Farm to School is a movement which connects schools to local farmers and increases learning about food production in the classroom. The three main areas of Farm to School are: 1) serving local foods in the school cafeteria, 2) implementing school and youth gardens, and 3) encouraging students to learn about the food system through in class activities and on-farm field trips.  Farm to School programs help children and their families make informed decisions about their food and nutrition, assist local farmers and ranchers by increasing their sales, and promote local economies by utilizing local sources.

Dakota Rural Action has been working on Farm to School issues across South Dakota since 2010. In 2016 DRA  helped start the Farm to School Taskforce which serves as a connection to resources, state and federal agencies, regional support groups, training, networking opportunities, and more geared toward statewide Farm to School efforts and creating a culture of health in South Dakota’s School System.  The Task Force aims to focus on healthy communities, healthy environments, healthy relationships, and a healthy local economy, while supporting ongoing sustainability of Farm to School programs and classroom nutrition education.

Want to know more about Farm to School in South Dakota?  See our Farm to School Factsheet.

Want more information on school gardens?  See our How to Start a School Garden Factsheet

The USDA has begun gathering data on Farm to School efforts across the nation with the Farm to School Census.  Learn more about the Census and see the data on their website.

Dakota Rural Action serves as the South Dakota State Lead for Farm to School with the National Farm to School Network (NFSN).  NFSN provides an abundance of informational material and learning tools on their website.

Farm to School South Dakota Rules

Food served in South Dakota’s School Lunch Programs largely falls under the Food Service Code overseen by the South Dakota Department of Health.

South Dakota’s Food Service Code regulates food supplies and says:  “Food must be free from adulterations and other contamination and must be safe for human consumption.  Food must be obtained from approved sources. Food in hermetically sealed containers mu9st be obtained from a food processing plant that is regulated by the food regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the plant.  Food prepared in a private home may not be used or offered for human consumption in a licensed food establishment.  – Emphasis added.

The Food Service Code also has specific rules for different kinds of food.  However, fresh fruits and vegetables and most meat is not listed.  Meat regulations fall under the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and must follow their  regulation.

Fresh fruits and vegetables have no additional regulations under South Dakota’s Food Service Code.

Third party verification is often mentioned when we discuss regulations.  We don’t believe the South Dakota Food Service Code requires third party verification for locally grown, fresh, raw, whole fruits and vegetables.  However, schools may decide to require this level of verification.

Check out more information about one kind of third party verification called Good Agriculture Practices.

Our Efforts

In 2016 the South Dakota Farm to School Taskforce was formed. This collaborative group serves as a connection to resources, state and federal agencies, regional support groups, training, networking opportunities, and more geared toward statewide Farm to School efforts and creating a culture of health in South Dakota’s School System. The Task Force aims to focus on healthy communities, healthy environments, healthy relationships, and a healthy local economy, while supporting ongoing sustainability of Farm to School programs and classroom nutrition education.

The Huron School District has partnered with Fairacre Farms to source local foods year-round for their Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

The Wagner School has started an incredible school garden featuring a geodesic greenhouse and an aquaponic system.

Kid Quest – SDSU Cooperative Extension’s Kid Quest (Fitness, Food and Fun) program in the 5-6 grade classrooms motivates students to practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.

Lowell Elementary School Garden, “A Growing Place Garden” in Sioux Falls

Lunchtime Solutions offers a program called Farmers Market Selection which features fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are seasonal, usually locally grown or school grown along with nutritional information to help students connect food choices to future wellness.

These are just some of the great programs happening in the state! If you would like your program listed here please contact Holly Tilton Byrne at hollyt@dakotarural.org.