Nov. 15— The USDA has announced more than $4.5 million in grants for 68 projects to connect school cafeterias with local agricultural producers.
These grants are the first USDA Farm to School grants, which will serve more than 3,200 schools and 1.75 million students. The grants will help schools answer the demand for locally sourced foods and provide opportunities for producers. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts, such as school gardens, field trips to local farms and cooking classes. Some award recipients, such as the Lawrence County District in Walnut Ridge, Ark., are using grant funds to coordinate efforts with other school districts to aggregate buying power and attract new producers to the school foodservice market.
"When schools buy food from nearby producers, their purchasing power helps create local jobs and economic benefits, particularly in rural agricultural communities," says Agriculture Deputy Secretary KathleenMerrigan. "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."
Farm to School is one component of the USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, launched in 2009 to coordinate the department's work on local and regional food systems and create new opportunities for farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural communities.