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USDA offers Farm to School grants

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan announced the release of a request for applications for the latest round of USDA's Farm to School grants. These grants help eligible schools improve the health and wellbeing of their students and connect with local agricultural producers.

"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," said Merrigan. "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."

This year, three different kinds of grants will be available. Planning grants are intended for schools just getting started on farm to school activities, while implementation grants are available for schools seeking to augment or expand existing efforts. Additionally, eligible non-profit entities, Indian tribal organizations, state and local agencies, and agriculture producers or groups of producers may apply for support service grants in order to conduct trainings, create complementary curriculum, or further develop supply chains, among other activities. Proposals are due at midnight EST, April 24.

To assist eligible entities in preparing proposals, USDA will host a series of webinars related to the application process:

--March 5, 1 p.m. EST, Planning Grants;

--March 6, 1 p.m. EST, Implementation Grants; and

--March 7, 1 p.m. EST, Support Service Grants.

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 Barack 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.

Farm to School is one component of USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food 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. An interactive view of USDA programs that support local and regional foods, including farm to school and farm to institution, is available in the Know Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. The KYF Compass consists of an interactive map of USDA-supported local and regional food projects and an accompanying guide to programs and results. In October 2012, the map was expanded and now includes projects from nine other federal agencies.

Date: 2/25/2013



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