October is Farm to School month

USDA announces 2019 Farm to School grant.

Tri-fold display with pictures at school.
Photo by Rob Sirrine, MSU Extension.

According to the National Farm to School Network, “Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education sites.” Core elements of Farm to School include education, local food procurement, and school gardens.

The Farm to School movement offers benefits for kids, farmers, and communities. Farm to School programs can increase healthy, local food options thereby improving children’s nutrition. When combined with education, the healthy eating message often extends beyond the cafeteria into family dining rooms. Purchasing from local farm families can also create new market opportunities for farmers, thereby facilitating rural and regional economic development. Because of the many benefits associated with Farm to School programs, the USDA has offered competitive Farm to School grants since 2012.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service Office of Community Food Systems Farm to School Grant Program expects to award $7.5 million in FY 2019.  Eligible applicants include school districts, tribal organizations, non-profits, and state and local agencies. In 2019, there are three grant tracks with differing eligibility, funding, and guidelines: planning grants, implementation grants, and training grants. All grants require a 25 percent match regardless of the grant category.

More information on the 2019 Farm to School Grant, including frequently asked questions, sample applications, and the full application package can be found here. For interested applicants, the USDA offers many resources including tips, webinars, and Farm to School Planning toolkits. The 2018 Farm to School Grant program is currently supporting nearly 3 million students at 6006 schools across the U.S. A list of FY 2018 Grant Awardees can be found by clicking here.

More information on the benefits of farm to school including multiple resources, can be found at the National Farm to School Network and the USDA Farm to School Census website. For information on Farm to School in Michigan visit the Michigan State University Center For Regional Food Systems website or this excellent Farm to School Factsheet. For an exciting example of Farm to School in northwest Michigan, check out this story on Beaver Island.

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