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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This has been reflected in the popular press with a number of recent publications addressing the broad social, health and environmental implications of a more industrialized and corporation-controlled food system. See, e.g. Nestle (2002), Patel (2007), Pollan (2006), and Schlosser (2001).

  2. 2.

    Indicators of civic engagement used in one study were the percentage of population that belongs to a church and the percentage of population that voted in the most recent U.S. presidential election (Lyson et al. 2001).

  3. 3.

    The Center for Rural Pennsylvania utilizes a definition of “rural” and “urban” based on population density. A school district is rural when the number of persons per square mile is fewer than 274, which is the mean number of persons per square mile in Pennsylvania based on 2000 Census data.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a Health Thematic Initiative grant from the Pennsylvania State University Office for Outreach.

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Correspondence to C. Clare Hinrichs.

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Bagdonis, J.M., Hinrichs, C.C. & Schafft, K.A. The emergence and framing of farm-to-school initiatives: civic engagement, health and local agriculture. Agric Hum Values 26, 107–119 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-008-9173-6

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Keywords

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