2015 school years divided by the total number of respondents.

The total number of public school districts, private schools, and charter schools participating in farm to school was computed from the number of respondents that selected options “Yes” or “No, but started activities in 2014-2015 school year” in Question 2 of the Census questionnaire. The total number of schools participating in farm to school programs was computed using the Common Core of Data (CCD) School District Universe Survey File for 2013-14 from the National Center for Education Statistics. Not all respondents are included in the Common Core of Data.

The total number of students reached through farm to school programs was computed using the Common Core of Data (CCD) School District Universe Survey File for 2013-14 from the National Center for Education Statistics. Not all respondents are included in the Common Core of Data. The percent of schools and school districts planning to participate in farm to school activities was determined by the number of respondents that selected that response (option (c)) in Question 2 of the Census questionnaire divided by the total number of respondents to the USDA Farm to School Census.

For respondents that indicated they participated in farm to school activities in the 2013-2014 school year, Question 27 of the Census questionnaire asked what activities they conducted. The percentage figures in the chart were calculated as the number of respondents that checked the activity as one of the farm to school activities conducted in the school or district, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported national averages were not weighted for non-response.

The percentage of respondents completing at least three farm to school activities was calculated from Question 27 of the Census questionnaire by summing all of the respondents the stated they completed at least three of the listed farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year divided by the number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year.

For respondents that indicated they participated in farm to school activities in the 2013-2014 school year, Question 11 of the Census questionnaire asked respondents to what age groups participated in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year. Response options included: a) Pre-K, b) K through 5th grade, c) 6th grade through 8th grade, d) 9th grade through 12th grade, and e) Other. The percentage figures in the chart were calculated as the number of respondents that checked the option, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported national averages were not weighted for non-response.

For respondents that indicated they participated in farm to school activities in the 2013-2014 school year, Question 17 of the Census questionnaire asked respondents to indicate if their school or school district or any schools in their school district used local products in any form (fresh, minimally processed, or processed) in any of the federal nutrition programs during the 2013-2014 school year. Response options included: a) Breakfast, b) Lunch, c) Supper, d) Snacks, e) The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, f) CACFP, g) CACFP At-risk Afterschool, and h) Summer meals. The percentage figures in the chart were calculated as the number of respondents that checked the option, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported national averages were not weighted for non-response.

For respondents that indicated they participated in farm to school activities in the 2013-2014 school year, Question 16 of the Census questionnaire asked respondents how their school or school district defines "local" as it relates to their food procurement. Respondents could choose from one of the seven options or select other and specify a different definition. Response options included: (a) Produced within a 50 mile radius, (b) Produced within a 100 mile radius, (c) Produced within a 200 mile radius, (d) Produced within a day’s drive, (e) Produced within the state, (f) Produced within the region, and (g) Geographic along with other restrictions. Results of the five options (a), (b), (c), (e) and (f) are reported individually, while responses from (d) and (g) were combined with “other.” The percentage figures in the chart are calculated as the number of respondents that checked the option, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported national averages were not weighted for non-response.

Farm to School Works to Stimulate Local Economies

The total dollars spent on local food was calculated from Question 24 of the 2015 Census questionnaire. Question 24 asked respondents that participated in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year to indicate the total dollars spent by the school or school district that went toward locally-produced food, including fluid milk (excluding dollars spent on local foods received through USDA Foods or DoD Fresh). These values were summed to obtain a national estimate (including U.S. territories).

The percentage of schools and school districts that stated they will buy more local foods in the future was calculated by dividing the total number of respondents that checked “Increase” in Question 26 of the Census questionnaire over the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. The reported national average was not weighted for non-response.

For respondents that indicated they participated in farm to school activities in 2013-2014, Question 18 and Question 19 of the Census questionnaire listed 13 ways schools could potentially purchase local foods [(1) Direct from individual food producers, (2) Direct from farmer, rancher or fisher cooperatives, (3) Direct from farmers markets, (4) Via a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, (5) Direct from food processors and manufacturers, (6) Distributors, (7) Food buying cooperative, (8) Food hub, (9) Food service management companies, (10) DoD Fresh Program vendors, (11) USDA Foods, (12) State Farm to School Program office, and, (12) Other] and asked respondents to indicate which ways they purchased local foods for school meals. The percentage figures in the chart summarize the percentage of respondents that indicated they were purchasing the local foods through one of the five listed methods during the 2013-2014 school year. The reported national average was not weighted for non-response.

For respondents that indicated they participated in farm to school activities in 2013-2014, Question 20 of the Census questionnaire listed 12 categories of foods [(1) Fruit, (2) Vegetables, (3) Milk, (4) Other dairy, (5) Meat/poultry, (6) Eggs, (7) Seafood, (8) Plant-based items such as beans, seeds, or nuts, (9) Grains or flour, (10) Baked goods, (11) Herbs, and, (12) Other] and asked respondents to indicate whether they bought items in that category locally, with the following response options: (a) Yes, (b) No, (c) Not now, but would like to in the future, and (d) I don't know. The percentage figures in the chart summarize the percent of respondents that responded “Yes” to purchasing the food category locally, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year.  The reported national average was not weighted for non-response.

Salad Bars Work to Help Kids Make Good Food Choices

Question 15 of the questionnaire asked how many schools have salad bars. The percentage of schools and school districts with a salad bar was calculated as the number of respondents that stated they have at least one salad bar divided by the number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. The reported national average was not weighted for non-response. Only those respondents that stated they were participating in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year answered this question.

The percentage of schools and school districts that employ Smarter Lunchroom strategies in their school cafeterias was calculated from Question 27 of the Census questionnaire. This percentage figure is calculated as the number of respondents that checked “Used Smarter Lunchroom strategies” as one of the farm to school activities conducted, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year.

For respondents that indicated they participated in farm to school activities in the 2013-2014 school year, Question 27 of the Census questionnaire asked what activities they conducted. Options included [(1) Used cafeteria food coaches, (2) Held taste testing/demos of product from school based gardens or school based farms in the cafeteria, (3) Promoted local products through themed or branded promotions, (4) Used Smarter Lunchroom strategies, and (5) Held taste testing/demos of locally produced foods in the cafeteria, classroom]. The percentage figures in the chart are calculated as the number of respondents that checked the activity as one of the farm to school activities conducted, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported national averages were not weighted for non-response.

Farm to School Works to Make Gardens Grow

Question 14 of the questionnaire asked how many schools have edible school gardens. The percentage figure is calculated as the number of respondents that stated they have at least one edible school garden divided by the number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. The reported national average was not weighted for non-response.

For respondents that indicated they participated in farm to school activities in the 2013-2014 school year, Question 27 of the Census questionnaire asked what activities they conducted. The percentage figures in the chart are calculated as the number of respondents that checked the activity as one of the farm to school activities conducted, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported national and state-level averages were not weighted for non-response.

Schools Serving, Kids Eating Healthier School Meals

The percentage of schools and school districts receiving benefits from participating in farm to school was calculated from Question 10 of the Census questionnaire. Question 10 of the questionnaire asked respondents that participated in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year to indicate if they received any of the following benefits from participating in farm to school activities. Respondents could choose from one of the five options or select other and specify a different benefit. Response options included: (a) reduced food waste, (b) lower school meal program costs, (c) greater acceptance of the new meal pattern, (d) increased participation in school meals, and (e) greater community support for school meals. The percentage figure is calculated as the number of respondents that stated they were experiencing at least one of these benefits from participating in farm to school divided by the number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. The reported national average was not weighted for non-response.

For respondents that indicated they participated in farm to school activities in the 2013-2014 school year, Question 27 of the Census questionnaire asked what activities they conducted. The percentage figures in the chart are calculated as the number of respondents that checked the activity as one of the farm to school activities conducted, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported national averages were not weighted for non-response.

Summer Meals are Ripe for Local Foods and Activities

The percentage of schools and school districts that use local foods in summer meals was calculated from Question 17 of the Census questionnaire. This percentage figure is calculated as the number of respondents that checked “Summer meals” as one of the meal programs that used local foods in school year 2013-2014, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. The total number of schools and school districts using local foods in summer meals was calculated by summing all of the responses to Question 17h of the Census questionnaire.

Farm to School Works to Make Healthy Habits Take Root Early

The total number of schools and school districts bringing local foods into preschool programs was calculated by summing all of the responses to Question 11a of the Census questionnaire. The percentage of respondents that include preschool children in farm to school activities was calculated from Question 11 of the Census questionnaire. This percentage figure is calculated as the number of respondents that checked “Pre-K” as one of the grades the school or school district conducted farm to school activities with in school year 2013-2014, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. The percentage of Georgia and North Carolina schools and school districts that include preschool children in farm to school activities was calculated from Question 11 of the Census questionnaire. This percentage figure was calculated as the number of Georgia and North Carolina respondents that checked “Pre-K” as one of the grades the school or school district conducted farm to school activities with in school year 2013-2014, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year in Georgia and North Carolina respectively.

State Highlights Page

Below are additional details about how results were calculated for the state highlights pages.

Overview

Question 2 of the Census questionnaire provided example farm to school activities and then asked respondents if the school or school district or any schools in the school district participated in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year. Response options included: (a) Yes, (b) No, but started activities in the 2014-2015 school year, (c) No, but plan to start activities in the future, and (d) No activities currently and no plans. The percent of respondents participating in farm to school activities was calculated by combining the total for those that engaged in farm to school activities as of either the 2013-2014 or 2014-2015 school years divided by the total number of respondents. Reported state-level averages were not weighted for non-response.

The total number of schools and school districts participating in farm to school was computed from the number of respondents that selected options (a) and (b) respectively, “Yes” or “No, but started activities in 2014-2015 school year” in Question 2 of the Census. The total number of schools and students participating in farm to school programs was computed using the Common Core of Data (CCD) School District Universe Survey File for 2013-14 from the National Center for Education Statistics. Not all respondents are included in the Common Core of Data. In the cases of Montana, North Dakota and Vermont, the total number of schools participating was adjusted slightly to correct for inconsistencies within the CCD Universe Survey School File for 2013-14.

Economics

Statistics were calculated from Questions 23 and 24 of the Census questionnaire. Question 23 of the Census questionnaire asked respondents that participated in farm to school activities during the 2013-2014 school year to indicate their total expenditures on food during the 2013 – 2014 school year, not counting food donated through USDA Foods or DoD Fresh. Question 24 of the Census questionnaire then asked respondents to indicate how much of their total food budget was spent buying locally-produced food including fluid milk. The dollars spent on all food and the dollars spent on local food including fluid milk for school year 2013-2014 were then summed for each state. The total dollars spent on local food was then divided by the total food dollars spent on all food to estimate each states average percentage of all food bought that was locally sourced.

Growth of Local

The percentage of schools that are currently purchasing local fruits, local vegetables, local milk and local meat or poultry is calculated from Question 20 of the Census questionnaire by dividing the number of respondents that checked “Yes” to buying these products during the 2013-2014 school year by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported state-level averages were not weighted for non-response.

The percent of schools and school districts that stated they will buy more local foods in the future is calculated by dividing the total number of respondents that checked “Increase” in Question 26 of the Census questionnaire over the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported state-level averages are not weighted for non-response.

Throughout the Day

For respondents that indicated they participated in farm to school activities in the 2013-2014 school year, Question 17 of the Census questionnaire asked respondents to indicate if their school or school district or any schools in their school district used local products in any form (fresh, minimally processed, or processed) in any of the federal nutrition programs during the 2013-2014 school year. Response options included: a) Breakfast, b) Lunch, c) Supper, d) Snacks, e) The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, f) CACFP, g) CACFP At-risk Afterschool, and h) Summer meals. The percentage figures are calculated as the number of respondents that checked the option, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year. Reported state-level averages were not weighted for non-response.

Gardens

Question 14 of the Census questionnaire, asked “To the best of your knowledge, approximately how many schools had edible school gardens in the 2013-2014 school year?” The figure indicates the total number of school gardens in each state across all schools and school districts that responded to the question.

Preschool

The percentage of schools and school districts that include preschool children in farm to school activities was calculated from Question 11 of the Census questionnaire. This percentage figure is calculated as the number of respondents that checked “Pre-K” as one of the grades the school or school district conducted farm to school activities with in school year 2013-2014, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year.

Summer

The percentage of schools and school districts that use local foods in summer meals was calculated from Question 17 of the Census questionnaire. This percentage figure is calculated as the number of respondents that checked “Summer meals” as one of the meal programs that used local foods in school year 2013-2014, divided by the total number of respondents that stated they were engaged in farm to school during the 2013-2014 school year.

One in a Melon Winners

Individuals were asked to tell USDA about exemplary farm to school programs from March 15, 2016 to April 15, 2016. Respondents listed as winners of the One in a Melon award received the most votes in their state or territory. They are recognized with a badge on each individual respondent webpage.

HUSSC

Respondents that received or had any school receive a HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) award as of January 22, 2016 and were considered active at that time are recognized with a badge on each individual respondent webpage. For more information about HUSSC, click here.

Additional Information

To stay up to date about all of the Census results being released, please sign up for our E-letter. For more information about the USDA Farm to School Census, please contact Matt Benson at matthew.benson@fns.usda.gov. Updated January 11, 2017.

2013 Farm to School Census

There are a few noteworthy differences between the 2013 and 2015 Farm to School Censuses. The 2013 Census was distributed to only U.S. public school districts. The questionnaire also contained a slightly different set of questions compared to the 2015 Census. For more information about the 2013 Census, click here.

2013 Farm to School Census Respondent Data
application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheetF2SC District Data_v web.xlsx (9.67 MB)

2013 Farm to School Census State / National Summary
application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheetF2SC State and National Summary_v web.xlsx (108.68 KB)

2013 Farm to School Census Questionnaire
application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.document2013 USDA Farm to School Census Questionnaire.docx (57.3 KB)

2013 Farm to School Census Graphics- U.S.

2013 Farm to School Census Graphics- State