Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the release of a request for applications for the USDA’s Fiscal Year 2016 round of Farm to School grants. Designed to increase the availability of local foods in eligible schools, these grants help new farm to school programs get started or expand existing efforts, facilitating stronger connections between local and regional producers and school cafeterias.
“When schools buy food from nearby producers, their purchasing power helps create local jobs and economic benefits, particularly in rural agricultural communities,” Vilsack said. “These Farm to School grants will help schools respond to the growing demand for local foods and increase market opportunities for many types of food producers.”
Four different kinds of grants are available. Planning grants are for schools or school districts just getting started on farm to school activities; they’re designed to help them organize and structure their efforts for maximum impact by incorporating best practices into early planning considerations. Implementation grants are available for schools or school districts seeking to augment or expand existing farm to school efforts. Support service grants are intended for non-profit entities, Indian tribal organizations, state and local agencies, and agriculture producers or groups of producers to evolve farm to school initiatives.
Additionally, all eligible entities can still apply for funds to support training and technical assistance, such as local procurement, food safety, culinary education, and integration of agriculture based curriculum.
Proposals for planning, implementation, and support service grants are due at 11:59 p.m. EST, May 20, 2015. Letters of intent for training grants are due at 11:59 p.m. EST, April 30, 2015. To assist eligible entities in preparing proposals, USDA will host a webinar related to the application process on March 25, 2015, 1:00 EST.
“USDA is proud to support communities across the country as they plan and implement innovative farm to school projects. Evidence 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,” said Vilsack.
More information about the grant program, upcoming webinars relevant to applicants, and sample grant applications can be found on-line at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/farm-school-grant-program.
The Farm to School Grant Program is a cornerstone of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department’s work on local and regional foods. The grants are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), which authorized and funded USDA to assist eligible entities, through grants and technical assistance, in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. The Act provides $5 million annually to support grants, technical assistance, and the federal administrative costs related to USDA’s Farm to School Program.