The Indiana State Department of Health announced Thursday that it is one of 71 projects spanning 42 states to receive the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program grant. This is an effort to better connect schools with local food producers.
The $100,000 grant was awarded to the State Health Department in November and will be used to:
Conduct strategic planning to expand and better support the Indiana Farm to School Network efforts.
Assess school food service infrastructure and readiness to incorporate local products into school meal programs.
Provide scholarships for small farmers and school food service staff to attend trainings that provide skills and information that support farm to school.
Host meet and greet events to create partnerships between school food service directors and local producers.
This grant will use the Hoosier Harvest Market as a test hub for facilitating the connection between farmers and local school systems.
“Support for Farm to School has been gaining momentum in Indiana,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “We knew it was important to meet farmers and school food service directors to learn who might be interested in farm to school activities. The response has been very positive.”
In Indiana, 231 out of 294 public school districts completed the USDA Farm to School Census and 357,590 children in attendance are actively engaged in Farm-to-School activities.
The USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms and cooking classes.
“In rural and urban communities across the country, farm to school is teaching students where food comes from and how it gets to their plate, and encouraging them to make healthier food choices in the cafeteria and at home,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Farm to school programs are an investment in the health of our nation’s children and in the vibrancy of rural economies.”