National Program Continues to Increase Access to Local Foods in Schools and Provide New Economic Opportunities for a Variety of Producers
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the release of a request for applications for the third round of USDA’s Farm to School grants, including the addition of a new funding track. These grants help eligible schools improve the health and wellbeing of their students and connect with local agricultural producers.
“Connecting American farmers and ranchers with the National School Lunch Program provides schoolchildren with daily access to locally sourced, healthy foods,” said Vilsack. “These Farm to School grants will help schools respond to the growing demand for local foods and increase market opportunities for many types of food producers.”
Three different kinds of grants will be available, as well as a separate funding track to support trainings and events. Planning grants are intended for schools just getting started on farm to school activities. Implementation grants are available for schools seeking to augment or expand existing efforts. Additionally, eligible non-profit entities, Indian tribal organizations, state and local agencies, and agriculture producers or groups of producers may apply for support service grants in order to conduct trainings, create complementary curriculum, or further develop supply chains, among other activities. Proposals are due at 11:59 p.m. EST, April 30, 2014.
New in FY 2015, USDA funds will be made available to support meetings, trainings, and events intended to strengthen farm to school supply chains or provide technical assistance. The Training and Event funds range from $15,000 – $50,000. USDA expects to distribute approximately $500,000 in additional funds to support at least one statewide or regional meeting in all seven FNS regions and at least one national conference. Letters of Intent are due at 11:59 p.m. EST, April 2, 2014.
To assist eligible entities in preparing proposals, USDA will host a series of webinars related to the application process:
- March 11, 2014, 1:00 EST – Planning Grants
- March 12, 2014, 1:00 EST – Implementation Grants
- March 13, 2014, 1:00 EST – Support Service Grants
- March 14, 2014, 1:00 EST – Training and Event Funding Track
The Farm to School Grant Program is a cornerstone of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department’s work on local and regional foods. The grant program was initiated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), which authorized and funded USDA to assist eligible entities, through grants and technical assistance, in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. The Act provides $5 million annually to support grants, technical assistance, and the federal administrative costs related to USDA’s Farm to School Program. In this funding cycle, USDA anticipates awarding up to $5 million in HHFKA grant funding and an additional $500,000 in program funds to support training and events.
USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food. Data show that the vast majority of schools around the country are successfully meeting the new meal standards.
- Last month, USDA awarded $11 million in grants to help schools purchase needed equipment to make preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.
- USDA awarded $5.6 million in grants in FY2013 to provide training and technical assistance for child nutrition foodservice professionals and support stronger school nutrition education programs, and plans to award additional grants in FY 2014.
- USDA’s MyPlate symbol and the resources at ChooseMyPlate.gov provide quick, easy reference tools for teachers, parents, healthcare professionals and communities. Schools across the country are using the MyPlate symbol to enhance their nutrition education efforts.
Collectively, these policies and actions will help combat child hunger and obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation’s children. This is a top priority for the Obama Administration and is an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to combat the challenge of childhood obesity.