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$7.5 Million in Farm to School Grant Funds Released in National Farm to School Month

October 8, 2018


Local economies already facing hardships from the rural downturn face complications if programs that support jobs and development do not receive funding through the farm bill. Photo Credit: USDA

Local food takes center stage in this rural town. Photo Credit: USDA

Just in time for National Farm to School month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the opening of fiscal year (FY) 2019 Farm to School Grant Program request for applications (RFA). First enacted into law through the 2012 Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, the Farm to School Grant Program helps farmers and healthy food advocates across the country to increase the availability of local foods in schools by supporting trainings, research, equipment, operations support, and the development of partnerships.

For the FY 2019 cycle, USDA will award upwards of $7.5 million in grants to eligible applicants; an increase of over $2 million compared to the previous funding cycle. The additional funding was made available through FY2018 Omnibus bill. As a reminder, USDA will contribute no more than 75% of the total project costs, and applicants are expected to match at least 25% of the total project costs.

Full details on this year’s RFA can be found online here. All proposals are due on December 4, 2018 11:59PM EST via grants.gov.

Additional information is also available via USDA’s Frequently Asked Questions document and through two USDA webinars to be held this month: Tuesday, October 16 and Wednesday, October 17, 2018. Both webinars will start at 1:00pm EST. Those interested can register for the webinars using this link.

USDA Funding Priorities

In addition to ensuring a geographical diversity and equitable treatment of urban and rural communities, USDA has outlined the following priorities for the FY 2019 grants:

  • In applications where school districts are the lead applicant, schools or school districts will receive at least 50 percent of the overall number of planning and implementation awards.
  • Applications from Indian Tribal Organizations and entities serving Native communities.
  • Projects that reach more than one school.
  • Projects that serve a high proportion of children (at least 40 percent or more) who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Planning Grants and Award Periods

Farm to School Grant applications are divided into 3 competitive tracks: Planning, Implementation, and Training.

Planning Grantsshould have as a main focus, activities that will set the ground for future farm to school projects. Planning activities might include: collecting data, engaging stakeholders, and identifying obstacles that hinder farm to school programming in a particular community.

Implementation Grants – will aid existing farm to school initiatives in scaling up or further developing. Successful applications will engage large communities, and/or provide services/products that have national, regional, or statewide impact.

Training Grants – support eligible entities in conducting state, regional, and national-level trainings. These trainings should focus on strengthening farm to school supply chains and/or increasing trainees’ knowledge and capacity related to local procurement, food safety, school gardens, culinary education, and/or integration of agriculture-based curricula.

Changes in the FY 2019 RFA

While the general parameters are the same compared with previous funding cycles, the USDA routinely makes noteworthy and important changes as part of each funding cycle. Applicants are encouraged to review any changes to the RFA process that have been made prior to completing and submitting an application.

Award Highlights

Several laudable projects were funded as part of the previous, FY 2018 Farm to School Grant cycle, including projects from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) members. The following are provided as examples of past, successful Farm to School Grant project awards:

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NSAC Member):

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont was awarded a Farm to School Grant of $85,565 to build upon their successful farm-based educational program. In addition to teaching students about the importance of sustainable food systems, the program will generate growth in locally-produced food markets. Both the Vermont and New Jersey chapters of NOFA are represented by the NOFA Interstate Council.

Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians:

The Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and School District of Bayfield, Wisconsin are cooperating on the Mino Bimaadiziiwin Sugarbush & Agricultural Education Project with the goal of encouraging student participation in local agricultural processes. In particular, the program is meant to acquaint students with the processes of, making traditional indigenous foods like sugarbush maple syrup. The tribe received $82,605 to further develop the program.

Mississippi Association of Cooperatives:

The Mississippi Association of Cooperatives will receive $40,000 to develop school gardens in two districts. They will provide school tours to farmers and farm tours to the students in an effort to expand everyone’s understanding of the importance of local, high quality foods. They will train farmers in the processes of developing an edible school farm, as well as train students to make nutritious food choices.


Categories: Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems


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