USDA is making up to $5 million in grants available to create or strengthen farm to school programs. 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 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 Dec. 8, 2016. On Sept. 29, at 1 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.