Here you will find a toolkit for sourcing into the program and a complete listing of regional produce aggregators and food hubs. Farms interested in growing for the Illinois Farm to School program will also be encouraged to list with us as a source of potential local food for distributors and aggregators. This page is open and available to all distributors sourcing local foods for Illinois schools.
To find local and regional farms with details on products, certifications (GAP, Organic, etc) and contact info, visit these websites:
Procurement and flexibility
Any procurement is considered local or regional if it comes from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, or Iowa. Schools in southern Illinois may also source from Missouri or Kentucky. Sourcing local foods for Farm to School spotlight fruit and vegetable items that are available to procure through a variety of methods. With the increase of fresh local ordering programs and local processing programs, there are a growing number of options for minimally processed fresh, frozen and dried vegetables and fruits in Illinois.
Searching for that perfect fit will require conversations with schools, their food service managers, produce houses and aggregators in the region. By running a simple online search of local food aggregators and regional processors or food hubs you can begin to assess the availability of local and regional options in your area of the state. (See above for information on local food hubs and farms)
Points to remember:
- When considering integrating these items into your distribution be sure to determine pricing, delivery, food safety, seasonal availability and quantities available. Every school has a unique set of restrictions and capacity.
- Confirm the origin of the primary fruits and vegetables in processed products. Secondary items, such as vegetables or minor ingredients, which make up less than fifteen percent of the total product volume, may not be local or regional items. Understanding those volumes will help to determine if the product fits with a school’s goal of obtaining local or regional food.
- Local and regional foods are not like the commercial food products schools get from their primary distributors. These products are fresher and are most likely processed clean without the use of sodium or additives. Shelf life and performance under hot and cold holding conditions may differ. These products may also have different yields than commercial products.
- The Illinois Farm to School website is full of tips, tools, and resources. You’re already on it, how easy!
- Also, check out the Harvest of the Month website and the National Farm to School website.
- Newsletters: You can sign up to receive the monthly IFSN newsletter if you want to learn more about resources, grants, job opportunities and local programs. You will also get invitations to future network meetings, where we will share resources and information about projects and funding.
- Join the network! Sign-up for a free membership with the Illinois Farm to School Network here.
- Any and all questions can be answered by using the contact form or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org directly.