Leahy Secures $476,000 For Shelburne Farms And Vermont Farm-To-School Programs

(THURSDAY, May 14) -- In the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act passed in March, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) secured $476,000 in funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Shelburne Farms to develop strategies to enhance and improve partnerships between local farmers, students and teachers, providing additional economic opportunities for farmers and improved nutritional and health awareness for students.

This effort is part of Leahy’s longstanding work for farm-to-school efforts on the Appropriations Committee and on the Agriculture Committee.  As part of the 2004 reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, the statute that governs federal child nutrition programs, Leahy included a measure authorizing a new national farm to school grant program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help schools connect children with local farms by bringing fresh local foods to their cafeterias and by implementing hands-on nutrition education programs. 

As childhood obesity rates climb and small- and medium-d farms struggle to find profitable markets, communities in Vermont and across the nation are beginning to explore the benefits of linking school cafeterias and local farms.  When these connections are made, Leahy believes, children receive healthful, fresh food choices at school and positive, hands-on educational experiences about the foods that are produced in their region.  At the same time, farmers not only strengthen their local markets but also become more involved with the schools in their community. 

Schools interested in making farm-to-cafeteria connections are often small schools that do not have the staff or money to initiate projects on their own.  Shelburne Farms will use these funds for teacher and food service training, technical assistance, curriculum development and other activities so schools can create programs that can succeed in engaging children about good eating habits.  These programs will provide nutritional experiences they will keep with them for life, show them the importance of local agriculture in Vermont, and support local farms at the same time by keeping food dollars within the community.   

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