Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced grants for 71 projects supporting USDA efforts to connect schools with farmers and ranchers through the Farm to School program. Two of those grants went to groups in Missouri working to increase the amount of fresh, local produce served in Missouri schools.
Congratulations to the partnership between the Polk County, Fair Play and Humansville schools, as well as to the Springfield R-12 School District of being selected to receive grants of more than $40,000 each to increase students' access to local produce and proteins!
Want to learn more about the projects? Check out these excerpts, courtesy of USDA:
Polk County Reorganized School District R-1
Grant Type: Planning; $43,123
The Polk County Reorganized School District R‐1, in collaboration with Fair Play and Humansville School systems and Living Well Alliance will plan a farm to school program benefitting 3,383 students located in a rural area of southwest Missouri. An average of 69% of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, with several of those participating in the “Back Pack” program to help supply meals on the weekend as well. This project will accelerate these districts’ progress toward a restructuring of their “Comprehensive School Health Programs,” which will expand produce with higher nutrient content into all meals served to students. While these districts have taken modest steps to date, such as movement toward more fresh fruits and vegetables to students when available and initial participation in the Healthier US School Challenge, no specific farm to school activities have been undertaken. This funding will provide opportunity for these districts to address gaps and resources in their planning work that would add essential, missing elements to expand healthy nutrition benefits to all students in the districts.
School District of Springfield R-12
Grant Type: Planning; $44,259
The School District of Springfield R‐12 is the largest accredited school district in Missouri with 24,878 students in schools. We have a federal free/reduced lunch rate of 54.3%, and 40% of all fifth graders are overweight and/or obese. Currently, we are not serving local food in the school cafeteria. The overarching goal of our project is to craft policy of incorporating local foods district wide that will be accepted through all levels of the school district while being compatible with food distributors. It is imperative that we start at the beginning by creating a complete plan that becomes accepted policy instead of just trying to haphazardly add local foods here and there. The objectives of this project are to expand our Local Food Access Team; examine school infrastructure and provide education regarding the farm to school toolkit; purchase a salad bar for three elementary schools while educating students about food; examine existing school structure and create a needs assessment for farm to school; and create a farm to school implementation plan. These goals will enable the School District of Springfield R-12 to contract with a food distributor willing to garner local foods, explore supply chain opportunities, and begin to feed students with and educate them about local foods.
Want to learn more about getting local foods into schools in Missouri? Check out the Missouri Farm to School program through the University of Missouri's Cooperative Extension Service.