Forty percent of schools participate in farm-to-school programs

USDA's first survey found that about 38,600 schools provided local produce for the 2011-2012 school year.

Oct. 24—More than 40 percent of the U.S. public school districts that responded to a historic census said they were participating in a program that helps bring fresh, local produce to school cafeterias. The percentage of participating schools was even higher in Maryland, Virginia and the District, where the program has taken deep root.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first-ever census of school districts across the country revealed how popular the national Farm to School program has become in recent years: About 43 percent of U.S. school districts — or about 38,600 schools — bought local produce for their students during the 2011-2012 school year, investing more than $354 million in farms near their communities. Another 13 percent said they would be participating in the program “in the near future.”