November 14, 2012
On November 14, USDA announced the recipients of the first-ever round of Farm to School Grants. The awards span 68 projects in 37 States and the District of Columbia and total $4.5 million in funding.
The Farm to School Grant Program provides competitive grants to schools, nonprofits, state and local agencies, agricultural producers, and Indian tribal organizations to increase local food procurement for school meal programs and to expand educational agriculture and gardening activities. There are two types of awards: planning grants for doing the homework needed in advance of starting a farm to school program and implementation grants to start or advance an existing program. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) worked with the National Farm to School Network and other partners to win a total of $40 million in mandatory funding for the new program in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Congratulations to the six NSAC members who received grants!
Farm to School by the Numbers
As of 2010, every state in the US has at least one farm to school program, however the exact number of programs is currently unknown. A new Farm to School Census being administered by USDA will soon reveal this much-needed data. We do know that with over 14,000 school districts throughout the country, there are many communities still to benefit from farm to school programming.
Demonstrating the demand for farm to school programs and the eventual need for additional funding for the grant program, USDA received 365 applications – 230 for implementation grants and 135 for planning grants – but is only able to fund a total of 18.6 percent of proposed projects. The largest numbers of applicants were schools (208) and nonprofits (106), with far fewer applications submitted by state agencies (25), agricultural producers (12), local agencies (11), and Indian tribal organizations (3). The applications represent geographic diversity, indicating that all regions of the US, regardless of climate or other factors, are eager to further engage in farm to school programs.
The 2012 awards – 32 planning and 36 implementation grants – will reach over 3,200 schools serving 1.75 million American schoolchildren. California received six awards, the greatest number for any state, and then seven states all received three grants: Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, and Washington.
Farm Bill Reauthorization
Along with its farm to school advocacy in the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization, NSAC is calling on Congress to further farm to school programming through the farm bill. Included in the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, NSAC’s proposal increases flexibility in commodity programs to enable more local food procurement in school meal programs. While the Senate-passed bill includes a more general farm to school pilot program, the House Agriculture Committee-passed bill specifically authorizes schools with low annual commodity entitlement values to start making their own food purchases, provided USDA determines this would yield reduced administrative costs. Additionally, the House bill would create demonstration projects in at least 10 schools to test alternatives to USDA food distribution through farm to school procurement models.