Farm to School

Farm to school programs and policies encourage partnerships between farmers and school food buyers to bring local food into school meal programs.

Learn what is happening in Arizona, who is responsible, and where you can fit in.


Farm to school programs and policies encourage partnerships between farmers and school food buyers that work to bring local food into school meal programs. In 2008 the National School Lunch Act was modified to encourage schools to practice geographic preference in school food procurement. Since 2011, the Arizona Department of Education, Health and Nutrition Services Division (HNS) has worked to connect school food buyers with Arizona producers by offering regional farm tours, regional buyer-supplier meetings and training to schools on topics such as local procurement, food safety, and basics in school gardening. For more information, visit Arizona’s Farm to School Program website.

Photo from Sun Produce Cooperative

Photo from Sun Produce Cooperative

The Arizona Department of Education hosts annual Business of Farm to School Meetings, focused on crop and menu planning. These are a great entry point for selling to Arizona’s schools and child nutrition programs.


In the meantime, here are 4 avenues to explore to sell fresh produce to Arizona schools:

  1. Join Sun Produce Cooperative, a multi-commodity agricultural cooperative in Maricopa County, to aggregate produce for sale and delivery to local elementary school cafeterias. Learn more here.

  2. Collaborate with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona’s Farm to Institution Program in Pima County which utilizes food bank infrastructure to bring fresh produce from small farms to Tucson Unified School District. Learn more here.

  3. Become a vendor with Stern Produce’s Arizona Fresh Together Program. Stern administers the DOD Fresh Produce Program which allows schools to choose your products on their existing order forms and be distributed by Stern. Learn more and become a vendor here.

  4. Contract directly with schools. Learn how by contacting Ashley Schimke, the Arizona Department of Education Farm to School and School Garden Program Specialist here.

Photo from Manzo Ecology

Photo from Manzo Ecology

School Gardens

Children learn by doing. School gardens introduce students to the joys of growing, cooking, and eating their own food through an integration of hands-on, garden-based curriculum into classroom learning. Students have the opportunity to work in the vegetable beds and on the cutting boards to awaken their senses and open their minds to trying new foods in the cafeteria, and at home.

There are over 200 schools in Arizona that report having an active school garden. Map here.

The Arizona Department of Health Services oversees a School Garden Food Safety Certification Program which will helps school garden meet the requirements of “approved source” as required in the Arizona Food Code for food safety, detailed here.

Additional resources:

Photo from The Orme School

Photo from The Orme School


Farm to school activities enhance classroom education through hands-on learning related to food, health, agriculture and nutrition. Many schools are using interdisciplinary garden curriculum tied to state standards that engage students in core subjects such as math, science, arts and language. Farm to school and school garden programs provide access to and increases the consumption of high quality and nutritious foods, reduces waste; all of which help to create a healthy learning environment for students.

Additional resources for Arizona’s teachers & educators:

Arizona’s Farm to School Champions

Click on the logos to learn more.


For School Food Buyers

Harvest of the Season

Harvest of the Season was created to assist school food service in their local purchasing efforts. The main priority for purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables is to encourage students to connect with unfamiliar or unappealing foods in order to increase acceptability and consumption of these foods. Arizona Department of Education, Health and Nutrition Services Division took note of the concerns expressed  from school food service on the low consumption of vegetables among student consumers within certain vegetable subgroups, particularly: dark green, dark red/orange and bean and pea (legumes). This is an educational resource developed for food service, teachers and parents to address the seasonality of Arizona grown vegetables and the connection they have to building healthy eating behaviors among students and their families.