Farm to school is a movement inside schools across the country that connect K-12 educators with local and regional farms. Farm to school has two main objectives. Improving the quality and nutrition of school-served meals through local sourcing is paired with educational opportunities for students to learn about where healthy food actually comes from. Farm to school programs encourage students to adopt healthy and nutritious eating habits, early on. They can include farm field trips, culinary classes, school gardens or any activity that integrates food-related education into the normal school curriculum. If you’re looking to start farm to school in your community or seeking additional funding for your existing program, the vast majority of grant funding is available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Your school or district can receive direct funding from the USDA to fund your farm to school program. State and non-profit organizations that receive funding through this national program also offer assistance to farm to school programs on the state and local level.
USDA Farm to School Grant Program
The USDA awards up to $5 million in grants each year under its Farm to School Grant Program. Funds are awarded to large and small school districts in both rural and urban environments, Indian tribal organizations, food producers, non-profits and state and local agencies. Three different types of grants are offered under the program. Planning grants are issued to schools and districts that are just starting a food to school program. Implementation grants are issued schools and districts expanding their already existing programs. And support service grants are issued to state and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations, agricultural producers and non-profits that work with school districts to develop farm to school initiatives.
The applications process opens in February and the deadline to submit an application for a USDA Farm to School Grant is in April of each year with funds awarded and available in October. Your school must participate in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Programs to be eligible to receive a planning or implementation grant. For all three types of grants offered, your school or other organization must be prepared to match 25% of total program cost to receive USDA funding.
Over 30 states have implemented farm to school legislation, creating state-wide initiatives to place programs in their state’s school. These agencies offer farm to school resources on the local level, but the type of agency that handles farm to school varies from state to state. Generally, farm to school is administered by the Department of Education, Agriculture or Health and Human Services. In some cases, farm to school is handled by an interagency task force that can combine resources with public universities or other organizations. Check with your state to find the local support for farm to school available in your area.
Grants for School Gardens
Private sourcing for school garden grants is available through a number of non-profit and for-profit organizations. If your farm to school planning involves planting a school garden on your campus, check out these sources for school garden funding.
Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools
Salad Bars to Schools offers grants for free salad bar packages for schools looking to offer salad bars as part of their reimbursable meals. Since local produce is readily available in most areas, adding a salad bar to the school cafeteria is an easy way to provide some visible impact to your food to school program.