The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing a record-breaking $12 million in Farm to School Grants this year, announcing awards to 176 grantees, the most projects funded since the program began in 2013.
The department is also releasing new data demonstrating the recent growth of farm to school efforts nationwide. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of school districts and/or local entities responsible for school meals participated in farm to school activities during school year 2018-2019, more than half (57 percent) of which began within the past three years.
“Helping schools expand access to healthy, locally grown produce through these grants is just one of the many ways USDA is transforming America’s food system,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Not only will this give children more nutritious food options in school, it supports local agriculture economies, while connecting them to the farms and farmers that grow the food we all depend on.”
This year’s Farm to School Grants will help expand the access to fresh, local foods and hands-on agricultural learning for children across 45 states and the District of Columbia. The awarded projects will serve more than 1.4 million students at more than 6,800 schools. Grantees include schools, state agencies, non-profits, tribal nations, agricultural producers and groups, and — for the first time ever — institutions participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program.
The latest data — released this week — from the 2019 Farm to School Census highlight the impact of farm to school efforts on local communities. In school year 2018-2019, school districts purchased nearly $1.3 billion in local fruits, vegetables, and other foods, totaling approximately 20% of all school food purchases. The newly updated Farm to School Census website features state and local breakdowns of participation and spending.
Farm to school efforts introduce more locally grown produce into school cafeterias and expose children to agriculture and nutrition education through hands-on learning. They also provide reliable revenue for American farmers, directly boosting the local economy.