I applaud the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarding more than $4.5 million in grants in 37 states and the District of Columbia for connecting school cafeterias with local agricultural producers.
It’s important, especially with climate change and diminishing energy resources, to get as much of our food as we can locally.
The federal emphasis on connecting local farmers and school cafeteria programs is important because, when schools buy from local farms, jobs are created and the economy benefits. In addition, energy costs for transporting food are reduced.
And, when school kids understand more about where food comes from and how it’s grown, they’re more likely to make healthy eating choices, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said in a statement.
The 68 grants, the first USDA Farm to School grants, will help schools use locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes.
The grants will be used in more than 3,200 schools that have an enrollment of 1.75 million students. Nearly half of these students live in rural areas.
Examples of some of the projects include:
- Lawrence County District in Walnut Ridge, Ark., is using grant funds to coordinate efforts with other school districts to combine buying power and attract new producers to school food service.
- Weld County School District 6 in Greeley, Colo., will expand kitchen facilities to serve local products year-round through processing and freezing techniques.
- 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. The USDA grant funds will be used to develop contacts with local fruit and vegetable producers so a full meal of locally sourced products can be served.