Three Missouri schools were part of 68 projects awarded grants to connect school cafeterias with local agriculture producers.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced more than $4.5 million in grants panning 37 states and the District of Columbia."When schools buy food from nearby producers, their purchasing power helps create local jobs and economic benefits, particularly in rural agricultural communities," Merrigan said. "Evidence also suggests that when kids understand more about where food comes from and how it is produced, they are more likely to make healthy eating choices."
The first-ever USDA Farm to School grants will help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes.
The KC Healthy Kids received $99,645 for their Farm to School Acadamey. The goal of the program is to increase access to and consumption of healthy local food in low-income schools in the Greater Kansas City area. The Academy will serve as a farm to school traning resource and garden center, complete with conference rooms,
Winona R-III School District received a planning grant worth $27,130 to look at ways to integrate local food from surrounding farms into the school's food services. DeLaSalle Education Center also received a planning grant for $25,000 to research was to bring local foods in their charter high school in Kansas City.
The grants will serve more than 3,200 schools and 1.75 million students, nearly half of whom live in rural communities. Projects are diverse. Some award recipients are using grant funds to coordinate efforts with other school districts to aggregate buying power and attract new producers to the school food service market. Other funded projects will expand kitchen facilities to serve local products year-round through processing and freezing techniques.
This year's funding also includes:
Twenty-five programs create jobs by hiring new farm to school coordinators, with 43 projects supporting and maintaining existing staff.
Thirty-one programs will use food hubs, or partner with mainline distributors
Forty-four projects that will result in development of new products and menu items.
An estimated 47 projects will develop new partnerships by working with and educating farmers and ranchers new to the school food market.
More than 50 projects support hands-on learning activities, such as field trips to farms and creation of school gardens.
Farm to School grants are administered by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. The full list of awards granted for fiscal year 2013 is available online.