Local Food for Schools Gets $5 Million USDA Boost

The USDA has announced plans to provide more than $5 million in funding to the Farm to School Program in order to connect schools with local farmers. 

The funding will go to support more than 4,800 schools and 2.8 million children in 42 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. More than half of the students impacted by this program live in rural areas.

“USDA's Farm to School Grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors,” the USDA said in a statement. “Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes. USDA Farm to School Conference and Event Grants support regional, state, and national conferences, events and/or trainings that have a specific emphasis on developing supply chain relationships by connecting local producers to school food buyers, along with events and trainings that provide technical assistance or other programming in the area of local procurement, food safety, culinary education and integration of agriculture-based curriculum.”

Earlier this year, the USDA released its first Farm to School Census, which found that participating schools purchased more than $385 million in local food during the 2011-2012 school year. More than half of those schools have plans to continue to purchase and increase their local food for school meals. The new funding from the USDA will be used to support bringing more local food into participating school programs.

"[The] USDA is proud to support communities across the country as they plan and implement innovative farm to school projects," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "These inspiring collaborations provide students with healthy, fresh food, while supporting healthy local economies. Through farm to school projects, community partners are coming together to ensure a bright future for students, and for local farmers and ranchers."

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