Evaluating Farm to School in Mississippi: Defining Participation Using Mixed Methods Approach

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By MSF2SN Intern Sydney Bush: The Mississippi Farm to School Network strives to enhance child nutrition and eradicate food insecurity in the state by connecting school systems with their local food systems. The framework for reaching this goal consists of three central components: local procurement in the cafeteria, school gardening, and nutritional education. To better understand these initiatives in the state and help plan for the future, the UM Center for Population Studies has partnered with the network to evaluate farm to school in Mississippi. The first phase of the evaluation was conducted using publicly-available secondary data, primary data collected from interviews with school district food service directors, and surveys of the Mississippi Farm to School Network and Mississippi Farm to School Conference. Initial findings show potential gaps due to lack of available data reported from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), US Department of Defense (DoD), and the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE). Based on the secondary data collected, it is suggested that the definition of participation in farm to school be reexamined to better understand sustained involvement within the state.

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