Farm to School Grants


Helping schools source local food and connect children to farming and gardening

When kids have access to healthy and locally produced food, they learn lifelong healthy eating habits and develop a deeper understanding of where their food comes from and who grows it. When healthy, local food is served in schools, children across the country reap health and knowledge benefits while local farmers and food-producing communities gain access to critical economic opportunities. 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. F2S 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

F2S is administered by the U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Since 2012, the program has provided approximately $5 million in grants each year on a competitive basis to schools, nonprofits, state and local agencies, agricultural producers, and American Indian tribal organizations to increase local food procurement for school meal programs and to expand educational activities on agriculture and food.

There are typically at least three types of F2S award categories:

  • Planning grants for doing the homework needed to develop a farm to school program
  • Implementation grants to start a farm to school program or advance an existing program
  • Support service grants to provide broad reaching 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 F2S grant funding:

  • Pre-K–12 school food authorities that participate in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program and/or operate a USDA Summer Food Service Program, Seamless Summer Option or Child and Adult Care Food Program on-site
  • State and local agencies, such as a school district or state department of agriculture
  • American Indian tribal organizations
  • Agricultural producers or groups of agricultural producers
  • Non-profit entities

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

The Program in Action

Over the last seven years that the program has been funded, F2S has helped over 42,000 schools introduce farm and garden education and put local food on over 15 million students’ plates. At the same time, these programs have generated much-needed economic opportunities for local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food producers across the country.

Since 2013, USDA has received more than 1,900 applications requesting over $141 million in support. Due to funding constraints, however, F2S has only been able to make 437 awards, totaling $30 million. Clearly the popularity of Farm to School – which has only grown since 2013 – far outstrips the level of support the program has thus far been given by Congress.

In the 2013-2014 school year (SY), schools participating in F2S purchased nearly $790 million in food from local producers. According to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Survey, every dollar spent on local food generates up to an additional $2.16 in economic activity. Based on purchasing levels from SY 2013-2014, this means that school districts’ local food purchases could ultimately lead to over $1 billion in local economic activity and 23.6 million students are eating healthier because they’re engaged in food and agriculture education.

As schools across the country continue 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 RFA 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 submitted electronically through www.grants.gov.

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 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.

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

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

F2S was created in the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act 2004), but was not provided with funding until 2010. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act or CNR 2010), which was championed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) in partnership with the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) and other NSAC member organizations, designated funds for the program for the first time.  Congress authorized $5 million in grant funding each year for the Farm to School grant program, starting in 2012.

In 2015, Congress began efforts to rewrite and reauthorize CNR. Ultimately, however, the legislative process fell apart in both 2015 and 2016 and Congress was unable to pass a new CNR. Thankfully, most of the program authorizations in CNR  – including F2S – are permanent or have been extended through the annual appropriations process.

In the spring of 2019, Congress returned to the work of developing and passing a new 5-year CNR. In support of those efforts, NSAC and NFSN have been working with congressional champions on the bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2019 a marker bill to increase funding for and improve F2S.  Check out NSAC’s blog for the latest on NSAC’s farm to school and other campaigns.

Farm to School Grant Program Funding 

Fiscal Year Total Mandatory Funding Available (millions)
2019 $5
2020 $5
2021 $5
2022 $5
2023 $5
5 yr total $25
10 yr total $50

Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2010 CNR for this program to be provided through the Secretary of the Treasury. However, Congress, through appropriations legislation, occasionally caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program in order to use the resulting savings to fund a different program. Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less should the Appropriations Committees decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction. Farm to School grants are also subject to automatic cuts as part of an annual sequestration process established by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Furthermore, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that provides additional funding above and beyond the mandatory funding available for the program on an annual basis, which has occurred a number of times for the farm to school grant program.

For the most current information on program funding levels, please see NSAC’s Annual Appropriations Chart.

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 July 2019