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Which schools receive state-level support for local food purchases? Evidence from reimbursement incentive programs in Michigan and Oregon

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2022

Jeffrey K. O'Hara*
US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, Washington, DC, USA
Becca B. R. Jablonski
Agricultural & Resource Economics, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
Zoë T. Plakias
Agricultural, Environmental, & Development Economics, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA
Author for correspondence: Jeffrey K. O'Hara, E-mail:


State-level reimbursement programs are increasingly being used to incentivize procurement of local foods by US K-12 school food authorities (SFAs), which are schools or school districts that administer a food service program. However, few studies have explored the characteristics of SFAs that are associated with applying for and receiving reimbursement incentives. We consider reimbursement incentive programs in two states, Oregon and Michigan. In 2018–2019, the school year we study, Oregon used an opt-in model in which all SFAs were eligible to receive reimbursement incentives. In contrast, Michigan used a competitive funding model in which only some SFAs were eligible to apply and only some SFAs that applied received support. Using data from the Farm to School Census, as well as data from the two states' Departments of Education, we estimate discrete choice regressions to explore the factors that are associated with SFAs' application for and receipt of these reimbursement incentives. We find that SFAs that opted into Oregon's procurement program are larger, in metropolitan areas, and more likely to purchase fruits and vegetables locally. Thus, the reimbursement incentives are directed toward SFAs with characteristics that complement F2S program development, instead of SFAs with greater structural impediments. In Michigan, we find that SFAs with past F2S experience and community support for F2S were the most likely to apply for reimbursement incentives. However, conditional on applying, the SFAs most likely to receive funding in Michigan were those located in rural areas, more likely to source meat and seafood locally, and more likely to source directly from producers. Thus, Michigan's support, which was more budget constrained, appeared to target SFAs with distance-based challenges and non-traditional procurement strategies.

Research Paper
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Dr O'Hara is currently employed at USDA's Office of the Chief Economist, although his contributions to this manuscript occurred when he was employed at USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.


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