National Farm-to-School Month: Highlighting Cutting-Edge Programs
The dark side of Farm-to-School
While Food Tank celebrates Farm-to-School initiatives, there’s a darker side of the story that is at risk of being overlooked.
Ranch Foods Direct has been in business in Colorado Springs since 2000. At one time we sold our high quality, locally produced beef to many school districts in our region, including Colorado Springs, Boulder, Denver, Greeley as well as schools on the Western Slope of Colorado. Today, we have none of that business. Every single school district has gone back to industrially produced meat from the big meat packers. Even our local colleges and universities, after making promises to budget for higher quality, local food, have greatly decreased or totally discontinued their local purchases in favor of national companies, which have created fake, local “zombie brands” while predatory-pricing community-based suppliers out of the market and paying significant kickbacks to school lunch operators.
I could make a good argument that the local food movement has been co-opted and captured by the big food companies to such an extent that our hopes for success are rapidly fading. I don’t know of any Farm-to-School suppliers in my area that have been able to forge a true and lasting sales arrangement. I fear that by saying Farm-to-School initiatives are making an impact, we mislead people into overlooking the challenges small farmers are experiencing as they try to access this market. We all stand to lose plenty if we remain silent while allowing them to fail.
From Jake Davis: Mike, thanks for saying what we are all thinking. The market for local food is terrible right now especially for institutional purchases. They have utilized our stories to make the end user feel a little better and then like a good magic trick used miss direction to switch back to the bigger, faster, cheaper model they love so much. We have to fight back against this local washing.