Farm to School Grants


Helping schools source food from local farmers and teaching children where their food comes from

Ensuring that kids have access to healthy and locally produced food helps instill healthy eating habits and agricultural literacy in the next generation, while also supporting the local farming economy. The Farm to School Grant Program (F2S) provides grants on a competitive basis to increase local food procurement for school meal programs and expand educational agriculture and gardening activities.  These grants can be used for training and technical assistance, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs,.

Learn More About F2S!

Program Basics

Since 2012the Farm to School Grant Program, administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), has provided up to $5 million in grants each year on a competitive basis 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 activities on agriculture and food.

There are typically three types of awards:

  • Planning grants for doing the homework needed in advance of starting a farm to school program;
  • Implementation grants to start a farm to school program or advance an existing program; and
  • Support service grants to provide broad reaching support services to farm to school initiatives. 

USDA may also make other types of award categories available, depending on the year.

Eligibility

The following entities are eligible to apply for funding:

  • Pre-K – 12 school food authorities that participate in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program and/or operate USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, Seamless Summer Option or Child and Adult Care Food Program on-site (Note: Pre-K, Summer Food Service, Seamless Summer, and Child and Adult Care Food Program on-site are new additions per the 2016 Request for Applications for the Farm to School Grant Program; previously, the program was open to K-12 school food authorities);
  • State and local agencies, such as a school district or state department of agriculture;
  • Indian tribal organizations;
  • Agricultural producers or groups of agricultural producers; and
  • Non-profit entities

Not every entity, however, may be eligible to apply for every type of grant. Interested applicants should refer to the Request for Applications for more information on eligibility for specific grant types.

The Program in Action

Though a relatively new program, the F2S grant program has already seen demand for funding far outweigh what is available. In recent years, this popular program has only been able to fund a fifth or less of the total proposals that the program has received. This clearly demonstrates the enormous popularity of and growth in farm to school activities around the country.

In its inaugural round of funding in fiscal year (FY) 2013, USDA awarded 68 projects in 37 states and the District of Columbia a total of $4.5 million in funding to support Farm to School activities in more than 3,200 schools serving 1.75 million students. In FY 2014, USDA funded 71 projects in 42 states and the District of Columbia a total of $5.2 million.  In its most recent round of funding, FY 2015, USDA provided 82 projects from 42 states the U.S. Virgin Islands $5.2 million.

As more and more schools begin to source more foods locally and teach children about food, farming, and nutrition, farmers, local communities, and children all reap multiple benefits – improving public health, economic development, and education.

Some of the ways F2S grants have been used include:

  • Developing strategies that support local sourcing at schools
  • Increasing the purchase and consumption of locally grown fresh food, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products
  • Investing in school kitchen infrastructure
  • Training farmers and food service workers in food safety
  • Creating school gardens and installing and managing high tunnels
  • Implementing nutrition education and garden-based curriculum.

Read more about how F2S has helped provide new marketing opportunities for farmers and develop healthier meals and eating habits for schoolchildren:

How to Apply and Program Resources

Each year, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service releases a Request for Applications (RFA), typically in the winter or spring. Applicants are typically given 60 or 90 days to complete and submit their application to USDA.

Interested applicants should follow the instructions listed in the Request for Applications on the Farm to School Grant Program page below. Registration is required in various systems prior to submitting one’s application and applications must be uploaded to www.grants.gov.

Below are resources with more information about the Farm to School Grant program and planning or implementing Farm to School programs and activities:

USDA conducts an initial screening of applications to ensure eligibility. Following the initial screening, an evaluation panel convened by USDA scores each application using evaluation criteria and weights as outlined in the RFA. Applications with the highest scores for each type of grant will be recommended for funding. A list of applications deemed eligible for an award is then submitted to the agency for a final decision regarding funding.

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

The Farm to School Grant program was created in the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act 2004), but was not provided with funding in that bill. In the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act or CNR 2010), NSAC, together with the National Farm to School Network and other partner organizations, championed the inclusion of funding for the Farm to School Grant program in that legislation.  Since October 1, 2012, CNR 2010 has provided $5 million per year for the Farm to School grant program. Funding for the program expires in 2020.

With the expiration of CNR 2010 in September 2015, NSAC, in partnership with the National Farm to School Network, has been working with Congressional champions on the bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015, a marker bill to improve the USDA Farm to School Grant Program.  Sign up here to stay in touch with the latest on NSAC’s farm to school and other campaigns.

Farm to School Grant Program Funding 

Fiscal Year Total Mandatory Funding Available (millions)
2011 $0
2012 $0
2013 $5
2014 $5
2015 $5
2016 $5
10 yr total $40

Authorizing Language

Section 243 of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 amends Section 18 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, to be codified at 42 U.S.C. Section 1769.


Last updated in October 2016.