Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Neva Hassanein

Commitee Members

Robin Saha, Ken Meter


farm-to-school, economic impact, social impact, Montana, farm-to-institution


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies


Montana is a prominent player in the farm-to-school movement with its strong agricultural industry and its leadership in the farm-to-school FoodCorps program. Farm-to- school involves connecting students to food through local procurement, nutrition education, and garden immersion. Many researchers indicate that farm-to-school participation strengthens local economies, improves student health, and creates more cohesive communities, but the financial and logistical challenges of implementation signal the call for stronger policy and funding support. In this professional paper, I build upon previous research to understand the unique outcomes of farm-to-school participation in Montana and to explore the policy and funding needs specific to the state. In particular, I explored the social and economic impact of program implementation by surveying 16 participating K-12 public schools. To assess the perceived social impact, I interviewed food service directors from these districts on their attitudes towards program implementation including the benefits and challenges to participation. I profiled 5 programs by conducting face-to-face interviews with each school’s food service director. To estimate the economic impact, I collected local food purchasing data from the 2013-2014 school year and applied a range of economic multipliers to the totaled purchasing number.

The results suggest that the 16 school districts’ farm-to-school participation had a positive social and economic impact in their communities. The interviews, profiles, and purchasing data revealed that program implementation supports local growers and businesses, strengthens communities and increases awareness of food. Based on the challenges and solutions that the 16 food service directors listed, this professional paper concluded with recommendations for policy, government decision makers, and grantmakers to further program development.



© Copyright 2015 Autumn Lee