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Let’s Move Farmers to Schools!

First-hand experiences with agriculture are a key component of farm to school programs.

First-hand experiences with agriculture are a key component of farm to school programs.

Webinar Offers More Details on USDA Grants to Connect Schools and Local Producers

I’ve always thought the Let’s Move! initiative does an exceptional job of including everyone in the challenge of creating a healthier generation of kids. On the agriculture side, I’m pleased to say there’s a long list of folks eager to contribute: farmers, ranchers, fishermen, dairies, food processors, manufacturers, distributors and many others.

USDA operates what’s known as a ‘farm to school’ program. At first blush, you’d think it was just about farmers. But as with the big tent pitched by Let’s Move!, farm to school programs are inclusive of all types of agriculture. We know that kids are increasingly disconnected from where their food comes and often have no first-hand experience of agriculture, in all its varied forms.

We aim to change that.

In USDA’s vision, school cafeterias championing U.S. agriculture and proudly promoting regionally sourced foods that meet or exceed school nutrition standards will one day be the norm, not the exception. We hope to see regional offerings, and therefore economic opportunities for U.S. food producers, span the school meal tray and include everything from the salad bar and fresh fruit and vegetable servings to the wheat in the pizza crust, beans in the chili, rice in the stir fry, turkey in the sandwiches, and cheese in the quesadillas.

In addition to the economic impacts of farm to school programs, USDA is equally interested in the health impacts. We want to help people connect the dots between agriculture and health and better understand where their food comes from. One of the best ways to do that at an early age is to introduce kids to a farmer, or have them tend a school garden so they can see for themselves how a seed grows into a plant that produces healthy fruits and vegetables. As we struggle with obesity and associated diet related diseases, farm to school programs give us a viable tool to help children make lifelong healthy eating choices.

To help ensure this vision becomes a reality, USDA is offering two types of farm to school grants:  Planning grants and Implementation grants.  Planning grants will be made available to schools just getting started on farm to school activities, while Implementation grants are intended for schools, State and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations, agricultural producers and producer groups, and nonprofit organizations ready to take existing farm to school projects to the next level.

Letters of Intent are suggested but not required by May 18, 2012, while proposals are due June 15, 2012. To assist eligible entities in preparing proposals, USDA will host a webinar related to Implementation grants on May 15th at 3:00 pm EST and a webinar related to Planning grants on May 17th at 1:00 pm EST.

You must register for the webinars to participate. For more information on webinars, the farm to school grant program, or USDA’s farm to school efforts in general, please visit the USDA Farm to School website.

3 Responses to “Let’s Move Farmers to Schools!”

  1. John Overstreet says:

    I unerstand and fully back the Farm to School programs. My question is this, beyond the initial set up grants how are schools expected to pay for the local produce? It is obvious that local, fresh products cost vastly more than the swill that schools are forced to purchase for our children.

  2. howard brosius says:

    please register me for the 3pm webinar today

  3. Rebecca [USDA Moderator] says:

    Thanks for your comment John.

    The good news is that schools are increasingly finding ways to bring in more locally and regionally sourced foods, and all within their school food budgets. As but just a few examples, some are accessing local fruits and vegetables through the DOD Fresh Program, others are using the geographic preference rule in their bids, and still others are forming forward contracts with producers or enjoying economies of scale by working with food hubs. There are so many innovative strategies in place and developing right now. You might also be interested in a new report from USDA called “Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It Depends on How you Measure the Price.”

    All best,
    Deborah

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