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Farm to School — Know Your Foods

In this Play, students will learn about where their food comes from and lead efforts to have your school purchase and serve nutritious, fresh, regionally grown and raised food — including milk!You’ll organize field trips and taste tests, and you’ll work with your school nutrition professionals to get these foods on the menu.

FarmtoSchool_USDA Screenshot

Click to view
Credit: United States Department of Agriculture

This Play has two important parts: education (i.e., learning about farm-raised and farm-grown food and dairy in your area and understanding their benefits) and implementation (i.e., bringing locally produced food and dairy into your school in a practical way that fits local and school regulations and budgets). You’ll collaborate with local farms and organizations that can provide expertise to help raise awareness about the great work that’s probably being done right in your school’s backyard.


Here's a quickstart guide to help you get started!


i 10 Facts About Local Food in School Cafeterias. 2013. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed January 20, 2019.

Why This Play?

Learning about the work of dairy and other farmers in producing nutritious foods can help students better appreciate the variety of foods available and where those foods come from.ii


Local food sourcing and farm-to-school initiatives can also benefit the local economy,iii may help the environmentiv and can be used to teach kids about where their food comes from.v And, according to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, schools with robust farm-to-school programs report reductions in food waste, higher school meal participation rates and increased willingness of students to try new foods.vi See this video to learn more.


ii Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization 2015 — Fact Sheet. 2014. National Farm to School Network. Accessed  January 20, 2019.

iii Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues. 2010. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed January 20, 2019.

iv Ibid., p. 9.

v Research Shows Farm to School Works. 2016. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed January 20, 2019.

vi USDA Farm to School Census. 2015. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed January 20, 2019.



It may even inspire students to learn more about a career in farming! There’s more to it than they may think!

What to Do

What to Do

Understanding where your food comes from and trying new, nutritious options is just the start of building healthier eating habits. Remember, this Play is about two things: education (i.e., students learning where their food comes from) and implementation (i.e., getting more farm-fresh foods on your school menu).


Read through the steps and then review Who Can Help? and Build Interest for more information and help.


See how two schools have started working on their own farm-to-school Plays here and here.


note  Note: In any Play where you plan to work with school meals or à la carte offerings, you must involve the school nutrition director and other professionals! If that’s not you, be sure to contact that team before you get started.


Step 1: Education.


Organize a trip to visit a local dairy farm to follow milk from the farm to your glass.


  • Be sure to document your trip with photos and/or videos.


  • Include images of all the various people working on the farm and learn what they do. Use this Who’s Who in the Food System to have students map the pictures and people back to what they’ve already learned about what goes on in modern-day farming.


If there are no farms close to your school, consider scheduling a virtual tour via Skype or FaceTime, or use these Undeniably Dairy videos, developed in partnership between National Dairy Council and Discovery Education:



caring for cows

Undeniably Dairy: Virtual Field Trip
Undeniably Dairy: Virtual Experiences



Then, use these STEM curriculum lessons to help students learn more about how farmers protect the environment, how food gets from the farm to school, and the science behind fermentation:

  • Converting Poop to Power: Examine how farmers and scientists are engaging in sustainable farming practices to create energy and other renewable products.
  • Creating My Plate: Teach students what it means to compose healthy, balanced meals and how to reduce food waste in the process.
  • Our Perspective: From Farm to Table: Explore real-world innovation in the dairy community plus teach students the magic and science behind fermentation.

You can also use these videos from Fuel Up to Play 60 supporters all over the country to show students how farming is important to their community in many ways.


undeniably dairy



Step 2: Implementation — get local foods on the menu.


  • Hold taste tests with students to have them try local, seasonal food items (suggested budget of $0.60 per student — not covered by Fuel Up to Play 60 Funds).


  • Work with your school nutrition professionals to identify foods that are produced locally. Then develop a plan to start adding those foods to the school menu.


    • Start small by swapping out one or two main items for local and seasonal alternatives and build from there.


    • Create displays in the cafeteria highlighting new foods and the farms — and farmers! — they come from. Tell the story of how each food is grown, raised or produced and finds its way to your school.



Click here for some optional extension activity ideas for Steps 1 and 2.


note  Note: Don’t forget to visit the Funding and Outfitting Your Play section for information and ideas on what you might need to help with this Play.



Step 3: Help students build your program by having them learn about the future of farming.


There are lots of ways to participate in or support local and regional efforts, including farming. Consider developing partnerships with your local 4-H club or nearest Future Farmers of America chapter. Find ways to involve students more in learning about farming and build relationships between your school and these organizations.


Use some of these examples to help students learn more:



Who Can Help

Who Can Help

You are not in this alone. There are many people who can help make this Play a success. For this Play, you’ll need the help of your school nutrition professionals. Meet with them first to talk about the goals of the Play and what seems most “doable” in your school. Here’s a list of some of the people who can help with this Play and some specific ways they can do that.


Who Can Help

What They Can Do

School Nutrition Professionals

  • Help with strategy and nutritious food selection to bring locally grown, produced or raised foods into the school food-service program
  • Participate in assemblies with farmers to talk about the value of farm-fresh foods


  • Approve your plan and its various field trips and assemblies
  • Engage with school nutrition staff, teachers and custodians to get their support
  • Encourage student participation

Local Dairy Council

  • Help connect you with a local farmer


  • Participate in field trips, taste tests and other activities
  • Encourage student participation


  • Assist with taste tests and menu selections
  • Encourage peers to participate


  • Help get information about farms and food companies in your area
  • Volunteer to help with activities

School Transportation Personnel

  • Provide buses and drivers for field trips

External Resources


As with any game that’s worth playing and winning, you are bound to run into challenges. That's why getting help from others is so important. You’ll be more likely to achieve your goals when everyone works together. 


Healthy Cows Healthy Milk


Use this video about dairy farming and cow care and this video from the USDA’s Farm to School initiative to learn more and get your team excited about how this program will be educational and improve the eating choices for your entire school community.

Build Interest

Build Interest

Host an assembly and invite a local dairy or other farmer to talk about his or her work.


  • Ask your local Dairy Council to help you find a farmer in your area.


  • Brainstorm questions in advance, such as: What does it take to create milk and other nutrient-rich dairy foods? How do dairy farmers care for their cows and the land, and how does this impact the quality of the milk? How does food get from the farm to your school tray?


Ask your school nutrition professionals to participate in the assembly by explaining the benefits of enjoying foods from the farms in your region and ask classroom teachers to have follow-up discussions in class.


  • Be sure to emphasize that it is dairy farmers who support Fuel Up to Play 60 and the importance of both nutrition and physical activity.


  • Have students thank the farmers for working so hard to make sure we have nutrient-rich foods and beverages that are both nutritious and delicious.


Create a “Farm-to-School Snack Table” in the cafeteria and offer samples of the various foods produced by local and regional farmers, including low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese, yogurt and seasonal fruits and vegetables.


Share Your Results

Share Your Results

  • Share highlights and data from your farm-to-school program:


    • Have students create posters showcasing your farm-to-school program and display them in high-traffic areas, such as hallways, cafeterias, and classrooms.


    • Promote locally made foods (including dairy) during the morning announcements.


    • Get the word out on your school’s website or blog, in your school newsletter or student newspaper, and on social media!


    • Share student stories, videos and pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tagging FUTP 60 (FB: @FuelUpToPlay60; TW and IG: @FUTP60) and using #FuelGreatness!


  • Create “Know Your Foods” posters or a photo slideshow tracing the path foods take from the farm to your lunchroom. Highlight milk and other foods from local, regional, or even more distant farms, and the many people involved along the way who ensure nutritious foods are available to the community.


  • Send posters or videos to local dairy farmers that highlight the work you are doing in school. It’s a great way to make them feel like an important part of the team. Don’t forget to include thank-you messages for providing Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60 and for their commitment to healthy students and the community.


Scrimmage Time


Implement a farmer trading cards program like this school district in Virginia’s Loudoun County did. Invite the selected farmers come to school to sign cards and interact with students so the students can learn more about farming and the important roles needed to run a successful farm.


Think long termhost a farm-to-school community fair at your school.


  • Invite local farmers, parents and other members of your community to learn about the efforts you are making in your school.


  • Have farmers bring their foods and make presentations or answer questions about their farming techniques.


  • Include local businesses that stock or serve local foods in their stores or on the menu.


  • Serve snacks made with local foods so the group can taste for themselves the foods from the region that can help nourish the community.


Make this an annual event so you can keep your program growing!


This section features ideas on ways to involve everyone in your school and community. Think about ideas for differentiating between older and younger students and ways to bring in the family connection.


Build student leadership opportunities. As much as possible, have students do the planning and run your programs.


For Older Students


For All Students


  • Don’t have a farm that’s within easy traveling distance from your school? Work with your local Dairy Council to build a mentoring relationship with a farmer who is willing.


    • You can set up regular phone calls, email correspondence or even video conference question-and-answer sessions where you can ask questions and get advice or answers straight from the farmer.


    • By building a long-term relationship with your region’s farmers, you can open doors for more farm-to-school teamwork and opportunities for students and their classmates to explore careers in agriculture.


  • Create a makerspaces section in the cafeteria’s kitchen facilities and find some volunteers to supervise student “makers” who come in once a week to experiment with various farm-fresh ingredients to learn about cooking, nutrition and more.


    • If a dedicated space is not available, create some makerspace bins to hold utensils, spices, pantry staples, etc.


    • Work with a local farmer or farm-to-store representative to provide ingredients so students can experiment and make some new, exciting dishes.


    • See this Farm to School Cooking in the Classroom guide, and check out Curriculum Connections for more ideas.


Put students in the driver’s seat as much as possible. They’ll learn valuable life lessons on how to plan and implement programs, and they’ll feel great about helping their school!


For Everyone


Everyone can:


  • Volunteer to run the farm-to-school snack table and hold taste tests.


  • Identify local farmers — especially dairy farmers — who can talk about their work and invite them to speak at your school.


  • Create posters, photo slideshows and videos to share information about the farmers in your community and the hard work they do to help provide nutritious foods.


  • Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables and local or regional dairy foods like milk for taste tests and to highlight in the cafeteria.


  • Inform their families about the active role dairy farmers are taking to support students through Fuel Up to Play 60.


Homefield Advantage: Check out this resource and share it with parents and caretakers so they can see what they can do to help at home and at school.


Help Build the Whole Fuel Up to Play 60 Community


Encourage students to log on to their Dashboard and report activity to achieve Level Three (30,000 Points) and be named a Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador! Having ambassadors at your school might help get more students involved!

Why This Play?

Warm Up Activity Idea!

Not quite ready for the full Play? Try this.

Work with local dairy farmers and processors to host regular smoothie events at your school. Invite local produce farmers to bring their resources and make them veggie-smoothie events! Run one every month if possible and work with the farmers to see about broadening the program to create a more robust farm-to-school program.

Funding and Outfitting Your Play

Apply for Funding

Things That Might Help

  • Smoothie machine or blender
  • Portioners for dividing food portions easily and equally
  • Sectioners for slicing and wedging fruits and vegetables
  • Additional kitchen equipment to help with “scratch-cooking” on site
  • Glass-front coolers or large bins for milk presentation
  • Colorful plates and bowls for promotional food display
  • Nutrition education materials, such as farming-focused DVDs
  • Locally sourced nutrient-rich foods for taste testing (suggested budget of $0.60 per student)

Take a look at this Equipment Catalog for items that might help in a big way!

note  Note: State and local dairy councils may not fund everything on this list. Check with your local dairy council to find out what their priorities for funding are.

Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60

Up to $4,000 per year is available to qualified K-12 schools enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60 to kick-start healthy changes! 

General Information

note  Note: Be sure to consult with your school's nutrition team when applying for a healthy eating grant!

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