USDA Announces Support to Help Schools Purchase Local Food
Posted on 12/02/2014 at 12:00 AM by Christa Hartsook
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced more than $5 million in grants for 82 projects spanning 42 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands that support the USDA efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School Program. The program helps schools purchase more food from local farmers and ranchers in their communities, expanding access to healthy local food for school children and supporting local economies. According to USDA's first-ever Farm to School Census released earlier this year, school districts participating in farm to school programs purchased and served over $385 million in local food in school year 2011-2012, with more than half of participating schools planning to increase their purchases of local food in the future.
The announcement from USDA was made at Common Market, a pioneering food hub in Philadelphia that connects wholesale customers to farmers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Common Market is receiving a grant to support their "An Apple a Day" Program. The facility will act as a bridge between Pennsylvania Family Farms, a small Pennsylvania value-added processor, and public charter schools to provide food safety, product development, packaging, educational, marketing, planning, ordering and delivery support to farm and school food service partners.
Together, Common Market and the other selected projects will serve more than 4,800 schools and 2.8 million students, nearly 51 percent of whom live in rural communities. A few additional examples include:
- Tift County School System in Georgia will build on its current efforts to provide agriculture and nutrition programs that are experiential, educational and better connect students to local and regional food. Proposed activities include retrofitting a school bus to serve as a farm bus/rolling classroom, retrofitting a canning plant to preserve local tomatoes, and irrigating the school farm to expand the growing season and increase yield.
- Colonial School District in Delaware will have students and staff directly engaged in the entire process of planning, growing and processing foods, creating new menus, and placing healthy foods directly into school nutrition programs. At the Historic Penn Farm, high school students will grow crops for both the school's breakfast and lunch programs.
- The Inter Tribal Buffalo Council in South Dakota intends to provide locally raised tribal bison meat into the school lunch programs, procure other locally produced food products, and implement school gardens.
- The National Future Farmers of America Organization (FFA) will connect local youth producers/FFA members to school food buyers and host a series of webinars focused on developing state level partnerships.
For a complete list of FY15 Farm to School grant recipients, please visit: http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/f2s/FY_2015_Grant_Award_Summaries.pdf
USDA's 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. USDA Farm to School Conference and Event Grants support regional, state, and national conferences, events and/or trainings that have a specific emphasis on developing supply chain relationships by connecting local producers to school food buyers, along with events and trainings that provide technical assistance or other programming in the area of local procurement, food safety, culinary education and integration of agriculture-based curriculum.