Friday, February 08, 2013

USDA Seeking Applicants For Farm To School Program Grants; $5 Million Available

Agency will host three webinars in March for prospective applicants; proposals are due in April...
To support the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign to offer healthier foods in America's National School Lunch Program, the US Department of Agriculture last November awarded $4.5 million in grant funding for its first-ever Farm to School grants.  The agency is now accepting applications for fiscal year 2014, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has announced, and anticipates awarding $5 million in three different categories:  Planning grants, implementation grants, and support service grants. (Above, Mrs. Obama during a Virginia school visit)

In March, USDA will host webinars designed to help applicants write their proposals.  The deadline to apply is midnight EST, April 24, 2013.

"USDA's Farm to School grants connect schools with their local farmers, ranchers and food businesses, providing new economic opportunities to food producers and bringing healthy, local offerings into school cafeterias," Merrigan said. "USDA continues to make improvements to the nutrition of food offered in schools, and investing in farm to school programs is yet another important opportunity to encourage our nation's kids to make lifelong healthy eating choices."

The planning grants are intended for "schools just getting started on farm to school activities," while the implementation grants are for schools "seeking to augment or expand existing efforts," USDA said.  The support service grants are for "eligible non-profit entities, Indian tribal organizations, state and local agencies, and agriculture producers or groups of producers  in order to conduct trainings, create complementary curriculum, or further develop supply chains, among other activities."

USDA's webinars will be on the following dates:

*March 5, 2013, 1:00 EST – Planning Grants

*March 6, 2013, 1:00 EST – Implementation Grants

*March 7, 2013, 1:00 EST – Support Service Grants

More information on how to join the webinars will be available on USDA's Farm to School website

The Farm to School project is one component of USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF) 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.  

Noted USDA:  "The Farm to School Grant Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which authorized and funded USDA to assist eligible entities, through grants and technical assistance, in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. The Act provides $5 million annually to support grants, technical assistance, and the federal administrative costs related to USDA's Farm to School Program. In this funding cycle, USDA anticipates awarding up to $5 million in grants.

Healthier school meals are a key component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by the First Lady as part of her Let's Move! campaign and signed into law by President Obama. The new meal requirements are raising standards for the first time in more than fifteen years and improving the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day."

*Photo at top by Chuck Kennedy/White House, when Mrs. Obama visited Virginia's Parklawn Elementary School in January of 2012 to unveil USDA's new school lunch standards