2020 Local Food Day succeeds despite pandemic

January 22, 2021

by Teresa Wiemerslage, FFED field specialist


Schools, universities and early care sites served locally sourced foods during the week of October 14, 2020, persisting despite the pandemic. Here are some highlights from the third annual Iowa Local Food Day:

  • 61 school districts, early care sites and universities registered to participate and pledged to serve at least two local items for breakfast or lunch.
  • In total, 9,700 breakfasts and 41,800 lunches featured Iowa-grown components on the tray. Sites also offered 7,700 taste-tests that week.
  • Participants served more than 20 different locally grown fruits and vegetables, cheese, yogurt, grains, eggs and beef, pork and turkey. 

A few other observations:

Table showing number of meals served and sites participating in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • The number of counties with participating schools remained steady at 35.
  • The overall number of sites participating was similar to 2019. The number of schools decreased by 9, but the number of early care sites doubled.
  • The number of meals served was down 50% from 2019.

Pandemic challenges and successes

This year’s celebration took place in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. While many rural schools are meeting in person, other schools in the state are meeting virtually or following a hybrid model. This limited the number of students eating meals on-site and explains part of the decrease in meals served in 2020.

Map of participating food hubs.

One of the challenges often cited by Iowa schools is finding local food to serve in their meal programs. Food hubs are food distributors that specialize in locally grown and produced foods. Some Iowa schools find that working with a food hub can be a great partnership to support farm to school activities. Seven food hubs delivered to sites in half of the counties with participating schools (see map).

Iowa Local Food Day is a project of the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship launched the day in 2018 to celebrate National Farm to School Month and promote Iowa food and farms.