Evaluation Framework

A Farm to School Evaluation Framework for Canada 

Evaluation is important. It can help us understand the effects of our work, improve our programs, and share our stories of impact. 

But it can also be complex and tough to know where to start. F2CC, with the input of over 140 individuals from diverse sectors across the country, has developed the Farm to School Evaluation Framework for Canada to inform our own evaluation work and to give school communities, as well as researchers and policy makers, some guidance on how they can measure what matters.

This framework articulates 18 outcomes, 9 high-priority policy or community level indicators and 11 high-priority indicators that people have said that they want to see measured at the school level relating to 4 impact areas: Public Health, Education, Community Economic Development and the Environment. It then shares a full list of 45 priority indicators as well as other Indicator ideas that people wanting to evaluate their programs can select from.

We see this as the first step toward a common approach to measuring and reporting the impacts of farm to school in Canada. 

Download the Evaluation Framework here

Are there any evaluation tools I can use to measure the indicators in the Framework?

This spreadsheet shares a list of the Framework’s indicators and outcomes.

Ideas for use: You might download it and add columns for comments and insights when you’re planning your own evaluation.

Outcomes & Indicators (Excel)

Staff and student surveys to measure priority indicators.

Ideas for use: Adapt either of these survey templates to measure the framework’s priority indicators.

Staff and student surveys (Word) Staff and student surveys (PDF)

This tool can be useful to track the ingredients used in your meal service each day/week and can help you calculate the percentage of local food you’re purchasing.

Food Tracking (Word) Food Tracking (Excel)

Sharing Evaluation Tools to Support Farm to School Programs

Roots to Harvest:   webinar   |   toolkit 

Growing Chefs! Ontario: webinar   |   toolkit

The Station Food Company: webinar   |   toolkit

Why is it useful to have a Farm to School Evaluation Framework for Canada?

Farm to School initiatives are being adopted with great enthusiasm across Canada because of their potential to improve student nutrition and food literacy while contributing to vibrant sustainable regional food systems, climate change mitigation and Indigenous food sovereignty. Farm to school programs use a cross-sectoral approach to aim to transform the systems that influence how students eat and learn about food at school. 

Farm to School is a relatively new approach in Canada, and literature on the topic is limited as compared to the US. Farm to school efforts in Canada to date have focused on developing programs, and not as much on research.

In 2014, the US National Farm to School Network undertook a collaborative process to develop a cross-sectoral Evaluation Framework for farm to school to guide practice, research and policy development for the growing field. The results of this process included the articulation of a series of priority outcomes, measures and indicators that could be tracked at the program, research and policy levels, as well as the development of the US Benefits of Farm to School fact sheet that shares the positive impacts of farm to school that have been documented through research. 

To date Canada has developed an emerging map of the Canadian farm to school landscape, released a handful of peer reviewed journal articles about various aspects of farm to school plus some grey literature as documented in Benefits of Farm to School: Evidence in Canada. We have also articulated emerging empirical evidence of how farm to school initiatives in Canada align with the new Canada’s Food Guide.  

Given Canada’s unique context F2CC has seen that; there would be great benefit from the development of an Evaluation Framework for Farm to School in Canada to enable practitioners, researchers and policy makers to better articulate, track, measure and communicate the impacts of the farm to school approach.

What was the process of developing the framework?

The process to develop this framework was launched at F2CC’s May 2019 National Farm to School Conference and ended in April 2021. The bulk of the work to develop the framework took place from August 2020 – March 2021 using a modified Delphi method process. 

The framework’s bilingual Delphi method process began by inviting individuals from a wide variety of sectors, including academics, government representatives, public health professionals, teachers and administrators, local food providers, community partners, and other representatives that are involved in farm to school or related initiatives across the country, to self-select to participate in the process. Those who registered were invited to contribute to 3 surveys and 4 thematic virtual discussions over the 8-month period. 

More about the process is shared in Appendix B of the framework. You can also check out the full set of reference guides and reports from the Delphi method process here:

What will be some of F2CC’s next steps to support farm to school evaluation in Canada?

We plan to continue to collaborate with others to identify, adapt, develop and share useful evaluation tools including the following resources: 

  • Validated measurement tools and sample assessment strategies for priority indicators.
  • Framework toolkits or packages that are geared to specific audiences, e.g. a practical evaluation toolkit for a teacher to use to measure the priority outcomes that can be assessed at a classroom level. This could include guides for different audiences on how to use the framework and what indicators might apply to their context. This might include discussion about how these different audiences can communicate the evaluation results. 
  • Program articulation resources (such as spreadsheet matrices, logic models and theory of change development guides) to help program administrators, evaluators, researchers and grant administrators prioritize which outcomes and indicators they would like to focus on to achieve their specific goals.
  • Evaluation primers and considerations including how to bring health equity impact assessment or gender based analysis into the design stage of a program and in evaluation efforts.
  • Tools to support the documentation and sharing of stories to assess and communicate some of the more complex but important concepts in this framework. 
  • Scoring features to help school communities determine whether their farm to school program meets their specific goals and how they could improve on their program (e.g. does it provide adequate access to healthy food, is it culturally responsive). 
  • Research priorities and questions. 
  • Resources to inform how to develop program goals, activities and strategies with the framework’s outcomes and indicators in mind. This can include approaches on how programs can expand so that they can impact multiple farm to school impact areas.
  • Examples of quality institutional policies
  • Statements of barriers and opportunities that policy makers can act upon.
  • How the framework’s outcomes and indicators align with public health, agri-food and other sector targets so that measurement can support multiple strategies.
  • An initiative for Canada to share metrics and data among organizations with complementary mandates, similar to the US’ National Farm to Institution Metrics Collaborative 
  • Evaluation training opportunities

The development of this evaluation framework has been an initiative of the Farm to School: Canada Digs In! partnership: