Location: Location not imported yet.Title: Mississippi school food service directors' farm to school procurement practices by region
Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/5/2022
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Introduction: Farm to School (F2S) has been a long-term staple of conversation for school foodservice directors (SFD), especially in highly productive agricultural states, like Mississippi. The COVID-19 pandemic turned traditional foodservice procurement and service on its end and in the wake, farmers and SFD alike have been left to figure out the next steps. Strengthening the partnerships with farmers and SFD has never been more important since local procurement means fewer miles to travel and less worry about dwindling supply and unreliable transportation. Methods: The purpose of this study was to learn more about SFDs’ and farmers’ needs and desires related to F2S. An online survey was distributed via email to 173 SFD with addresses derived from a directory, school websites, and school administrators. Survey data were collected and analyzed using SAS. Follow-up interviews were conducted with those who agreed to provide contact information. From these interviews, word clouds were created to show themes and overall perceptions. Results: A total of 122 SFD responded to the survey. Most were female (n=100, 84%) and 45-64 years of age (65%). Forty-three percent (n=47) were black and 95 (81%) had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Eighty-one percent were in school districts with an average of 50% or more free or reduced lunch eligibility. More Director’s from Regions 1 and 7 reported purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables locally. No SFD reported purchasing herbs locally and only one reported purchasing local honey. Only 8 purchased beef and pork, and 7 reported purchasing chicken. Meats were more frequently reported by those in regions 1 and 3. When asked if they liked to “purchase locally sourced”, more SFD from Regions 1, 3, and 7 responded positively. When asked what “purchasing from a local source means to you”, responses included “support local”, “rules and regulations”, “community”, and “local businesses”. When asked how SFD should be contacted for future research, responses included “email”, “meetings”, and “trainings”. Conclusions and Applications: SFD from different regions within a single state have diverse practices and perspectives on utilizing F2S and/or purchasing local. Interestingly, the state’s F2S Network is based in Region 1 and border many counties in Region 3. Region 7 is on the Gulf Coast and has multiple F2S champions as well as the new F2S state leads. SFD provided useful insights about their perception of local sourcing and best practices for approaching them in the future.