Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 107-119

First online:

The emergence and framing of farm-to-school initiatives: civic engagement, health and local agriculture

  • Jessica M. BagdonisAffiliated withDepartment of Agricultural and Extension Education, The Pennsylvania State University
  • , C. Clare HinrichsAffiliated withDepartment of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University Email author 
  • , Kai A. SchafftAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Leadership, The Pennsylvania State University

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Interest in and initiation of farm-to-school (FTS) programs have increased in recent years, spurred on by converging public concerns about child obesity trends and risks associated with industrialization and distancing in the modern food system. A civic agriculture framework that more specifically considers civic engagement and problem solving offers insights about variations in the development and prospects for FTS programs. Drawing on comparative case studies of two emerging FTS initiatives in Pennsylvania—one in a rural setting and one in an urban setting—this article examines the role of internal and external “champions” in launching FTS programs and fostering civic engagement. Farm-to-school community stakeholders across the two cases framed FTS in broadly similar terms of (1) redressing poor food environments; (2) improving student nutrition, health and well-being; and (3) revitalizing rural community through support of local agriculture. However, specific concerns and emphases differed across the rural and urban cases, illustrating the significance of local context for such programs. The article concludes by discussing the importance of frame bridging and frame extension as strategies for expanding the FTS movement, and also ensuring programs that correspond to the specific circumstances and possibilities of their social and geographic settings.


Child nutrition Civic agriculture Farm-to-school programs Food environments Rural community revitalization