University of Florida

Florida Food Connect

The Florida Farm to School program has created the Florida Food Connect website. http://flfoodconnect.com/ This is a place where both buyers and sellers can connect. Producers can create a profile and indicate what they currently have available and buyers can then contact a producer who meets their needs, or alternatively post on their profile items they are looking to purchase. Producers can also sign up to receive courtesy e-mail notifications from the state of Florida's Vendor Bid System about relevant bid advertisements.

Farm to School Program

The Sarasota County Farm to School Program is supported by UF/IFAS Sarasota County Extension for the purposes of  providing ‘Local Food for Healthy Children’ in our public school lunch & snack programs and of strengthening the local agricultural economy.  It is part of the National and Florida Farm to School Programs  which educate communities how to provide locally-grown foods in school meals for the benefits of high nutrition to the children and for opportunities in direct marketing and risk management to farmers, especially producers on middle to small size family farms.  The national Program provides national and southeast region newsletters of project information and resources.  In Florida, many counties now are also initiating Farm to School programs with the support of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).  For information about them see the following websites:

Local Program Successes

  • Sarasota County Farm to School Program adds $2.3 M and 31 jobs to the local economy.
  • Beverly Girard, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the School Board of Sarasota County, Florida, announced in November 2009  “80% of the produce in the school nutrition program is from a local source”.
  • Since 2007 the Edible Schoolyard Program by Sarasota County Extension has provided garden-based curriculum, supplies, and volunteers for supporting teachers provide activities where students learn how to grow, cook, and taste fresh, nutritious foods that they grow themselves.  The nation Edible Schoolyard Program is a model for the use of school gardening to support the Sarasota County Farm to School Program by improving the awareness and consequent consumption by students of locally-grown foods in the school lunches.  To see a presentation & contact information of the Sarasota County Extension Edible Schoolyard Program see the following link:

Edible Schoolyard Program

Currently these efforts are being supported by the Farm to School Program of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services which offers a website to connect local farmers to local school districts. Additional support is now being considered in the 2010 reauthorization by Congress of the Child Nutrition Act with additional funding for the National School Breakfast & Lunch Programs to school districts for the expanded purchasing of locally-grown, fresh foods.  To find out more about this important legislation for your own education and action, please, visit the websites http://www.farmtoschool.org/policies.php  and  http://frac.org/Legislative/action_center/index.html

How You Can Help

There are community partner opportunities assisting the Sarasota County Farm to School Program meet its goals.  For example, community partners include the Sarasota County Government,and the Sarasota County Farm Bureau , which have provided staff funding, and  the Hi Hat Ranch in Sarasota, FL and the Jones Potato Farm in Parrish, FL which have participated in past pilot project events. Community endorsements include the  All Faiths Food Bank of Sarasota, the Sarasota-Manatee Originals ,and the Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota County and are welcome from interested community groups.

The Sarasota County Farm to School Program welcomes all interested groups or individuals wishing to get involved in supporting its goals, including volunteers for edible school gardens. Educational presentations are available about the Program to community groups - just contact Robert Kluson, Sarasota County Extension, at (941) 861-5000.

Farm to School In the News