Farm to School in the Cafeteria - Evaluating Your Program

Richland Parish School Board - Food Services Greenhouse

Richland Parish School Board - Food Services Greenhouse

How Do You Evaluate Your Program?

Evaluating your Farm to School program demonstrates impact, communicates the value of your work and helps you target both efforts and resources.

What to Evaluate?

Student knowledge and attitudes about fresh fruits/vegetables and other local foods
Student behaviors when consuming fresh fruits/vegetables and other local foods
Serving frequency and variety of fresh fruits/vegetables and other local foods
Local food purchases in volume and dollars
Student meal participation rates in connection with Farm to School educational and engagement activities
Frequency/duration of educational activities in classrooms
Frequency/duration of student engagement activities, such as farm field trips, tastings, cooking demos or contests, etc.
Frequency/duration of school garden or greenhouse activities

Program Goals

A comprehensive evaluation program is no small undertaking. The metrics you choose to collect and the parts of your program you evaluate should align closely with your Farm to School goals outlined in the Farm to School Planning Timeline and Sample Budget. If you do not have outside funding or the support of a team in place, you can start small.

Evaluation Steps

Start Evaluating Your Program in Three Easy Steps:

  1. Establish a baseline of information and build your evaluation program each year (See Monthly Activity Tracker).
  2. Continue to track the same metrics over multiple years in order to show long-term impact.
  3. Build in new evaluation parts after you have established successful evaluation practices for one or more indicators.

Resources

Tools and Links

Below are resources and tools that you can use with a team or individually to begin collecting data for your program. The purpose of these tools is to support your efforts in tracking information and data to show long-term impact for your program.

Outcomes for Students: This interactive tool provides examples of desired student outcomes and measurement tools for evaluating.
Student Survey: This is an example of a short survey anyone can administer to collect student feedback on your meal program and Farm to School.
Parent Survey: This survey is an example of how to gather parent feedback for your program.
Monthly Activity Tracker: This is an editable spreadsheet developed by Wisconsin Farm to School for tracking Farm to School activities by procurement, classroom lessons, engagement activities and garden activities. Data can be used to describe a program’s implementation level and analyze the relative importance of the program areas to observed student outcomes.
Local Purchasing Tracking Tool: This spreadsheet can be customized to record your annual purchases of local fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, grains, etc.
Student Focus Groups: This guide includes a series of questions to be asked of a small group of 3 - 10 students. Student focus groups aid in documenting the student experience with Farm to School, and can inform the process of adjusting program areas and menus to better reach students.
Farm to School Evaluation Toolkit: This interactive evaluation toolkit, by Spark Policy Institute, provides practical guidance, resources, and data collection instruments for Farm to School.
Evaluation for Transformation: A Cross-Sectoral Evaluation Framework for Farm to School: This is a comprehensive guide for establishing a Farm to School evaluation program. The guide defines the outcomes that Farm to School has the potential to achieve and offers common language, guidelines and metrics to understand those outcomes.

Photo Credit: Jason Van Haverbeke for Louisiana Seed Change

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