I just spent the morning calling people who had applied to receive a USDA Farm to School grant. They were fun calls to make as I was letting this year’s awardees know their project had been selected for funding.
Today USDA announced awards for 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia that support USDA’s efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School program.
USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes. Selected projects will serve more than 13,000 schools and 2.8 million students, nearly 45 percent of whom live in rural communities. Projects are diverse:
- Sustain Floyd Foundation in Floyd, Virginia, will expand existing farm to school programs to all schools in Floyd County, and develop and implement promotional campaigns in support of farm to school initiatives while creating a model for rural communities that face particular challenges in food procurement and experiential food-based education. The project will also install a central food storage facility and hydroponic winter growing system.
- Alaska Gateway School District in Tok, Alaska, will enhance an existing greenhouse and garden project to increase on-site food production, as well as work with an agricultural consultant to maximize quality and quantity of food production during Alaska’s short growing season.
- FirstLine Schools Inc. with Edible Schoolyard New Orleans in New Orleans, Louisiana, will expand existing efforts to connect urban kindergarteners and their families to local food sources through healthy, locally procured cafeteria meals and hands-on gardening and cooking activities.
- The New York Botanical Garden in New York, New York, will integrate school gardening activities with hands-on workshops that are complemented by nutrition education, standards-based curricula, and farmer’s market exercises. The project will also offer professional development for teachers and workshops for parents and administrators.
- Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska, will train farmers and school food service personnel in farm product safety and usage, provide individual farm to school facilitation for ten pilot schools, and raise awareness of farm to school to lay the foundation for future expansion in Nebraska.
For a complete list of FY14 Farm to School grant recipients, please see: http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/FY_2014_Grant_Award_Summaries.pdf.
Without exception, people on the receiving end of my calls told me I’d made their day and thanked me profusely. USDA is very pleased to be supporting these projects. We know all the credit goes to the award recipients and we thank them for all the great work in improving the health and nutrition of the nation’s children.
Editor’s Note: USDA recently released the results of the first-ever Farm to School Census, which showed that in school year 2011-2012, school districts purchased and served over $350 million in local food, with more than half of participating schools planning to purchase more local foods in the future. School districts that missed the opportunity earlier in the year to respond can submit information regarding farm to school practices through November 30, 2013.