The U.S. Department of Agriculture has selected several projects to receive grants designed to increase the number of local foods served in schools.
Nationwide, sixty-five projects were selected.
In a press release, Deputy Administrator for Child Nutrition Programs at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, Cindy Long said, “increasing the amount of local foods in America’s schools is a win-win for everyone.”
Long went on to say, “farm to school projects foster healthy eating habits among America’s school-age children and local economies are nourished, as well, when schools buy the food they provide from local producers.”
The USDA Farm to School Census in 2015 suggests schools with strong farm to school programs actually report higher school meal participation, reduced food waste and an increase in willingness of students to try new foods.
Reports also indicate that in the 2013-2014 school year alone, schools purchased more than $789 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food processors and manufacturers.
The USDA notes 47 percent of those districts plan to purchase even more local foods in future school years.
As part of the grant program, recipients will receive amounts ranging from $14,500 to $100,000. A total of $5 million will be distributed to schools, state agencies, tribal groups and nonprofit organizations.
The money will be used to help fund farm to school planning, implementation and/or training.
More specifically, grant dollars can be used to create new menu items, establish supply chains for local foods, offer taste tests to children, to buy equipment, plant school gardens and to organize field trips to agricultural operations.
Projects are located in a variety of areas including urban, suburban and rural communities in 42 states and Puerto Rico.
Officials estimate the programs serve more than 5,500 schools and two million students.
Directly from the press release: “Grantees include the Nebraska Department of Education, which will refine and expand the “Nebraska Thursdays” program, which will focus on increasing locally sourced meals throughout Nebraska schools, and the Virginia Department of Education, which will focus on network building to ensure stakeholders from all different sectors are leveraged. Both the South Dakota Department of Education and the Arkansas Agriculture Department will use training grants to build capacity and knowledge about the relationship between Community Food Systems and Child Nutrition Programs. More information on individual projects can be found on the USDA Office of Community Food Systems’ website .”