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Rural Community Impacts of Farm to School:
Food Supply Chains, Educational Programming, and Household Food Purchases

Nearly 100,000 schools across the U.S. serve school lunches to 30.5M students each day ($12.99B annual federal dollars). Leveraging these public expenditures to create economic opportunities for rural communities, U.S. agriculture, and food supply chain businesses, as well as to improve the health and well-being of children and households is essential. In 2010, Congress formally mandated funding for farm to school programs (FTSPs: local food procurement, education and/or school gardens) as part of the 2010 Child Nutrition Act – the first major change in school food in 15 years. As of 2013/2014, 42,587 schools reported participating. Despite the undeniable interest in FTSPs and the mandate of federal support, there has been little rigorous research at the national level to quantitatively assess whether FTSPs contribute to positive economic and public health outcomes in rural communities.

What are the impacts of farm to school programs on farmers and food supply chain businesses, household consumption patterns, and school food choice, consumption and food plate waste?


  • Evaluate if FTSPs result in increased market access and profitability outcomes for farmers and food supply chain businesses;
  • Explore geographic and inter-temporal patterns in U.S. households’ food demand/consumption to assess whether FTSPs are correlated with changes in the purchased amounts of recommended foods at home;
  • Pilot in-school experiments to assess how specific FTSPs influence food choice, consumption, and food plate waste;
  • Introduce results to research, extension, practitioner, and policymaker audiences. Through integrating four research and extension scopes, this project will yield improved understanding of emerging FTS markets, resulting in long-range improvement in the sustainability of U.S. agriculture, local food systems, and rural communities.

Research Team:

Dr. Alessandro Bonanno: Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, studies consumers food demand, food manufacturers and retailers strategies, food systems, food policy, and how they relate to “health” outcomes (fruits and vegetables consumption, obesity, etc.).

Dr. Becca Jablonski: Assistant Professor and Food Systems Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, focuses on evaluating rural economic development initiatives and policies, with an emphasis on identifying strategies to improve agribusiness performance and enhance regional food systems.

Dr. Dawn Thilmany McFadden: Professor and Agribusiness Extension Economist, Colorado State University, specializes in analyzing markets, consumer behavior and economic development related to local, organic and other value-added food market segments. She has led national projects and organizations focused on expanding the community of practice doing research and outreach on new food marketing channel and supply chain alternatives.

Dr. Marco Costanigro: Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, is an expert in econometric methods who studies food policy, with emphasis on consumer behavior, food labeling, and the economics of information in food markets.

Dr. Melissa Pflugh Prescott: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, focuses on school nutrition and wellness program research, with an emphasis on food waste reduction, food systems education and wellness policies.

Dr. Allie Bauman: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, focuses on regional issues in food and agriculture, community economic development, modelling of spatial markets and the role of water and agriculture in an environment of scarcity.

Dr. Becky Cleary:


Contact: Becca Jablonski,