Congratulations to four Farm to School projects in Illinois who are among 176 grantees in 45 states receiving support from U.S. Department of Agriculture! USDA invested $12 million in Farm to School Grants this year, the most projects funded since the program began in 2013.
USDA also released new data demonstrating the recent growth of farm to school efforts nationwide. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of school districts and/or local entities responsible for school meals participated in farm to school activities during school year 2018-2019, more than half (57%) of which began within the past three years.
In school year 2018-2019, school districts purchased nearly $1.3 billion in local fruits, vegetables, and other foods, totaling approximately 20% of all school food purchases.
Farm to school efforts introduce more locally grown produce into school cafeterias and expose children to agriculture and nutrition education through hands-on learning. They also provide reliable revenue for American farmers, directly boosting the local economy.
Here are the Illinois farm to school grantees:
Academy for Global Citizenship – $50,000
The Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) is preparing for the transition to a future six-acre campus in Southwest Chicago where they will significantly expand organic food production through three greenhouses, ten hoop houses, a learning barn, food forest, community gardens and orchard. Once in place, this will continue to enrich the learning opportunities of AGC students through their unique whole-child approach focused on sustainability and wellness.
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District – $47,558
The Central Illinois city of Urbana is home to Urbana School District 116 (USD 116), which has students that represent over 50 countries and speak over 40 different languages at home. What better way to bring these students together and enhance their socioemotional development, as well as academic achievement, than through edible school gardening. Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, in partnership with Sola Gratia Farm and USD116, will target the roughly 2,000 students in grades K-8 who attend USD116 schools that have no edible gardening spaces, and a student population in which 71-85% qualify for free or reduced price lunch. The goal is to get all USD116 students on a level playing field by installing edible gardens at the four schools lacking them, and then build on that foundation to develop and implement a comprehensive, district-wide farm to school program.
Fit-2-Serve, Inc. – $39,877
Fit-2-Serve will facilitate the development of curriculum and delivery working with a team of teachers, university personnel and students and community residents as they seek to move agricultural lessons delivered in the classroom out and into the community. Currently, Fit-2-Serve is in the process of developing longitudinal service-learning experiences for youth grades K-5. K-2 grade youth who attend three elementary schools in the county will be the target audience for agriculture based learning activities. University students enrolled in Agriculture Education at Lakeland College and in the College of Education at Eastern Illinois University will be invited to assist with curriculum development and delivery. Additionally, vested community volunteers will work with the organization as they seek to move the ag-based lessons delivered in the classroom out and into the community.
Pilot Light – $42,627
Pilot Light will leverage 10 years of experience in lesson development, its many partnerships, and its existing online platform to create lessons that connect students with food, develop food-related competencies, and deliver agricultural education in an engaging way. Lessons will be developed by Pilot Light’s Director of Education, a curriculum specialist who was Principal Investigator on a 2018 Farm to School Implementation grant. Lessons will address Common Core academic and Food Education Standards and will be accompanied by videos – filmed at established partners like The Roof Crop, Mighty Vine, Herban Produce – that serve as engaging teaching tools to promote curriculum adoption. Lessons and videos will be disseminated via a cohort of 15 Food Education Fellows who lead food education lessons weekly, and to a national audience via Pilot Light’s online Food Education Center. Lessons will also be shared with partners, including Chicago Public Schools and the Urban School Food Alliance.