Community Food Systems
Other USDA Grant Opportunities
Funding for Schools
- Agriculture in the Classroom Grants
The purpose of this grant is to strengthen state programs by funding innovative ideas and outreach strategies to increase agricultural literacy among K-12 teachers and their students. Ag in the Classroom can enhance Farm to School activities by providing curriculum to connect students to the food in the cafeteria.
Funding for Farmers
- Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) encompasses several different program areas which cover a broad array of issues and topics important to U.S. agriculture. The Requests for Applications will provide detailed information on the year’s Program Area Priorities. Although AFRI projects must fit specific program areas, grant awards have been used to develop market and pricing strategies for small and medium scale farms which may help foster relationships between institutional buyers and farmers.
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)
The 2008 Farm Bill appropriated $75 million for fiscal years 2009 to 2012 to fund a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) that supports the nation’s beginning farmers and ranchers. The purpose of BFRDP is to develop and offer education, outreach. This program can be used to train new farmers on how to work with school markets. Several projects have been funded that promote collaboration and sustainability, which may include teaching farmers about institutional buyers and how to include school markets as part of the farmers’ long-term plan.
- Farm Loan Programs
Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides several different loan programs, guaranteed and direct, that range from farm ownership to operating loans. FSA has specific loans for youth, beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers, and emergency loans. Many of the loans can be used to improve or construct facilities and purchase equipment.
- Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) Program
The Farm Service Agency Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) Program provides low-interest financing for producers to build or upgrade farm storage and handling facilities. Producers could construct a cold-storage or packaging facility that may help meet the needs of local school districts.
- Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP)
The Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) is an annual, competitive grant program designed to assist eligible entities in promoting the domestic consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding direct producer-to-consumer marketing opportunities. FMPP has supported farmers’ markets on school campuses and provided educational programs on growing, purchasing, and preparing local foods in after-school programs.
- Risk Management Education and Community Outreach Partnerships Program
The Education and Community Outreach Partnership Program provides aid to farmers in developing risk management strategies to improve their farm viability. This program may help farmers learn how to include institutional buyers as a risk management strategy and create management education opportunities on direct market strategies for producers of specialty crops.
- Small Socially-Disadvantaged Producer Grant (SSDPG)
Formerly known as the Small, Minority Producer Grant Program, the primary objective of the Small Socially-Disadvantaged Producer Grant (SSDPG) is to provide technical assistance to small, socially-disadvantaged agricultural producers through eligible cooperatives and associations of cooperatives. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis. These grants could help producer cooperatives develop infrastructure to process and distribute local produce to schools.
- Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG)
The Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 authorized USDA to provide grants to states to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. These crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture). Numerous producers have received Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) funding to assist with their Farm to School efforts, including Good Agriculture Practices/Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP) cost sharing and food distribution improvements.
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program
The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program offers several funding opportunities for producers. SARE's mission is to advance innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education of American agriculture. For example, SARE grants have been used for funding Farm to School research and education projects, increasing the amount of local produce in schools, expanding direct marketing opportunities for farmers, and developing processing and storage infrastructure to aid Farm to School activities.
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awards these grants to qualified small businesses to support high quality, advanced concepts research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefit if successful.
- Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI)
The Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) was established to solve critical industry issues through research and extension activities. Projects must address one of five focus areas: 1) Research in plant breeding, genetics, and genomics to improve crop characteristics; 2) Efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases, including threats to specialty crop pollinators; 3) Efforts to improve production efficiency, productivity, and profitability over the long term; 4) New innovations and technology, including improved mechanization and technologies that delay or inhibit ripening; and 5) Methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control, and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production and processing of specialty crops.
- Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)
The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) seeks to solve critical organic agriculture issues, priorities, or problems through the integration of research and extension activities. OREI is particularly interested in projects that emphasize research and outreach that assist farmers and ranchers with whole farm planning.
Funding for Community
- Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program
The purpose of the Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program is to improve, develop, or finance business, industry, and employment, as well as improve the economic and environmental climate in rural communities. A borrower may be a cooperative organization, corporation, partnership, or other legal entity organized and operated on a profit or nonprofit basis, an Indian tribe, a public body, or an individual. A borrower must be engaged in or proposing to engage in a business that will provide employment and improve the economic or environmental climate. These loans could support Farm to School efforts by financing new facilities and equipment necessary to process local products.
- Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program
Community Food Projects are designed to increase food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs. The Competitive Grants Program offers an opportunity for communities to collaborate and integrate Farm to School activities into their daily lives.
- Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP)
The Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) is a competitive matching grant program open to state government agencies and agricultural experiment stations to support marketing research and technical assistance projects, and has historically provided a significant share of USDA funding for Farm to School efforts. For example, FSMIP grants have helped develop local, value-added products that meet the nutritional and cost requirements of the National School Lunch Program and increase local protein options available in institutions.
- Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG)
The Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG) supports the development of physical infrastructure and facilities, including food processing, marketing and distribution business ventures for locally-grown agricultural products. There is no required maximum level of grant funding; however, smaller projects are given higher priority. One example of a RBEG grant includes the development of a “Mobile Harvest Unit”. Funds were used to print brochures, develop a website, conduct a producer survey and feasibility study, develop safety standards and obtain permits.
- Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG)
Rural Development’s Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG) support training and technical assistance for business development, which includes support for food processing, marketing, distribution and business development of locally-grown agricultural products. Eligible activities include research, feasibility studies, business planning, marketing, training and technical assistance.
- Team Nutrition Grants
The purpose of the Team Nutrition Grant is for state agencies to expand and enhance their training programs that incorporate and implement the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and USDA Foods in meals served in the Child Nutrition Programs. States must apply Team Nutrition’s three behavior-focused strategies, which are: 1) provide training and technical assistance to school nutrition food service professionals to enable them to prepare and serve nutritious meals that appeal to students; 2) provide fun and interactive nutrition education for children, teachers, parents and others caregivers; and 3) build school and community support for creating healthy school environments that are conducive to healthy eating and physical activity.
- Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG)
Agricultural product that has undergone a change in physical state or was produced, marketed, or segregated (e.g., identity-preserved, eco-labeling, etc.) in a manner that enhances its value or expands the customer base of the product is considered a value-added product. The Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) may be used to fund one of the following two activities: 1) develop business plans and feasibility studies (including marketing plans or other planning activities) needed to establish viable marketing opportunities for value-added products; or 2) acquire working capital to operate a value-added business venture or alliance. For example, one grantee developed a value-added milk product to offer to local school districts and another used funds to process no-till wheat into flour and marketed the product to schools.