Here are some common questions about the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Farm to School and Early Care First Bite and Equipment Grant.

If you have questions that are not addressed here, email them to with "First Bite Grant" in the subject line. We will post all questions and answers on this page.

Note: Acronyms we use in this program include Early Care Education (ECE), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), Seamless Summer Option (SSO), and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

Eligibility questions

    • Is a school or ECE center eligible to apply for the Full Tray grant if the funding formula funding produces an award size that is less than the minimum award of $2,500?
      • Yes, if the Full Tray formula produces a funding amount that is below $2,500, the school district or ECE center is still eligible to apply for a Full Tray grant. They can request the minimum Full Tray grant award of $2,500.
      • If applying for the First Bite grant, the applicant can request between $2,500 and $5,000 and there is no formula used to determine that amount.
    • I have a FY 2022 and FY 2023 Farm to School grant. Am I eligible to apply for FY 2024 Farm to School and Early Care grant funds?
      • Yes, you are eligible to apply for the Full Tray and Equipment Grant.
      • Only apply for the amount of FY 2024 grant funding you can spend before December 31, 2026.
    • As a school district that was previously awarded a First Bite Grant for our K-12 meal program, can I now apply for the Full Tray Grant for K-12 and also apply for a First Bite Grant for our onsite early care program that participates in CACFP?
      • No, schools can only submit on grant application. If your school district operates both NSLP for K-12 students and CACFP for an early childhood education program, you should submit only one application for both programs.
      • If your district has already received a First Bite Grant, you can apply for the Full Tray Grant. In that application, you can combine the reimbursable NSLP, SBP, and CACFP meals and snacks served in October 2022 to determine the amount of Full Tray funding eligibility. Use the formula:
        • (NSLP and SBP meals served + CACFP meals and snacks served) x $0.10 x 12 months = eligible amount of funding for the Full Tray Grant
    • We are a school that serves through the NSLP. However, we use a food service management company for our meals, so we do not purchase our own food directly. Are we still eligible to apply for this grant? If so, are there any special considerations we need to make?
      • Yes, you are eligible for this grant but will need to show evidence that food your school buys is eligible under the program. Before you apply, coordinate with your nutrition department staff and other food service management company staff to ensure they are aware of and can follow through with the grant deliverables.
    • Is this grant only for Federal Food program schools?
      • Yes, the grant is intended for schools participating in the NSLP and ECE centers participating in the CACFP. We encourage school districts and ECE centers serving sovereign tribal nations to apply.

    Back to top

    Application questions

    • What will be the end date of the grant? This will help us plan for purchasing seasonal produce.
      • The grant will begin in March 2024 (estimate) and end in December 2026.
    • Can a First Bite applicant apply for the Equipment Grant?
      • Applicants for a First Bite or Full Tray grant may also apply for up to $25,000 to purchase equipment in addition to funds for food. The equipment portion of the grant request must include a 1:1 cash match and support Farm to School and Early Care initiatives.
    • What is meant by a “1:1 match” requirement for equipment funding? 
      • A 1:1 match means the grantee pays 50% of the total cost of the equipment. Example: If you want to purchase a Robot Coupe that costs $4,000, you would request $2,000 in equipment grant funds and you would pay the remaining $2,000 of the cost.
    • Can Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) funding (or other state or federal funding) be used as the matching funds for the equipment 1:1 match requirement for this grant?
      • State and federal funds (including SHIP funds) cannot be used as matching funds. State funds are defined as funds that were obtained through the budgeting process of the Minnesota Legislature or granted by a State agency.
    • How many Letters of Support are required for the grant?
      • If you’re applying for the Full Tray grant, you must have at least one letter from a producer, and a letter from a distributor if you use one. You can also include up to two letters from community partners.
      • If you’re applying as a CACFP sponsor on behalf of an eligible ECE center, you must have a letter from the ECE center.
      • If you’re applying for the First Bite grant, you don’t need any letters of support.

    Back to top

    Program questions

    • I am working with a local pasta maker to see if they can source 80% of their flour from Minnesota. If they can, would their pasta be an eligible food item? If I include this plan in our grant proposal and we receive a grant, what happens if the plans for this item don’t work out?
      • Yes, if the pasta maker can source 80% of the flour from Minnesota, then the item would be eligible. As described in the FY 2024 Request for Proposals, processed foods are eligible if at least one primary ingredient is 80% grown or raised in Minnesota. The MDA understands that sometimes plans or circumstances can change from the time that a proposal is submitted. We can work with grantees if updates need to be made to project work plans and budgets. 
    • Can we buy local food from more than one vendor if awarded a grant?
      • Yes, eligible foods can be purchased from multiples vendors for this grant. Examples of potential vendors include individual farmers, food hubs or other aggregators, farmers’ markets, and distributors.
    • Is this grant money going to be offered each year or does it just span from March 2024 to December 2026?
      • We expect to release a Request for Proposal in Fall 2024 for an additional $935,000 in FY 2025 Farm to School and Early Care grants.
    • Can I use this Farm to School grant to purchase Minnesota grown foods for the summer meal program (SFSP)?
      • Yes, FY 2024 Farm to School and Early Care grant funds may be used in school year meal programs (NSLP & SBP), summer meal programs (SFSP & SSO), or CACFP meal programs.
    • I work with Family and Consumer Science classes to grow produce to use in our program. Is this something that would qualify for the Farm to School and Early Care grant program?
      • Grant funds must be used as a part of a federal food program. School garden produce is not an eligible expense for this grant.
    • We use a food vendor who manages all the nutritional facts for food served at our school. Would this program be to purchase fresh fruits and veggies on top of food we get from our vendor or would it be to replace the veggie/fruit portion that is already being served?
      • This funding would be to source some of the produce locally, whether through a food vendor, directly from a farmer, or through a food hub.
    • Would these fruits and veggies still be subject to the standard nutritional compliance?
      • Yes, all produce, grains, and proteins purchased through this grant must adhere to the standard nutritional requirements for federal meal programs.
    • By receiving these funds, will it deduct from or lower our reimbursement for meals from the state?
      • No, this is additional funding on top of your reimbursement for the meal program from the state.
    • I can buy local 'Red Lake' Wild Rice from our food vendor. Is that okay to buy it from them to be reimbursed through this program?
      • Yes, you can buy eligible foods directly from a farmer, through a food distributor, or through a food hub. As a minimally processed grain, local wild rice would be an eligible item through this grant.
    • Can I use this grant to purchase local hot dogs?
      • Eligible food items include whole (unprocessed), minimally processed, and processed items as described in the FY 2024 Request for Proposals. As a processed food, hot dogs would be eligible if at least one primary ingredient (excluding water) is 80% grown or raised in Minnesota.
    • How do the products get to our school?
      • This varies between the farmer and the school. Each situation is unique. Often, the farmer will deliver directly to your school or ECE. In some instances, the school or ECE center may pick up directly from the farm. You may also purchase local items through a distributor or food hub.
    • I am contacting my vendor today about writing a letter of support and I am wondering what should be included in this letter?
      • There is no set criterion for a letter of support, but the producer should speak to the partnership between their farm and the school or ECE center and how this partnership benefits farm to school and early care efforts.
    • Can we apply for more than one item for the equipment grant?
      • Yes, you may ask for funding for more than one piece of equipment, as long as you’re not asking for more than $25,000 and you’re able to cover the 1:1 cash match requirement.
    • Are processing costs eligible for reimbursement under the grant? For example, peeling and cubing butternut squash to be roasted or incorporated into a chili.
      • The grant would reimburse for the cost of the squash that arrives peeled and cubed, but not for your staff time to peel and cube the squash. The grant will reimburse for the expense of the food item, but not for the staff to time to prep and prepare it.
    • Do you have a list of farmers participating in this program?
      • We don't have a list of farmers since it varies by location of each school or ECE center. We recommend starting with the MN Grown Wholesale Directory to find farmers in your area or visiting your local farmers’ market to see if any vendors there would be interested in selling to your school or ECE center.
    • I'm a producer; how can I encourage schools to apply?
      • The MN Farm to School website has a template email that you can use to reach out to local schools and ECE centers and encourage them to apply. Also, if the school or ECE center is applying for the Full Tray Grant, they must include at least one letter of support from a producer who will benefit from their project. You could offer to write one of these letters.

    Back to top

    Food safety questions

    Back to top

    Farm to School technical assistance office hours

    The Minnesota Farm to School Leadership Team hosts technical assistance office hours on the second Wednesday of each month, 2:30-3:30 p.m. on Zoom. Join these virtual calls to discuss and find answers to your questions related to Farm to School and Early Care and local food purchasing.

    Back to top