U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced last week the award of more than $9 million in USDA Farm to School Program grants that will increase the amount of healthy, local foods served in schools and create economic opportunities for nearby farmers.
This year marks an all-time high of funding and projects in the program, with grants supporting 126 selected projects across 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These projects are expected to serve more than 3.2 million students in over 5,400 schools.
“The farm to school grants announced (July 16) connect schools with the farmers, ranchers, and producers in their communities,” Secretary Perdue said in a press release. “Everybody wins with Farm to School. USDA is proud to help the next generation better understand where its food comes from, while strengthening local economies.”
This record-breaking year for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program was made possible by increased funding from Congress for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which enabled USDA to award 52 more grants than the previous highest year of 2016 when 74 were granted. Grants range from $20,000 to $100,000 and fund equipment purchases and experiential learning activities, including planting school gardens, offering taste tests to children, and organizing field trips to local farms and food producers.
According to the USDA, Farm to school activities strengthen local economies.
USDA’s 2015 Farm to School Census found that in the 2013-2014 school year alone, schools purchased more than $789 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. Schools provide producers stable markets and long-term revenues, and the program introduces students to agricultural career paths, Purdue added.
“Our nation’s food supply depends on more young people entering the field of agriculture as farmers retire,” Perdue said. “Farm to school inspires young people to consider careers in agriculture and food systems.”■