Efforts to continue supporting Farm to School initiatives in Minnesota will get a boost from a nearly $100,000 grant the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will receive from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.
The MDA will match the two-year, $99,881 federal grant to create a statewide Harvest of the Month program to support schools in accessing local food monthly in the cafeteria, classroom, and community.
“Schools need easy-to-use, targeted marketing and educational materials and better ways to connect with Minnesota producers interested in supplying schools,” Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said. “This grant will allow us to build on existing Farm to School efforts and expand them.”
Harvest of the Month will develop and refine marketing materials and an education curriculum, increase engagement between schools and agricultural producers, and develop gatherings and events to build on existing networks in close collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Education and the Farm to School Leadership Team, a coalition of statewide public and nonprofit partners.
“Farm to School helps fuel our students’ learning with local, Minnesota-grown food,” said Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker. “We should use every effort to expand and support this important program that connects our students to our agriculture community.”
Over half of Minnesota’s school districts have participated in Farm to School activities, investing about $12.3 million into local agricultural economies. Last year, 50 schools offered a Minnesota Thursday meal where all foods on the menu were locally produced. Five additional Farm to School projects in Minnesota also received USDA funding.
Minnesota’s Farm to School efforts have made great strides in the past decade, thanks to the dedication of farmers, food service professionals, and partnerships, to increase healthy, local food access. The MDA’s contributions have included creation of the Minnesota Grown Wholesale Directory, a free, online and published resource for producers and wholesale buyers, and the AGRI Farm to School Grant Program, which will have awarded nearly $3 million in total grants by the end of this funding cycle.
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Larry Schumacher, MDA Communications