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Local School Lunches

Local School Lunches

As the school year gets underway, you might be grappling with how to make sure your kids continue to eat healthy, sustainable and local foods once they go back. With your schedule getting busier, you might also find it more difficult to make your weekly trek to the farmers’ market or find the time to work in your garden.

Luckily, there is an option that is increasing in both popularity and availability; a CSA for schools. Last year, I wrote about this sustainable option for school fundraising, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) school fundraiser program. 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 kids, encouraging them to eat better.

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 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. Which might be just the thing you need to add a little excitement to your school lunches.

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 other locations, 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.

Read more: Community, Conscious Consumer, Do Good, Eating for Health, Food, Life, , ,

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Judi Gerber

Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.


+ add your own
4:49PM PDT on May 30, 2012


6:36PM PDT on Oct 11, 2011

Thanks Judi!

1:43PM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

I'm sure this works in California, Florida, and other states with varied agriculture. But get into the Midwest, where there's nothing but corn and soybeans for miles, and the schools are getting all their food from cans and boxes. It would be great if schools would have plots where they could teach horticulture.

8:09AM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

thanks for the post

7:39AM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

Nice idea but not very practical in many areas of the US where the growing season is pretty short! Reminds me of the big bags of potatoes left on the parsonage doorstep throughout the fall in Maine.

2:04PM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

Great idea!

12:46PM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

This is great if you have a farmers market to get fresh veggies for the school. Some places don't have that luxery. I do think the schools are creating better cafeteria food, but they also need to get rid of the 100's of choices they have. Get rid of the soda machines, fries, pizza, cheese burgers, chicken nuggets, etc.....

11:02AM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

good article. top of the most important for me.

9:52AM PDT on Aug 16, 2011


6:21AM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

Sounds good.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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