USDA’s Farm to School Program is now housed in the Food and Nutrition Service’s new Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS). This allows us to extend our focus on local foods beyond the National School Lunch Program and its associated programs to include both the Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program. In addition, OCFS staff will work closely with tribal communities to respond to their desire to better incorporate traditional foods into our meal programs.
Four Years in Review
As we settle into this new office, the timing seemed appropriate to document early farm to school accomplishments and invite feedback from our colleagues at USDA, other federal partners, and the many external stakeholders impacted by our work. Please check out our new report, Farm to School at USDA, 2012-2015: Four Years in Review and send us your thoughts!
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Updated Farm to School Grant Program Schedule
Exciting change is underway with the USDA Farm to School Grant Program! The Child Nutrition Act, the authorizing legislation for the grant program, is currently in the reauthorization process in Congress. The most recent version passed by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry includes changes that impact the scope of the grant program.
In anticipation of change, there will be a delay in the release of the FY2017 request for applications from February to September. In addition to preparing for the potential changes in the authorizing legislation, a schedule change will allow time to review the program’s current policies and procedures, taking into account feedback from past applicants and grantees, and program evaluation results.
We will continue to keep you updated on the USDA Farm to School Grant Program through our E-letter and our website. Thank you for your understanding during this time of exciting change!
Below is the anticipated updated schedule:
September 2016: Release FY2017 request for Farm to School Grant applications
November 2016: FY2017 Farm to School Grant applications due
May 2017: Announce awards
Fiscal Year 2016 Farm to School Grants Award Announcement
Congratulations to the 74 projects that received a 2016 Farm to School Grant award! Nearly $5 million in grants were awarded to projects spanning 39 states to 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.
For a complete list of 2016 Farm to School Grant recipients, please see the 2016 Farm to School Grants summary. To read more about the grant announcement, please see the November 17, 2015 press release.
Early Results from USDA's Farm to School Census are In!
USDA is pleased to announce that early results from USDA’s second Farm to School Census are in, and preliminary data indicate that school districts across the country invested more than half a billion dollars in local foods in the 2013-2014 school year. That represents an increase of $212 million (or 55%) over final results from the last Census, conducted two years ago. Preliminary numbers also show that thanks to the hard work and dedication of school food service directors, teachers, farmers, fishermen and ranchers, more than 42,000 schools are involved in farm to school activities. Whether through buying local foods, building school gardens, or taking a field trip to a local farm, these programs improve child nutrition and provide dynamic educational experiences for students, all the while providing new market opportunities for local and regional farmers.
Fact Sheet: Bringing Tribal Foods and Traditions into Cafeterias, Classrooms, and Gardens
Schools and Native American tribes across the country are incorporating traditional foods like bison, wild rice, and varieties of squash and corn into school meals and providing complementary educational activities that teach students about nutrition and Native American food traditions. This new fact sheet explores how schools and tribes are integrating traditional foods into child nutrition programs, buying traditional foods locally, and incorporating multicultural nutrition education into classroom curriculum and hands-on lessons in school gardens.
Procuring Local Meat, Poultry, Game, and Eggs for Child Nutrition Programs
Fruits and vegetables are often the first farm to school products in schools, but many districts and organizations are filling out their meals with local meat products too! From buffalo in Montana, chicken in California, to beef in Nebraska, schools are finding a place for locally raised protein products in the cafeteria. We’ve received a variety of questions related to purchasing local meat products and this recently released memo outlines the food safety requirements for purchasing and serving poultry, livestock, game and eggs in child nutrition programs.
FY 2013-2015 Summary of Grant Awards
This report, which provides an in-depth look at our first three years of grant-making, summarizes findings from an analysis of select data from projects funded during fiscal years (FY) 2013 -2015. It combines both quantitative data about planned activities derived from coding used during the proposal review process and qualitative stories about completed activities primarily from grantee progress reports.
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act tasked USDA with supporting farm to school efforts through grants, training, technical assistance, and research. To date, the USDA Farm to School Grant Program has funded 221 farm to school projects, totaling $15.1 million. We’re pleased to support these programs, and feel confident the grantees whom we fund are establishing models that can be emulated and built upon by districts nationwide.
We’re Here to Help!
The USDA Office of Community Food Systems is operated by the Department’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which has seven regional offices around the country; in each is a Farm to School Regional Lead who is available to provide farm to school related support to state agencies and other entities in their region. A list of regions, along with the names and contact information for regional and national USDA Office of Community Food Systems staff, can be found here.
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