NC State Extension

Farm to Cafeteria

FoodCorps service member works with Warren County cafeteria staff to deliver cooking classes to students

FoodCorps service member works with Warren County cafeteria staff to deliver cooking classes to students

Farm to Cafeteria is the process of facilitating and procuring locally grown, GAP-certified produce, meat and seafood from a grower into the school. This may be a part of the school lunch program, but could also be a part of Alternative Breakfast or the fresh fruit and vegetable program. There are a variety of pathways that this may happen, including working with food distribution companies, sourcing from a farmer directly, using NCDA’s Farm to School program as well as other methods that might encourage a student to try and eat local foods from the cafeteria line including taste-testings, cooking classes with cafeteria staff and programs that connects chefs to schools.

The USDA released the survey results of their Farm to Schools program, which showed that more than 75% of NC school districts are participating. About 19% of NC school food was purchased locally, investing $34.4M back into the regional economy.


Sourcing Models

  • Growers/Farmers selling directly to schools– GAP certified growers are eligible to sell to school districts in North Carolina. A number of school districts have successfully purchased locally grown produce through the formal bidding process or sometimes through the small purchase threshold (<$3,000).
  • Food Distribution Companies –  Food distribution companies work with local school districts to fulfill fresh fruit and vegetable bids and use locally procured food.
  • NC Farm to School Program- The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Farm to School program supplies school cafeterias across the state with locally grown produce from North Carolina farms. The program works as a broker between school systems and a grower cooperative to provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • NC Department of Instruction’s School Nutrition Services administers the National School Lunch Program, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable grant program, Summer Feeding (among other programs) and is a key ally in making sure all kids have access to good, healthy food.
  • Breakfast Programs

USDA Farm to School Fact Sheets – A wealth of resources by USDA’s FNS Farm to School program that breakdown the complicated intricacies of the National School Lunch Program and other feeding programs and the possibilities for local procurement within these systems.

North Carolina Initiatives

  • The Farm to School Coalition of NC – A gathering of organizations all across the
    Sweet Potato Smiles

    Sharing sweet potato smiles from the garden.

    state trying to network and share best practices with Farm to School in NC.

  • Farm to Child Care Project, Wake County NC
    Wake County SmartStart in partnership with Wake County Cooperative Extension and Advocates for Health in Action, Wake County, NC have recieved generous funding through the John Rex Endowment to help child care facilities make changes so it becomes the norm to prepare and serve fresh, local produce for snacks and meals throughout growing seasons.

Primary Contact:
Liz Driscoll
4-H Youth Specialist
Departments of Crop and Soil Sciences, Entomology and Plant Pathology and Horticulture Science
NC State University


Written By

Photo of Liz DriscollLiz DriscollExtension Specialist, 4-H - Horticulture, Crops, Entomology and Soil Science (919) 513-7346 liz_driscoll@ncsu.eduHorticultural Science - NC State University
Was the information on this page helpful? Yes check No close