FINE’s New "Big Picture Report" Shows a Cross-Sector Snapshot of Farm to Institution in New England

Hannah Leighton, Director of Research and Evaluation

Over the last several years, FINE and our partners have been gathering data from institutions, distributors, and producers, in order to better understand the system we are trying to change. Results from our primary and secondary research have informed both our programmatic work and our work as a network backbone in New England. These data can all be found by sector and state on our metrics dashboard, through our research reports, and in raw data form. And now, our Big Picture Report shares regional highlights from across the institutional sector all on one page! 


This Big Picture Report allows us to look at the current state of farm to institution with a cross sector lens. Our research shows that 3.7 million people spend time in New England K-12 schools, hospitals, and colleges as students, patients, and staff every day. These institutions have enormous opportunity to influence the lives of New Englanders while contributing to a more resilient and regional food system.

As we think about the role of institutions in our changing food system, it’s important to understand what the sector looks like today so we can set realistic goals for the future. This report provides a snapshot of local procurement practices, the top local products being purchased already, and the challenges that institutions face in purchasing more local food. It also looks at things like how institutions are defining “local” food and their desire to buy more local food. We've included a few highlights below and encourage you to view the full report here. Note that all data presented comes from surveys, is self-reported, and may conflict with other data sources. 

Surveyed colleges and hospitals report serving nearly 100 million meals annually: 

Surveyed colleges, hospitals, and K-12 schools report spending an average of 17% of their total budget on local food:

Apples are consistently named a top local product purchased by K-12 schools, colleges, and distributors: 

Year round availability and higher price point are top challenges to sourcing local food for surveyed colleges, K-12 schools, and distributors: 

Surveyed schools, colleges, farmers, and distributors are all optimistic about the future of local food procurement in institutions: 

We hope this report will be useful to a variety of farm to institution stakeholders, including farmers, policy makers, non-profits, and institutions themselves. Stay tuned as we update this report to reflect new data, including the results of FINE’s 2018 Campus Dining Survey and the 2019 USDA Farm to School Census. Is there cross-sector data that you are interested in but don’t see here? Let us know in the comments! For a full list of data sources and information about response rate, please see the full report. 

You can download a PDF or JPG of this report below.