Some things deserve a second act. Last year, we told you about the Farm to School grants from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is such a beneficial program, we believe that it is worth featuring again. Not only does it encourage healthy eating in a positive, holistic way, it strengthens communities, teaches respect for nature, and infuses millions of dollars into local economies. A win-win situation for everyone involved, no wonder it is worthy of perennial attention.
The Farm to School Grant Program
The Farm to School Program helps incorporate locally grown agricultural products into school menus, and nutrition awareness with hands-on activities into school curricula. Funding is provided for 3 types of grants:
- Planning Grants – help entities plan and learn about best practices from the start.
- Implementation Grants – provide resources to further develop existing farm to school initiatives.
- Training Grants - support training that strengthens farm to school supply chains, or technical assistance in areas such as local food procurement, food safety, culinary education, and the incorporation of agriculture-based curriculum in the classroom.
In addition, this year's priorities include projects that reach more than one school and projects were 40% or more children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Produce That Produces
The second national USDA Farm to School Census conducted in 2015 quantified some of the program's successes:
- 42% of school districts (23.6 million children) surveyed participate in farm to school activities.
- Two thirds of districts reported positive impacts, including increased community involvement, a greater acceptance of school lunches, lower meal costs, and less waste.
- $792 million went into local economies in the 2013-14 school year.
- 17,000 salad bars were established in schools.
- One out of every three districts involved preschoolers in the program.
- One out of every four districts used local food for summer menus.
Applying for the Farm to School Program
Eligible applicants include Native American tribes, state and local governments, schools and school districts, agricultural producers, and nonprofits. Visit the resource page for comprehensive information on everything you need to get started, from webinars on effective applications, to farm to school planning kits, to local food procurement guides. Applications are due December 8, 2017.
- Visit our previous post "The Farm to School Grant Program 2017 - Digging Your Veggies" to see examples of past winners and access a link to more grants for school gardens.
- Watch the USDA video "Healthy Habits Take Root - Farm to School Impacts" to hear what those involved in the program have to say. (And to find out which taste tantalizing vegetable kids describe as "sweet dirt!")