Farm to School Sales Decline without Incentives

December 1, 2021

Iowa sees significant drop in farm to school sales in 2021.

Farm to school sales from Iowa food hubs were cut in half in 2021, following the loss of state and federal funding. 

In 2020, seven food hubs sold food to 57 schools, compared to 26 schools, colleges and early-care sites in 2021, according to summary report released by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

The “Impacts of the Local Produce and Protein Program report,” released by the Iowa Food Hub Managers Working Group and ISU Extension and Outreach, reported that 42 schools received funds from the program in 2020, while only 15 of those sites purchased from food hubs in 2021.

School lunch tray

In August 2020, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced Local Produce and Protein Program grants were available to fruit and vegetable farmers, schools and food hubs. 

“The Local Produce and Protein Program was funded with emergency pandemic funds,” said Teresa Wiemerslage, field specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach’s Farm, Food and Enterprise Development program. “The funding was not available this year for schools, and food hubs saw a correlating decrease in participation and sales.”

The Iowa Food Hub Managers Working Group is a collaboration of 10 food hubs in Iowa. The group has been working together to coordinate local food aggregation and delivery since 2015. 

Food hubs contributed to making the Local Produce and Protein Program a success. Of the $225,000 reimbursed to schools for local food purchases from March to December 2020, 51% was spent at food hubs and 51% (41 of 80) of grantees were served by food hubs. 

With funds not available in 2021, most schools purchased local foods with no outside financial incentives. Schools with established relationships with farmers and food hubs were most likely to continue serving Iowa foods in their cafeterias. 

The full supplemental report is available online.