The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded more than $9 million in Farm to School Program grants that will increase the amount of healthy, local foods served in schools and create economic opportunities for nearby farmers.
This year marks an all-time high of funding and projects in the program, with grants supporting 126 selected projects across 42 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. These projects are expected to serve more than 3.2 million students in more than 5,400 schools.
“The farm-to-school grants announced connect schools with the farmers, ranchers and producers in their communities,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “Everybody wins with Farm to School. USDA is proud to help the next generation better understand where its food comes from while strengthening local economies.”
This record-breaking year for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program was made possible by increased funding from Congress for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which enabled USDA to award 52 more grants than the previous high of 74 grants in 2016. Grants range from $20,000 to $100,000 and fund equipment purchases and experiential learning activities, including planting school gardens, offering taste tests to children and organizing field trips to local farms and food producers.
Farm-to-school activities strengthen local economies. USDA’s 2015 "Farm to School Census" found that in the 2013-14 school year alone, schools purchased more than $789 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food processors and food manufacturers. Schools provide producers with stable markets and long-term revenues, and the program introduces students to agricultural career paths.
“Our nation’s food supply depends on more young people entering the field of agriculture as farmers retire,” Perdue said. “Farm to School inspires young people to consider careers in agriculture and food systems.”
Since 2013, the USDA Farm to School Program has offered annual grants to schools, school districts, nonprofits, state agencies, agricultural producers and Indian tribal organizations to plan, implement or provide training on farm-to-school activities. USDA's Food & Nutrition Service is committed to working with schools and agricultural partners to ensure that healthy habits take root in early childhood.