Determinants of Health

A participatory, community-driven research project aimed at cultivating healthy food connections between farms, canteens, classrooms, and communities


Current agro-industrialised food systems pose significant issues for both people and the planet and reinforce the need to build greater resilience within local food systems, in which schools can play a significant role. The distinctive nature of schools and experiential opportunities relating to food that reinforce or challenge norms relating to consumption represent an important health promotion opportunity. However, despite the opportunity, current policies designed to shift the school food environment so that they become health-enabling are linear in their approach rather than addressing the wider school food system, including the nature of the system of food flowing into the school.


Schools are part of the food system and provide a key setting to implement policies and programs that transition that area of the system to healthier social and environmental practices. One opportunity to connect schools with their local food system and improve the school food environment is ‘Farm-to-School’ programs (FTS), which include, but are not limited to, activities such as: selling fresh produce supplied by local, regional growers/producers to the school community, integrating food-based eco-literacy into the school curriculum, and growing food on school premises in a garden or farm.


FTS programs have demonstrated impacts such as raising food literacy, promoting equitable healthy fresh food consumption, strengthening local food economies and reducing environmental impact (Farm-to-School 2020). While there are a handful of programs that seek to connect farms and schools via farmer incursions and school group excursions, there are no known FTS programs in Victoria that engage in direct value chain coordination to bring food grown locally into schools. This research will provide context for a Victorian setting and lead to the establishment of a pilot FTS program in the region.


Foodways Consulting

Monash Community Health

Peninsula Health

City of Greater Bendigo

Sustainable Table

Kunyung Primary School

Heritage Farm

Open Food Network

National Farm to School Network (US)

Cardinia Food Circles

Mornington Peninsula Shire

Port Philip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority

The purpose of this research is to understand local school food systems across Victoria, and explore opportunities for Farm-to-School programs, including the testing of a pilot project and the development of a network.

The research will explore the following four food themes within schools:

  1. Food growing practices
  2. Food preparation and retail activities
  3. School food eating practices
  4. School food disposal practices, as well as the barriers and facilitators with establishing and running Farm-to-School programs

The researchers are searching for school staff currently working in primary or secondary schools located in Victoria to participate in their survey.

Click here to find out more and to register to participate in the survey.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr Sonia Nuttman