Please visit www.cfra.org in the upcoming months to see how the project is progressing and the Center for Rural Affairs’ Farm to School Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/NebraskaFarmToSchoolProgram
The Lyons, Nebraska, non-profit organization the Center for Rural Affairs received a $99,600 support service grant, “Growing Connections for Farm to School: Networking and training to bring farmers and schools together” to impact students across ten schools and beyond through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program, an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers.
“In rural and urban communities across the country, farm to school is teaching students where food comes from and how it gets to their plate, and encouraging them to make healthier food choices in the cafeteria and at home,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Farm to school programs are an investment in the health of our nation’s children and in the vibrancy of rural economies.”
Kathie Starkweather Director of Opportunities & Stewardship with the Center for Rural Affairs said, “We are excited to be able to move Farm to School into the forefront in Nebraska. It not only allows for healthier food choices for our children but it helps them understand where their food comes from and also will have an impact on local economies as local farmers supply food to schools across the state. As some of these young minds understand where and how the food they eat is grown, it might just open up an opportunity to nurture new farmers for our future, too.”
USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes.
The Center for Rural Affairs will use support service funds to provide training and technical assistance to both farmers and food service personnel on how to start a Farm to School program. The Center will work alongside farmers and ten schools to facilitate the connections that need to be made for successful Farm to School programs. In addition, training will be offered in farm food safety and usage for farmers and school food service personnel. Two convenings will be held to introduce farmers to food service personnel, and year two will include invitations to key people in the state who will be able to hear the success stories of programs started through this work.
According to Starkweather, two schools committed to participating in the project when the application was completed: Bancroft-Rosalie and the Santee Community school. Partners on the project include the Nebraska Department of Education Nutritional Services, the Nebraska Food Cooperative, and the Nebraska Farmers Union. In addition, we are fortunate to have the expertise of Mrs. Linda Truscott, a long-time food service director at Norris school who runs a successful long-term Farm to School program. The types of local products that students will be trying this year include a variety of fruits and vegetables, milk, cheese, eggs and meat.
USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food. USDA's Farm to School Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which authorized USDA to provide grants and technical assistance to help schools gain better access to local foods.