In a demonstration of the administration’s commitment to strengthening community food systems, the USDA announced more than $5M in funding for 82 projects linking farmers with school cafeterias. The Farm to School Program helps schools purchase more foods from local farmers and ranchers, expanding access to local food for school children and supporting local economies.

The USDA conducted its first-ever Farm to School Census this year. It indicated that farm to school programs purchased more than $385 million in local foods in the 2011-2012 school year. More than half of the schools surveyed indicated they planned to increase their local food purchases.

The funded projects will serve more than 4,800 schools and 2.8 million students; 51 percent% of those students live in rural communities. A few projects include:

  • Tift County School System in Georgia will retrofit a school bus to serve as a farm bus/rolling classroom, retrofit a canning plant to preserve local tomatoes, and irrigate the school farm to expand the growing season and increase yield.
  • At Delaware’s historic Penn Farm, high school students will grow crops for both the school’s breakfast and lunch programs.
  • The Inter Tribal Buffalo Council in South Dakota will provide locally raised tribal bison meat for the school lunch programs, procure other locally produced food products, and implement school gardens.

“USDA is proud to support communities across the country as they plan and implement innovative farm to school projects,” said Vilsack. “These inspiring collaborations provide students with healthy, fresh food, while supporting healthy local economies. Through farm to school projects, community partners are coming together to ensure a bright future for students, and for local farmers and ranchers.”

A complete list of FY15 Farm to School grant recipients can be found here.

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