Release: NSAC Congratulates Farm to School Grant Awardees in 42 States and DC
November 19, 2013
NSAC Congratulates Farm to School Grant Awardees
In 2009, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition launched a campaign to convince Congress to establish and fund a Farm to School grant program at USDA. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 invested $40 million in the new program. Today, USDA announced the Fiscal Year 2014 grant recipients.
The 71 funded projects, in 42 states plus the District of Columbia, look stellar and very much in keeping with the congressionally set goals for the program. NSAC congratulates all the awardees and looks forward to tracking their progress in bringing healthy local food from local farmers into school meal programs. We also applaud USDA’s work on implementing the program.
In particular, we congratulate two NSAC member groups who received awards today:
- The National Center for Appropriate Technology will work with three school districts in central Montana on model farm to school projects that will eventually be transferred to the rest of the state. Collaborators include Montana State Extension, to work with farmers, Montana Team Nutrition, to work with food service professionals, and FoodCorps, to work on nutrition education and garden-based curriculum.
- The Center for Rural Affairs will help develop farm to school programs in eastern Nebraska, working with ten pilot schools and holding two regional farm to school summits as well as training sessions for farmers and school food service personnel.
Other awardees and projects of note include:
- Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative, which will work with local farmers and a new food hub to scale-up production and aggregation to meet school needs while working with rural schools to increase their local food purchases by 200 percent.
- The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, which will work to establish a statewide coordination of farm to school activities – in a state that currently has limited farm to school activity – by providing training and technical assistance, focusing particularly on fruit and vegetable purchases from small and mid-sized Mississippi farmers and training in Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices certification.
- The Osage Hills Public Schools in Oklahoma, which will work through eleven school districts, in which 71 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced price meals, and the Osage County Interlocal Cooperative, to incorporate healthy foods into school breakfast and lunch programs.
- Kansas Department of Agriculture, which will operate a pilot project in eight school districts on an agriculture education program and a GAP training workshop, with a goal of each school district serving a minimum of two locally produced food items in the school cafeteria per month.
The USDA Farm to School grant program is a sign of how popular farm to school activities have become. USDA received a total of 345 proposals requesting a total of nearly $27 million, of which it was able to award only 71 for a total of $5.2 million. NSAC encourages those not successful this time to try again in the next round. We also encourage Congress to enhance funding for the program when it takes up the child nutrition bill again in 2015.
The new five-year federal farm bill is currently being finalized in a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills. One set of those differences involves farm to school:
- The House bill, but not the Senate bill, would establish a five-state farm to school pilot program to test procurement from local and statewide farmers within the Department of Defense “Fresh” program that services school districts as well as military commissaries.
- The House bill also includes a ten school-district pilot program to allow those schools to test and evaluate local and regional procurement as a complement to the national USDA Foods program.
- The House bill, but not the Senate bill, would also allow small rural school districts to opt to buy more of their school foods locally in instances where doing so would result in an administrative cost savings.
NSAC is strongly urging the conferees to adopt all three House Farm Bill provisions dealing with farm to school procurement.