The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that up to $5 million in grant funds is available to help schools create or strengthen farm to school programs this school year. Administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, these annual, competitive grants will help further USDA efforts to increase locally sourced foods in America’s school meals.
“Bringing the bounty of America’s farms into schools and onto breakfast and lunch trays is one of the best ways we can ensure students are receiving nutritious and delicious meals at school,” said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food Nutrition and Consumer Services. “Supporting these programs through the annual Farm to School Grants is a win-win for America’s schools, farmers, producers, communities, and children.”
Farm to school programs help form healthy habits and support local economies. The local foods offered through farm to school programs help school meal programs fulfill the updated school nutrition standards with appealing and diverse offerings. According to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, schools with robust farm to school programs report reductions in food waste, higher school meal participation rates, and increased willingness of the students to try new foods, notably fruits and vegetables. In addition, in school year 2013-2014 alone, schools purchased more than $789 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers.
USDA’s Farm to School Grants make these outcomes possible by funding school districts, state and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations, agricultural producers, and non-profit organizations in their efforts to increase local foods served through child nutrition programs, teach children about food and agriculture through garden and classroom education, and develop schools’ and farmers’ capacities to participate in farm to school. The funds may be used for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs.
The Farm to School Grant Program was authorized in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. To date, USDA has funded 300 projects in all 50 states, DC, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since its inception in FY2013, more than $20 million has been awarded through the Farm to School Grant Program. This year, awards ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 will be distributed in four different grant categories: Planning, Implementation, Support Service, and Training. Applications are due on grants.gov by December 8, 2016. On Thursday, September 29, at 1:00 p.m. EST, USDA will host a webinar to review the RFA and assist eligible entities in preparing proposals. Visit the grants homepage for more information and to register for the webinar.
Supporting farm to school programs is part of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) Initiative, which coordinates the Department’s work to develop strong local and regional food systems. Over the course of the Obama Administration, USDA has invested close to $1 billion in 40,000 local food-related projects on farms and in communities across the country. You can find local and regional supply chain resources on the newly-revamped KYF2 website and use the KYF2 Compass to locate USDA investments in your community. More information on how USDA investments are connecting producers with consumers, expanding rural economic opportunities, and increasing access to healthy food is available in Chapter IV of USDA Results on Medium.
For more information on how to apply for FY 2017 funding, visit the grant opportunities page. For lists of previously funded projects and summary reports of awards made in FY 2013-2016, visit the grant awards page. A full list of this year’s grantees will be posted online once the selection is announced in spring 2017.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that include the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the Summer Food Service Program. Together, these programs comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.