Two NC Recipients Receive USDA Grants for Farm to School Training Programs
Two North Carolina organizations received U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to help support efforts to connect child nutrition programs with local farms and ranchers.
The Farm to School Program grants are two of 74 projects spanning 39 states and totaling $4.8 billion. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project received about $26,200, while the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services received about $24,800.
USDA's Farm to School Grants fund school districts, state and local agencies, tribal nations, agricultural producers, and non-profit organizations in their efforts to increase local foods served through child nutrition programs, teach children about food and agriculture through garden and classroom education, and develop schools' and farmers' capacities to participate in farm to school. Awards ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 are distributed in four different grant categories: Planning, Implementation, Support Service, and Training.
With its training grant the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project will hold a conference that will build connections and capacity in supply chain relationships and enhance existing farm to school networks. Training topics include experiential activities, sharing successes and best practices from the region, sharing information about the USDA's Farm to School Program, and promoting farm to preschool. The conference will serve eight Southeastern states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will host two three-day sessions of the "North Carolina Produce Safety Academy," a statewide training for school nutrition staff. The Academy will focus on food safety related to fresh produce throughout the food system from farm to front serving line.
For the 2016 school year, grants will serve more than 5,211 schools and 2.9 million students, nearly 40 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
The latest round of USDA Farm to School Grants brings investment since the program's inception in fiscal year 2013 to $19.9 million. Projects have been funded in all 50 states, DC, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A report released earlier this year found that a vast majority of grantees use the USDA Farm to School Grant funds to strengthen or develop new partnerships, suggesting the potential for widespread collaboration between eligible schools, nongovernmental and community-based organizations, agricultural producer groups, and other community partners. This is reinforced by a recent USDA Farm to School Census finding that 39 percent of participating school districts saw greater community support as a result of their farm to school program.