Farm to School Act of 2017
On September 6, 2017, members of Congress introduced the Farm to School Act of 2017. This bill has received bipartisan support, and it expands the current US Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Grant Program by increasing funding from $5 million to $15 million annually. During the first five years the program received over $120 million in requests from 1,600 applicants. The program was able to provide grants totaling $25 million to 365 applicants in those years, however, that only satisfies one fifth of total requests. Clearly, there is a high demand for this type of program. But, what does this money support? The following provides an outline and some resources that further explain the proposed program.
Farm to school is a common sense approach to child nutrition that empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. (www.farmtoschool.org)
The program is flexible and often appears differently depending on the needs of the specific community, however, there are Three Core Elements of the program that remain consistent.
Procurement: The program provides funding for local food purchase and service in cafeterias and lunchrooms. This provides not only healthy food options for students but also supports local farmers, ranchers, and fishers. In 2013-2014, schools spent $789 million on local food. The Farm to School Act notes that of every dollar spent on this food, $1.60 goes back into local economies. This suggests that schools generated over $1.2 billion into local economies for food alone during those years. In addition, a goal is to reduce the obesity rate and prevalence of childhood Type II Diabetes by increasing the amount of healthy fruits and vegetables served to children.
Education: As a part of the program, organizations incorporate food, agriculture, and health and nutrition programming into their educational curricula.
School Gardens: The program supports school gardens which provide students with hands-on learning through planting, gardening, harvesting, and food preparation. In 2013-2014, an estimated 23.6 million students engaged in a Farm to School program. Here is an Example of a farm to school program in Michigan.
More information can be found at the Farm to School Website, which provides individuals and organizations with ideas, resources, and partners to aid in the development and with the ultimate goal of program success.
There is also funding available! Here are some examples of opportunities associated with this program.
Small Grants for plants and seeds ($200-$1,000)
GreenWorks Grants for Service learning projects ($1,000-$2,000)
National Institute of Food and Agriculture Grants ($945,400 available)