America’s family farmers are planting, harvesting, and selling fresh, healthy produce year-round. They’ve got the farming thing down; but barriers exist that often prevent them from reaching new and expanding markets for their products, including customers that might be in the same town or state. One way the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hopes to help solve that problem is by building up the “farm to fork pipeline” through programs and policies that better connect family farmers with new market opportunities and customers. Institutional purchasers are a big part of supporting the farm to fork pipeline, and USDA’s Farm to School Grant Program helps to facilitate the relationship between institutional school food purchasers and local farmers and ranchers.
The Farm to School Grant Program 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.
For fiscal year (FY) 2018, USDA is making up $5 million available in competitive grants. This year’s Request for Proposals (RFP) invites applicants to apply for one of three different types of grant categories:
- Implementation grants enable schools or school districts to expand or further develop existing farm to school programs. Implementation awards range from $50,000 – $100,000.
- Planning grants are for schools or school districts just getting started on farm to school activities. Planning awards range from $20,000 – $50,000.
- Training grants are intended for eligible entities to support trainings that strengthen farm to school supply chains, or trainings that provide technical assistance in the area of local procurement, food safety, culinary education, and/or integration of agriculture‐based curriculum.Training awards range from $20,000 – $50,000.
Complete applications must be submitted via grants.gov by 11:59pm EST on December 8, 2017.
More information about the program including access to the RFA, a frequently asked questions document and additional application tools can be found here.
Learn more about how this program has been a win for kids, farmers, and communities by reading about the awards made as part of the FY17 grant cycle by clicking here.
In June 2017, USDA announced last year’s grant award winning projects, which are estimated to reach 5,500 schools and 2 million students across the country. Among the awardees were two National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) members, Georgia Organics and Republic Food Enterprise Center. We would like to once again congratulate our two member awardees and look forward to the fantastic projects that will no doubt be part of the FY 2018 cycle.
Recently, farm to school and local food advocates also got two big pieces of good news from Congress: in September Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), along with Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH), introduced the bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2017; and in October Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Sean Maloney (D-NY), introduced the Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act (the “Local FARMS Act”) to catalyze the 2018 Farm Bill’s investment in programs and policies that spur economic development in food producing communities. To stay up to date with all the happenings in local food on Capitol Hill, be sure to check out our latest press releases.