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Home > Grants, Loans & Financing > Grant Opportunities > AGRI Farm to School Grants > Farm to School Grant FAQs

Minnesota Farm to School Grant Program Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs updated for Fiscal Year 2018

We were awarded contracts for Minnesota produce and meat for the upcoming school year (2017-2018) but the RFP only requests information on actual use of Minnesota products in School Year 2016-2017 and anticipated use in School Year 2017-2018. Can we include our School Year 2017-2018 contracts in our proposal?

  • Yes, you may include your contracted purchases for School Year 2017-2018.  However, please do not include them on the Project Outcomes table.  We recommend including it in the Overview of Applicant section or in the “What do you anticipate will change as a result of this project?” question. Be sure to tell us how the equipment purchases will enable you to use additional Minnesota foods in future school years.

We’d like to apply for grant funds to conduct a feasibility study to look at which produce items (so not JUST local products, but all fruits and vegetables) generally make sense to process in-house. Is it okay if the whole project focuses on the feasibility of processing all produce at our central kitchen, which would include a significant amount of local produce, with the intention of having that shift allow us to purchase more local in the end?

  • The grant is intended to increase the sales of Minnesota agricultural products to elementary schools and secondary schools. The feasibility study may examine the processing of all fruits and vegetables, not just those that may be locally procured. However, the MDA recommends that the proposal demonstrate how the study will enable the school district to purchase more Minnesota grown products; the scoring criteria places substantial weight on a project’s ability to increase the sales of Minnesota agricultural products.

We are considering adding an outdoor sprinkler system and a garden so we can teach our students how to garden and for them to enjoy the outdoors. Are these expenses a good fit for the Minnesota Farm to School Grant?

  • Minnesota Farm to School Grant funding is intended for projects that enable schools to purchase and serve more Minnesota agricultural products in the food service program. Funds may not be used to build or maintain school gardens. Similarly, it is unlikely that a sprinkler system would enable a school to purchase additional Minnesota agricultural products.

Can schools purchase equipment to utilize Minnesota agricultural products other than produce (e.g., Minnesota raised poultry)?

  • The Minnesota Farm to School Grant may be used to purchase equipment that will enable schools to utilize Minnesota grown/raised foods of all varieties, including but not limited to, fruits, vegetables, beans, poultry, meat, eggs, grains, and dairy.

We’ve received a Minnesota Farm to School Grant in the past; will this hurt our chances of receiving a grant this year?

  • Each proposal will be evaluated against the criteria included in the evaluation profile of the Request for Proposals; the criteria do not specifically account for prior awards. Several schools have received awards in multiple years.

Are Christian schools eligible to apply?

  • Both public and private schools/school districts that are a part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and serve food to preschool and/or K-12 students are eligible to apply. Therefore, as long as the Christian school participates in NSLP, it would be eligible to apply.

We’re a parochial school serving grades K-5. Are we eligible?

  • Both public and private schools/school districts that are a part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and serve food to preschool and/or K-12 students are eligible to apply. Therefore, as long as the parochial school participates in NSLP and serve students in at least some of these grades, it would be eligible to apply.

May we include pictures in our application? We think our current set-up would be easier to depict if we can send in photos rather than just trying to describe it using words.

  • You may include photos in your proposal. The online application system has a limited number of “upload” buttons, so we encourage you to embed them in the Word or PDF files.

Our kitchen is lacking any significant amount of prep space, which is making it difficult to find room to slice, dice, etc. Minnesota grown and raised food. Can we apply for funds to do a remodel of the kitchen? Do we need to have an exact bid from a contractor?

  • You may apply for funds to go towards your remodel. You should demonstrate how the remodel and each piece of equipment will enable your program to use additional Minnesota grown and raised foods. An exact bid from a contractor is not necessary, but you should know the equipment that you need and the estimated cost of that equipment. Bids, estimates, and quotes will only help your application.

We receive produce via DoD Fresh (FFAVORS). Are these purchases considered Farm to School?

  • Both local and nonlocal produce is available from DoD Fresh. You’ll want to contact the distributor (Bergin) to ensure that your produce is coming from a Minnesota farmer, and to have Bergin and/or the local farmer provide you with a letter of support. A letter from a farmer is strongly recommended.

Is it possible for a school or organization to apply for funding to cover both a feasibility study and equipment purchases/physical improvements?

  • Yes, an applicant may apply for both equipment and feasibility grants during the same grant cycle. If you choose to go this route, please complete two separate proposals.

Can we apply for equipment and feasibility grants during the same grant cycle?

  • Yes, an eligible organization may apply for both equipment and feasibility grants during the same grant cycle. The applicant should submit two separate proposals.

Is produce grown in our school garden considered “Farm to School” for the purposes of this grant? Do we need to be purchasing from a farmer?

  • The Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation Program (AGRI), which includes the Farm to School Grant, focuses on creating agricultural jobs and profitable businesses. Farm to School reviewers will want to see the impact that your project could have on Minnesota farmers and agricultural businesses. While it’s great to use produce from your school gardens, you should also demonstrate that you will be purchasing from Minnesota farmers. You must include a letter of support from a Minnesota farmer who currently sells to the school, or would sell to the school after the grant is received.

Can we apply for equipment that will be primarily be used teach culinary skills to students (e.g., in a home economics class)?

  • Equipment purchases should be used to primarily support your school meal programs (i.e. the National School Lunch Program) by investing in your school kitchens/cafeterias.

Our project has components of both a feasibility study and equipment grants. For example, we need to develop recipes for new items, determine the staffing time/costs, and find producers, and we need to purchase muffin tins, mixers, and cutting boards. Do we need to apply for both types of grants?

  • Yes, you will need to apply separately for the feasibility and equipment grants. We recommend referencing the other proposal in each application.

We anticipate applying for a feasibility study grant, and will need to train our staff on new recipes, cooking techniques, and how to incorporate the new offerings into the meal programs. Could the hiring of an Instructional Culinary Instructor to train food service staff on recipe preparation and incorporation be covered by the grant?

  • No, these expenses would be considered “training and workshop fees” which are considering ineligible, in accordance with the “Ineligible Expenses” section of the RFP. These expenses cannot be paid using State, Blue Cross, or other matching funds.

Can we purchase a computer and color printer to support our school lunch program?

  • Neither of these expenses would be considered eligible. Computers and printers are not unique to a school food service program. Further, costs associated with advertising are ineligible per the RFP.

Can we purchase software to do nutrition analysis of made-from-scratch recipes?

  • Nutrition analysis software is not expressly prohibited by the RFP. Grant funds have not been provided for software in the past, so it would be difficult to guess how the review committee would score such an application. The onus is on the applicant to sufficiently demonstrate that the software will enable them to serve more Minnesota grown/raised food.

What types of expenses are typically paid for by a feasibility study grant?

  • In the past, most feasibility funding has supported staff/contractor time (and benefits) for activities such as researching and meeting with growers, determining equipment needs, assessing product need and availability, and drafting the study’s findings. Previous grantees have used both in-house and contracted staff. We’ve also covered some mileage and meeting expenses.

Can grant funds be used to support attendance at the Minnesota School Nutrition Association conference, or similar event?

  • No, training and workshop fees are ineligible under the RFP.

Can grant funds be used to pay for field trips to local farms and orchards?

  • No, grant funds cannot be used to pay for field trips. Grants are intended to be used for the equipment needed to use more Minnesota grown and raised foods in the school food service program.

Can feasibility study funding go towards a trip to visit another school district that’s already processing items that we want to observe/learn from?

  • Feasibility study funding may be used to support a trip to another school district that you want to learn from. You should be able to demonstrate that the trip will be “fact-finding” in nature, rather than simply a training on how to use a particular piece of equipment. Further, provide the reasons for needing to visit in person rather than using more affordable means such as video conferences. Grant reviewers will likely look very closely at substantial travel costs.

Can the cash match from the feasibility grant be for staff salaries to work on the project?

  • Yes, grant funds/cash match may be used for staff salaries to support work on the project. Grantees should keep careful payroll records, including timesheets that breakdown the hours worked on a feasibility study.

We would like to put out an RFP for the contractor we’ll work with (so we don’t know who it will be yet). Does that work, or do we need to have a specific contractor identified?

  • Yes, that will be acceptable. We recommend that you include some details on how/when the contractor will be selected to show the review committee that you’ve put substantial thought into the process.

Are there targets for local food purchases that would seem realistic within the first year of purchases, such as 25% local purchases?

  • We don't have any established guidelines, quotes, etc. We are aware of the return on investments and we do look towards the impact that a proposal would have on Minnesota agriculture. That being said, 25% seems like a very ambitious goal.

We want to purchase professional banners featuring fresh produce to promote eating more locally grown products; is this covered under the grant?

  • No, banners are considered marketing/advertising which is not reimbursable under the grant.

What is the definition of a Minnesota farmer?

  • A farmer is someone who cultivates, operates, or manages a farm for profit, and who grows or raises at least $1,000 of agricultural products for sale annually.

We want to purchase an ice machine in order to help serve more milk by making smoothies and/or mixing it with coffee. Would this be covered under the grant?

  • The ice machine could be considered. We would ask you to justify how the ice machine would be used to purchase/use more Minnesota milk and potentially more Minnesota fruits and vegetables. A letter of support from the milk processor would be helpful.

Are there any other required forms to submit other than the online application?

  • The application allows you to upload documents, for example letters of support, but no, there are no other documents needed.

As a public school district we want to purchase a food processor that costs around $4,000, but we are looking to purchase several. The application requires three bids for materials that cost over $5,000. Which type of bid would be required?

  • Schools are municipalities and must adhere to Minn. Stat.§471.345. This would be a policy for school purchases in general. Note that bids are not required as part of the application, but documentation of the grantee's process must be found in the school's financial records.

We would like to request copies of previously funded applications.

  • MDA will make copies of applications from three previously funded grantees. A list of grantees can be found on the MDA website.

What are the contracting and bidding requirements for applicants that are municipalities?

  • Per Minn. Stat.§471.345, grantees that are municipalities as defined in Subd. 1 must do the following if contracting funds from this grant contract agreement for any supplies, materials, equipment or the rental thereof, or the construction, alteration, repair or maintenance of real or personal property:

    • If the amount of the contract is estimated to exceed $100,000, a formal notice and bidding process must be conducted in which sealed bids shall be solicited by public notice. Municipalities may, as a best value alternative, award a contract for construction, alteration, repair, or maintenance work to the vendor or contractor offering the best value under a request for proposals as described in Minn. Stat.§16C.28, Subd. 1, paragraph (a), clause (2).

    • If the amount of the contract is estimated to exceed $25,000 but not $100,000, the contract may be made either upon sealed bids or by direct negotiation, by obtaining two or more quotations for the purchase or sale when possible, and without advertising for bids or otherwise complying with the requirements of competitive bidding. All quotations obtained shall be kept on file for a period of at least one year after receipt thereof. Municipalities may, as a best value alternative, award a contract for construction, alteration, repair, or maintenance work to the vendor or contractor offering the best value under a request for proposals as described in Minn. Stat.§16C.28, Subd. 1, paragraph (a), clause (2) and paragraph (c).

    • If the amount of the contract is estimated to be $25,000 or less, the contract may be made either upon quotation or in the open market, in the discretion of the governing body. If the contract is made upon quotation it shall be based, so far as practicable, on at least two quotations which shall be kept on file for a period of at least one year after their receipt. Alternatively, municipalities may award a contract for construction, alteration, repair, or maintenance work to the vendor or contractor offering the best value under a request for proposals as described in Minn. Stat.§16C.28, Subd. 1, paragraph (a), clause (2).

    • Support documentation of the bidding process utilized to contract services must be included in the grantee’s financial records, including support documentation justifying a single/sole source bid, if applicable.

    • For projects that include construction work of $25,000 or more, prevailing wage rules apply per Minn. Stat.§177.41 through 177.44; consequently, the bid request must state the project is subject to prevailing wage. These rules require that the wages of laborers and workers should be comparable to wages paid for similar work in the community as a whole. A prevailing wage form should accompany these bid submittals.