More Minnesota school districts are able to offer locally grown foods to students thanks to Farm to School grants from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). More than $250,000 is being awarded across the state to fund Farm to School projects in 15 school districts. The goals of the grant program are 1) to support a healthy student body by providing more fresh fruit and vegetable options at lunch, and 2) create new markets for local farmers.
The Farm to School Grant Program has helped schools offset the costs of making kitchen upgrades and purchasing the equipment needed to prepare, serve and preserve locally grown foods. The program coordinates at least $10 million in local purchases annually. Although most purchases involve fruits and vegetables, schools are also purchasing fluid milk, meat, poultry, and grains. Some grants also enable schools to conduct feasibility studies to determine the best way to get food from the local pasture to the lunch plate.
Farm to School programs provide a great pairing of agriculture and academia! School children are getting more healthy fruits, vegetables, and other locally grown products in their meals while gaining agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities through supporting local and regional farmers.
More than 145 school districts in the state, including about one-half the student population, are participating in farm to school programs and that number is growing!