Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced a $4.5 million grant for the USDA’s first ever Farm to School Grant, designed to cultivate a larger connection between school cafeterias and local farms. The program includes 68 projects in 37 states under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The projects will serve 3,700 schools and 1.75 million students, half from rural areas.
"When schools buy food from nearby producers, their purchasing power helps create local jobs and economic benefits, particularly in rural agricultural communities," Merrigan said in a statement reported on Obama Foodorama. "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."
The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act
The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act provided the first non-inflationary increase to school lunch spending since 1973. The bill allocates $4.5 billion for school lunches, an increase of about 6 cents per child. It also takes some other crucial steps in the right direction including pushing the Department of Agriculture to establish science-based nutrition standards that are inline with the Dietary Guidelines for all Americans.
This new grant is one component of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer Know Your Food initiative launched in 2009. It's the USDA's commitment to building local food systems.
The projects are diverse but the theme is the same, serving more foods created closer to home.
Obama Foodorama reports:
Weld County School District 6 in Greeley, Colo., will expand kitchen facilities to serve local products year-round through processing and freezing techniques. Also, Des Moines Municipal Schools in New Mexico will receive grant funding to increase the types of products it buys from local vendors. Local cattle farmers already supply the school district with 100 percent locally produced beef; USDA grant funds will be used to develop relationships with local fruit and vegetable producers to serve a full meal using locally sourced products.