The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced that its Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Farm to School and Farm to Early Care and Education Grants are now available. The MDA will award up to $400,000 to eligible institutions to increase the use of Minnesota grown and raised foods through planning and feasibility studies, or equipment purchases and physical improvements.
“Our goal is to invest in schools and early care and education organizations so they can buy and serve more Minnesota grown foods,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “When kids have an opportunity to eat healthy, high-quality local foods at a young age, they are more likely to become lifelong consumers of those foods, which benefits Minnesota’s farmers.”
In previous grant rounds, the highly competitive AGRI Farm to School Grants have helped schools and early care and education organizations purchase food processors, cooling and storage equipment, and specialized ovens to make it easier to serve Minnesota grown produce, meat and dairy. Other recipients have utilized grant funds to develop their Farm to School programs by connecting with farmers in their areas, determining how seasonal produce fits into menu cycles, and creating processes to use local foods in infant foods in early care settings.
The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has been instrumental in the success of the Farm to School program in Minnesota; their contributions of funding help eligible institutions meet matching requirements for equipment purchases.
“The partnership with the Center for Prevention has definitely increased the impact of these grants,” said MDA Grant Specialist Lisa Sawyer. “Their matching dollars have made it possible for some of the schools and early care and education organizations that have received Farm to School Grants to participate in the program when district funds might otherwise have been unavailable.”
AGRI Farm to School and Farm to Early Care and Education Grants benefit farmers by empowering schools to use locally grown and raised foods. Sartell-St. Stephen School District used their AGRI Farm to School Grant funds to purchase equipment like combi ovens, rotisserie racks, and a Robot Coupe food processor. The equipment upgrades allowed them to purchase more locally raised foods from Minnesota farms, like Produce Acres, Collegeville Orchards, Kirick Gardens, and Sprout, a food hub in Little Falls.
Applications for Farm to School and Farm to Early Care and Education Grants must be submitted by 4:00 p.m. CST on November 16, 2017. For more information and to apply, please visit www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/grants/mnfarmtoschool.aspx and www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/grants/mnearlycareeduc.aspx.
Alauna Yust, MDA Communications