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The objective of the USDA Farm-to-School program is to promote the understanding and use of local food in school education and meals. The hope is that by reconnecting students with how food is raised and purchasing the product from local producers it will increase nutrition and reduce food insecurity and obesity among students while simultaneously increasing economic activity for local producers. Most studies evaluating the federal program have focused on how the economic outcomes for local producers or student related health outcomes and primarily using fresh fruits and vegetables. Fundamental to either of these outcomes is understanding the schools’ demand for local products. Yet is known about how schools make tradeoffs between local food products to meet federally mandated nutritional minimum requirements. Thus, this paper analyzes the demand of local meat products from US public schools using state-level self-reported local food expenditure in public schools. Using the Almost Ideal Demand System model, we estimate uncompensated and compensated elasticities for local meat products assuming separability between local and non-local meat products. Overall, we find that estimated elasticities are larger in magnitude than previously estimated consumer elasticities for conventional non-local meat products but of a similar magnitude to consumer elasticities for local meat products. We use these results to draw conclusions about the economic impacts of local foods and economic policies that are aimed at increasing rural economic prosperity.
Advisors: Elliott J. Dennis and Azzeddine M. Azzam