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University of Minnesota Extension

The economic impact of farm-to-school lunch programs: A Central Minnesota example

Key findings for communities

Apple near a school chalkboard
  • The potential annual economic impact of farm-to-school programs in Central Minnesota ranges from $20,000 for a monthly special meal to $427,000 for sourcing a large amount of easily adapted products.
  • Using all products locally available has the highest overall impact. This allows for maximum usage of product.
  • The greatest potential economic impact or “ripple effect” for the community occurs when schools are able to pay the same price they currently pay distributors rather than paying growers’ preferred prices. This is because higher prices for schools means increased public costs, passed on (in one form or another) to taxpayers.

About this study

Farm-to-school lunch programs are designed to introduce locally grown foods into the school lunch room. Advocates of farm-to-school programs often point to the positive economic impact these programs can have on the local economy. They argue that buying local must have a greater impact than buying non-local foods. 

This report answers the question, “What is the potential economic impact of farm-to-school programs in Central Minnesota?” It addresses the issue of what foods are available and can be used in schools. It looks at variability in pricing structure. It considers various realistic scenarios in which the food would be provided to the schools. Finally, it takes into account economic realities such as decreases in payments to current school lunch suppliers and increases in the cost to provide lunch. 

This report is the result of a collaboration between University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. 

More about this report

Read full report (PDF)


Brigid Tuck, Senior Economic Impact Analyst, Extension; Monica Haynes, Graduate Student, Department of Applied Economics; Robert King, Professor, Department of Applied Economics; Ryan Pesch, Educator, Extension

Reviewed in 2010

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