The USDA has announced that it will be investing in farm to school programs nationwide to help eligible schools connect with local agricultural producers. The Farm to School Grant Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, 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 new investments will assist schools in procuring food from local producers. Farm to school initiatives can also include agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes.
The grants, administered by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), 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 and other value-added operations.
To fulfill the farm to school mandate in the HHFKA, effective October 1, 2012, $5 million will be provided to USDA on an annual basis to support grants, technical assistance, and the Federal administrative costs related to USDA's farm to school program. In this first funding cycle, FNS anticipates awarding up to $3.5 million in grants, while the remaining $1.5 million will support a combination of training and technical assistance, administrative costs, and/or additional farm to school grants.
Letters of Intent are suggested but not required by May 18, 2012, while proposals are due June 15, 2012. To assist eligible entities in preparing proposals, USDA will host a webinar related to Implementation grants on May 15th at 1:00 pm EST and a webinar related to Planning grants on May 17th at 1:00 pm EST. For more information on webinars, the farm to school grant program, or USDA's farm to school efforts in general, please visit the USDA Farm to School website.