Metrics Collaborative

Good Food, Good Data, Big Impact

About the National Farm to Institution Metrics Collaborative

We are a group of national Farm to Institution leaders dedicated to developing best practices for measuring the impact of the institutional market across the supply chain. Our nation-wide, multi-sector collaborative seeks to develop a common set of food procurement metrics, benchmarks, and best-practices for institutional dining and food service that promote the health and resilience of their community’s economic, ecological, and social systems.

Now in its fourth year, the Collaborative has over 100 members from 30 states, representing the country’s leaders in farm to institution work. Through quarterly calls, occasional in-person meetings, presentations at national conferences, and an active listserv, members of the Collaborative share resources (reports, research), tools (surveys, data capture tools), and foundational FTI metrics terminology.

The ultimate aim of the Collaborative is to codify the more-than-financial values associated with ‘local’ food into a replicable set of metrics that support meaningful tracking, benchmarking, and impact measurement across institutions and the nation.

Meet the Collaborative

The National Farm to Institution Metrics Collaborative consists of over 100 members from 30 states at municipal, county, multi-county, state, regional, and national levels. On this map, green states are those containing members of the group. New members are welcome from all states!

Shared Metrics and Collaborative Research

The Issue we have identified

Good metrics inform strategy and lead to more targeted and effective programming, and establish baselines which allow organizations to benchmark success. Metrics are a valuable tool in making the case for farm to institution activity to policy makers and funders, and they inspire those on the ground to meet specific goals.

While member organizations are tracking a variety of metrics around the impact of institutions on the economy, the environment, and the health of our communities, there is currently no shared set of Farm to Institution (FTI) metrics which has made it difficult to measure, promote, and advance these efforts.

What we’re doing about it

Recognizing that codifying the many values of ‘local’ food is a complicated project, the very first step of our collaborative is to explore the Farm Impact dimension of local food. By beginning with farm-impact metrics, this project will lay a foundation for future metrics development while also solving a timely need for coordination and standardizing of farm-impact metrics across institutions and agencies.

Pilot Project 2019-2020

In the fall of 2019, the National Farm to Institution Collaborative launched a 1-year pilot project, sponsored by USDA AMS, to identify key farm impact metrics that can be used by farm to institution practitioners across the country. Through this project our consortium of farm to institution leaders from across the supply chain has identified the following metrics: 

Head over to the tools and resources section to dig into these metrics and learn more about how to implement them into your own work.

2019-2020 Pilot Project

In the fall of 2019, the National Farm to Institution Collaborative launched a 1-year pilot project, sponsored by USDA AMS, to identify key farm impact metrics that can be used by farm to institution practitioners across the country.

Through this project our consortium of farm to institution leaders from across the supply chain:
  • 1
    Developed 6 metrics to measure farm impact in a way that generates relevant and meaningful data.
  • 2
    Shared and refined those metrics with stakeholders from across the country.
  • 3
    Created a suite of tools and protocols for easily tracking these metrics

Our Vision for Project Impact

  • The metrics will harmonize F2I data capture and reporting across institution types
  • Our steering committee members, who represent thousands of Farm to Institution programs across the nation, will integrate our Farm Impact metrics into their efforts, and promote adoption of these metrics to all their stakeholders
  • Our federal partners will integrate these metrics into the design and implementation of their research and programming efforts.
  • Farm to institution stakeholders, including institutions, food service management companies, food distributors (broadline and specialty), and data management service providers will adopt these metrics as they see the value harmonized metrics have in benchmarking, reporting, and measuring the impact of F2I programs

Pilot Steering Committee

The Collaborative Pilot Steering Committee is leading the 2019-2020 pilot project (see more information below). Collaborative member organizations are geographically diverse and represent a variety of institutional sectors. Members of the Collaborative Steering Committee have wide reaching networks and are committed to connecting those networks to this project.

Lilian Brislen, Executive Director, Food Connection at the University of Kentucky 

Julie Brewer, Director of the Office Of Community Food Systems, USDA Food and Nutrition Service 

Ashley Chaifetz, Social Science Research Analyst, USDA Food and Nutrition Service 

Hannah Leighton, Research and Evaluation Manager, Farm to Institution New England 

Colleen Matts, Farm to Institution Specialist, Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems

Colleen McKinney, Director of Engagement, Center for Good Food Purchasing 

Jeff O’Hara, Agricultural Marketing Specialist, USDA AMS 

Emma Sirois, Associate Director, Associate Director, Healthy Food in Health Care Program and Health Care Without Harm 

Lacy Stephens, Program Manager, National Farm to School Network 

Nora Stewart, Food Systems Program Manager, CHIP’s Farm to Institution Center

Tina White, Program Coordinator, Real Food Generation 

Tools and Resources

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Why is it important for institutions to have consistent, trackable metrics? 

Metrics allow us to clearly define the terms of what does and does not count as a local purchase and understand the impacts of those purchases. Using consistent metrics means you can track progress over time and ultimately ease barriers for local/regional food sourcing. You can’t hit a target you haven’t identified – metrics help you tell a meaningful story, demonstrate impact, and identify barriers so they can be broken down!

Why should we all agree on the SAME set of metrics? 

Shared metrics allow us to evaluate and compare progress, challenges, and impact across sectors and regions; they allow for more consistency and transparency in reporting; they allow us to learn from others in the farm to institution world, and they support strategic development of regional value chains.  Standardized metrics also reduce the costs on distributors in tracking them, which makes it more likely they will do so! 

How did you land on these metrics? Who was involved in developing this suite?

The Collaborative Pilot Steering Committee is leading the 2019-2020 shared metrics project. Members of the Collaborative Steering Committee have wide reaching networks and are committed to connecting those networks to this project. A literature review, interviews with steering committee members, discussions with the full collaborative, and a full day bootcamp with national stakeholders yielded several metrics that address the interests of FTI organizations and leaders, respond to current challenges and gaps, and provide greater context, nuance, and detail about the impact of Farm to Institution. 

Hold on.  What is the “Collaborative”?

The Collaborative consists of FTI organizations across the U.S. working together to increase the measurement and evaluation of Farm to Institution programming.  Please visit for more information and to join our listserv or quarterly calls! 

So tell us already, what are the metrics? 

Business type: Type and Location of Business that produced the FINAL PRODUCT  Ownership: Is the business woman or minority-owned? Farm impact: Percentage of the item that consisted of ingredients sourced from farm(s) within the local region Farm identity: Does the item contain any local farm sourced ingredients that are identity-preserved (can be traced back to the original farm)? Product type: What is the food category? Market Channel: How was the item purchased?  

How should I define “local” when using these metrics?

There is currently no standardized definition of “local” used by farm to institution stakeholders across the country, but this does not mean we cannot use standardized metrics. For the purposes of this project, the Collaborative is not advocating for a shared definition of local but rather encourages all FTI stakeholders to establish a definition of local and use it consistently when tracking purchases. 

Why don’t I see any metrics around environmental sustainability or labor? 

While we recognize that the benefits of farm to institution are wide, we have focused on identifying farm impact metrics initially. We believe that this is a good place to start as institutions purchasing local food are likely already doing some tracking around these metrics and distributors are more likely to be able to provide the relevant data. It is our hope that future phases of this project will address additional metrics around environmental sustainability, fair labor, animal welfare, and other important indicators of a resilient food system. 

How should I track these metrics and where do I find the data? 

We have created an easy to use template for tracking these metrics, a protocol guide for using the template, and a short video walking you through the process. 

Can I track a few of these metrics but not all of them? 

These metrics are meant to be treated as an integrated suite that can adequately assess the economic impact of Farm to institution purchasing on food and farm-related enterprises. The composite portrait provides a more holistic picture of Farm to institution programs beyond the traditional local vs. non-local coding. That being said, we understand that these data is not always easy to access and it is our goal to normalize information sharing across the supply chain so these data can be efficiently collected. In the meantime, we ask that you do your best to track the full suite and keep us posted if you are finding some of these metrics more difficult to track than others. 

How can I share my experience in using them? 

We would love to know who is using these metrics.  These metrics are a pilot, and if you end up using them we would love to hear from you about your experience.  Please reach out to us to share both positive and negative feedback! You can email Lilian Brislen at

What if I’m already tracking institutional purchases towards another set of standards like Real Food Challenge or the Good Food Purchasing Standards? 

The metrics are compatible with existing national standards like the Real Food Standards, the Good Food Purchasing Standards and the Health Care Without Harm/Practice Greenhealth Food Purchasing Standard. The organizations who maintain those Standards were part of the steering committee for this project. Information collected from distributors on these metrics can be provided directly to the organization with which you work on your purchasing evaluation and may serve as the basis for further research or verification as it pertains to those definitions for local sourcing. Other national Standards may have additional metrics they ask you to track based on values other than local.

Tracking template and reporting calculator

Metrics in Action

Here are just a few examples of how Collaborative members are piloting the metrics across the country!

Green Umbrella’s Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council (GCRFPC) is using the metrics to help evaluate the effectiveness of farm to institution policies, programs and activities in our region. GCRFPC is working with regional institutional buyers and value chain partners to pilot the metrics in order to consistently collect, analyze and share data on our local food system. The farm impact metrics will help identify regional best practices that can be celebrated and shared to increase the overall impact of Farm to Institution programs and anchor institutions both locally and nationwide.

Farm Fare is a tech-enabled platform that provides regional food hubs with a seamless way to collaborate with one another to better serve institutional customers. Farm Fare has built the pilot metrics into our software to simultaneously collect farm impact metrics as each transaction occurs. This allows hubs to easily synthesize and report on their efforts to support farmers. Application of this is first being piloted with a food hub network in the Northwest (Puget Sound Food Hub, LINC Foods and Western Montana Growers Cooperative.)

The Northwest Food Hub Network connects regional producers and local institutions throughout the inland Northwest (from Seattle, WA to Missoula, MT) who are practicing values-based procurement and/or local purchasing. The farm impact metrics are being collected for each partner food hub and shared with institutions to help them understand and measure the true value of the products they will buy, something that has been a persistent hurdle in increasing the number and size of these purchases.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Farm to Fork (CDFA-F2F) plans to integrate some of the metrics into the reporting procedure for the 2021 California Farm to School Incubator Grant Program, which the state launched as a pilot program this year. The grant will provide funding for school districts to increase their procurement of whole or minimally processed California grown or produced foods, and to integrate farm to school education with procurement programs. School districts that receive grant funding will submit regular procurement invoices to CDFA-F2F for reimbursement; the invoices will include some of the farm impact metrics so that CDFA-F2F can gather data to tell a meaningful story of Farm to School procurement across the state, demonstrate impact, and identify barriers.

Farm to Institution New England (FINE) is piloting the metrics with colleges and universities through our new campus tracking tool and data center. The data center will replace past surveys and streamline the process for collecting data, generating reports, and viewing progress over time. FINE is working with colleges to support better tracking using a modified version of the Metrics Collaborative tracking system. This tracking tool will allow colleges to track purchases using the farm impact metrics as well as a variety of other values-based metrics.

The Food Connection at the University of Kentucky is working with our food service management company, Aramark and technology partner Farm Logix to embed the metrics into our invoices and tracking system. We have developed a custom database that archives metrics classifications for known items, generates YTD reports for local procurement key performance indicators, and identifies newly claimed items for classification.

Sustainable Food Center, Kitchen Sync Strategies, and Manor Independent School District are piloting the farm impact metrics over the next two years. The pilot will look at implementation in a mid-sized peri-urban school district.

The UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) in partnership with REAP Food Group are collaborating to pilot the metrics with Madison Metropolitan School District, the second largest school district in the state. The pilot will start with applying the metrics to 2018-2019 school year purchasing data to establish a pre-COVID baseline, followed by more current analysis.

The West Virginia University Office of Health Affairs is using the farm impact metrics to review institutional investment by hospitals through their community health needs assessments and Community Health Improvement Programs. The goal is to demonstrate the impact these community food programs have in increasing access to healthy, nutritious food as well as the overall impact on our shared agricultural system. We hope to make it easier for hospitals and institutions to be in compliance with our state local food procurement law of buying 5%, and to change buying methods from just filling a salad bar, to engaging in a way that builds food sovereignty in communities.

Join Us!

The full collaborative has an active listserv and quarterly calls that are open to anyone working in the FTI metrics space. If you’d like to learn more about the work we do, join the listserv, or hear more about the 1-year pilot project, please fill out this form.

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