Leahy: Vermont Nets $100,000 To Connect Schools And Local Farms

. . . Leahy-Led Farm-To-School Programs Have Helped Make Vermont A National Pace-Setter

(TUESDAY, Dec. 2, 2014) – A farm-to-school program championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is investing $100,000 in bringing locally grown food to cafeteria tables and classrooms in Vermont.  Leahy, who has led the national farm-to-school efforts in the Senate, commended VT FEED, a partnership of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-Vt.), and Shelburne Farms, which Tuesday received a federal grant to support farm-to-school initiatives across the Green Mountain State.

Leahy said:  “Vermont has long been a pace-setter in the farm-to-school movement.  By bringing local food to the cafeteria table and into the classroom, we improve nutrition, promote healthy eating choices, and help all children understand where their food comes from.  It’s a winning strategy for our farmers and our students and Vermont is proving how well this program works.”

Leahy championed the creation of the program in the child nutrition bill of 2010, the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, assuring $5 million a year for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm-to-School program.  Since the program began awarding grants two years ago, Vermont has received $291,712 in total grant funding, supporting more than 200 schools across the state that participate in the program.  Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrtion, and Forestry,  is currently working on a reauthorization of the program ahead of consideration of child nutrition programs in the Senate next year.

Leahy said this project will allow VT FEED to support and expand farm-to-school programs across the state and will help schools incorporate nutrition, farm, and hands-on-learning curriculum in their classrooms.  Betsy Rosenbluth, Project Director for Vermont FEED and Northeast Regional Lead for the National Farm to School Network said, “Farm to School programs help create thriving local economies, healthier kids, stronger schools, and vibrant communities.  VT FEED is proud to have helped over a third of Vermont schools develop groundbreaking programs.  We are now thrilled to receive a USDA Farm to School Support Service grant to continue this great work and to also help spread those best practices throughout the Northeast.”

USDA Tuesday also announced that the Northeast Regional Steering Committee of the Farm to School Network will receive a $50,000 grant that will enable a new convening of regional farm to school leaders working to improve access to local foods in regional schools.  In partnership with the five other New England states and New York, VT FEED will be leading the Northeast Farm to School Leadership Summit, an integral part of the 2015 Northeast Farm to Institution Conference.  The Summit will emphasize the importance of developing supply chain relationships and programming designed to connect eligible schools with local or regional farmers, food processors and manufacturers in order to serve local and regionally procured foods in school cafeterias. 

Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) wrote a letter to United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in April 2014 supporting the funding.  The letter can be viewed here.

The Vermont grants are among 82 projects across 42 states to receive funding to connect local farmers with school cafeterias.  USDA’s 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 like school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes.

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