As the school year gets underway, many parents are no doubt dreading the usual barrage of requests to sell fundraising items for their child’s school, most of which are neither healthy, environmentally sound, or even wanted: candy, wrapping paper, and yet another magazine subscription.
Fortunately, there’s a more sustainable fundraising option that is increasing in popularity: a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) school fundraiser program. As I have written about before, a CSA is a program where participants purchase a share of local, seasonal produce and fruits.
With this model, schools are the communities that support particular farms and at the same time, raise money for the school or PTA. It is a win-win for all, benefiting the farmers, the local economy, the school, and the health of the kids.
Typically, PTA members and students sell subscriptions of locally grown produce boxes to parents, teachers and even community members. Boxes can be ordered weekly and CSA members can pick them up at a predetermined place, usually the school. Each box provides a week’s worth of local produce that’s enough to feed a family of four for one week or a single/couple for two weeks.
Usually, CSA members do not get a choice of produce since it contains whatever produce is in season in the local area and whatever is harvested at the farm on the morning of the delivery. The best part is that the produce will contain varieties not commonly found at supermarkets.
That’s why many farms also include a weekly newsletter with recipe ideas for what to do with that box of produce and news from the farm.
The school and/or PTA receives a percentage of the sales of CSA boxes and for every box sold, the PTA or school receives anywhere between $1 – $5 and the farm receives the rest. If CSA subscriptions are renewed each growing season, the program can offer a steady stream of funds for the schools and the farm.
While the school can use the funds for whatever program or service it might want, some schools are actually using them specifically for their garden and/or nutrition program.
One of the most successful school CSA programs is offered by Tanaka Farms in Irvine, California. Tanaka Farms’ CSA program started just three years ago with only one school, they are now at more than 70 schools, and still growing.
Some farms, including Tanaka, even have “CSA days” at the farm where the kids can come and visit “their” farm and pick their own fresh produce and see where it is grown.
If your local school doesn’t have a CSA program, you might want to contact a local CSA farm in your area and approach them about adding your child’s school. You can find a CSA near you on Local Harvest.