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Value Chains for Sustainable Procurement in Large School Districts: Fostering Partnerships

by David S. Conner*, Andrew Nowaka, JoAnne Berkenkampb, Gail W. Feenstrac, Julia Van Soelen Kimd, Toni Liquorie, and Michael W. Hammf

http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2011.014.005, pp. 55-68



Values-based value chains and farm to school programs are two aspects of the alternative agri-food system that have received a great deal of attention recently from scholars and practitioners. This paper chronicles two separate pilot efforts to create value chains for mid-scale farms to supply large school districts' food-service operations with more healthful, local, and sustainably produced foods, using a modified farm to school model. Early farm to school efforts were mostly farm-direct, a model that poses difficulty for large districts, which often require some kind of intermediary to procure the volume and form of products required for the scale of their food-service operations. Value chains have the potential to address this issue, as part of a more broad-based sustainable school food procurement model that can met the needs of large districts. The lessons learned about the various roles scholars and community partners might play in creating, sustaining, and monitoring performance of these value chains are highlighted.


Keywordsfarm to school, large school districts, participatory research, partnerships, practitioners, school meals, urban school districts, values-based value chains


* Corresponding author: David Conner, Assistant Professor, Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, 205H Morrill Hall, University of Vermont, Burlington VT 05405 USA; +1-802-656-1965; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

a Project Director, Seed To Table School Food Program, Slow Food Denver, Denver, CO USA; District Partner for Denver Public Schools.

b Program Director for Local Foods, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, MN USA; District Partner for Saint Paul Public Schools.

c Food Systems Analyst, Agricultural Sustainability Institute, University of California, Davis, CA USA.

d Graduate Student Researcher, Agricultural Sustainability Institute, University of California, Davis, CA USA.

e Adjunct Full Professor, Nutrition Program, Teachers College Columbia University, New York City, NY USA.

f C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture; Depts. of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Crop and Soil Sciences; Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI USA.


Banner photos include a Cape Cod cranberry bog; a cranberry “screen house” used to grade fresh cranberries; farmland near Lake Placid, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains; Montmorency cherry trees on the Mission Peninsula of northern Michigan; the historic Round Barn in the South Mountain Apple Belt of Adams County, Pennsylvania; the “Sea of Grapes” district of the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, near Erie, Penn; a field of cabbages near Shortsville, NY, home to one of the world’s largest sauerkraut factories. All photos copyright by Duncan Hilchey.


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