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Distribution Models for Farm to School

With farm to school programs, the transport of farm products to the schools is in many cases the most challenging issue to be addressed. There is no “one size fits all”, as individual circumstances differ greatly. Some of the issues to consider are:

  • School district size and the existence of central kitchens or satellite kitchens
  • Storage capacity of the schools
  • Existence of farmer cooperatives or networks
  • Capacity of these networks to deliver
  • Distance involved with deliveries
  • Volume and type of products desired
  • Amount of staff time needed to research and develop the distribution method.

Below are descriptions of four distribution methods, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Whatever method is chosen, it should address the needs of both farmers and food service, in order to be successful over time.

  1. Food service staff buys direct from individual farmers.
  2. School food service works with a farmer cooperative.
  3. School food service orders locally grown food through a traditional wholesaler.
  4. School food service purchase regional products at the farmers' market.

Adapted from Distribution Models for Farm to School, Written by Marion Kalb and Sarah Borrron, Community Food Security Coalition

Distribution Cost Calculator from the Oklahoma Farm to School Progam
This interactive tool allows producers fill in information about their farm and distribution operations to compare the cost of direct delivery, delivering to a central warehouse, or using an intermediary distributor. While the true costs may vary, it does help give a closer estimate to what the returns to your farm will be from these different distribution methods.

This tool was Created by Rodney B. Holcomb and Anh Vo of Oklahoma State University
Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center Department of Agricultural Economics


Last Updated: 1/11/2019