Leahy: Vermont Nets $125,000 To Connect Schools And Local Farms

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015) – A program long championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will invest $125,000 in bolstering efforts to bring local agriculture into the classrooms and cafeterias of schools across Vermont. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the Farm to School grants Tuesday to connect child nutrition programs with local farmers.

Leahy said: “Tying local agriculture to our schools not only provides our children with healthy meals and improved nutrition, it encourages a long standing connection to the farms that are so iconic of our Green Mountain State.  Every student deserves equal access to healthy meals, and I am proud that our school nutrition leaders will use these funds to help all children gain a better understand about where their food comes from.  Today’s announcement is another example of how Vermont continues to lead the nation in implementing this winning strategy.”

The Burlington School District received a $100,000 grant to expand hands-on food and garden-based education.  The district has several gardens, which schools use to integrate nutrition education into the curriculum.  Through the use of hands-on food science students are gaining heightened awareness of the importance of cultivation and nutrition.  The funds will also be used to increase the availability of local beef in school meals. 

“Farm to School is a valuable tool in creating food access for students and providing them with the ability to learn about their food, where it comes from, and the farmers growing it,” said Doug Davis, Director of Food Service for the Burlington School Food Project. “Knowing where your food comes from is one of the most important aspects of creating a sustainable food system.  Burlington has been working in Farm to School for well over 10 years, and this grant will help us to move our program forward and allow us to create a model that can be replicated around our state. I am grateful to Senator Leahy and his team for making these grants available to schools around the country as part of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.”

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets also received a $25,000 grant for a statewide farm-to-school training to encourage Vermont supply chain partners to engage in agriculture development learning.  This grant arrives on the heels of an Agency-led strategic mapping process to better inform farm to school practices in Vermont that identified this priority. 

“Farm to School programs are a vital tool we can use to promote agricultural literacy in schools so that, from an early age, students understand the value of nutrition, develop healthy eating habits, and appreciate where their food comes from,” said  Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross. “This USDA Farm to School Training Grant will provide a valuable opportunity to convene statewide FTS stakeholders and work collaboratively to develop and deepen partnerships between Vermont farmers, schools, nonprofits, community members, state government and other partners in order to increase the positive impact of Farm to School programming in Vermont.”

These awards were part of $4.9 million in grants for 74 projects across 39 states that were announced Tuesday as part of a program that Leahy championed in the creation of the child nutrition bill of 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  Since the program began awarding grants three years ago, Vermont has received over $425,000 in federal funding.  Earlier this year, preliminary results from the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census announced that schools with robust farm to school programs are seeing reductions in plate waste, increases in school meal participation rates, and an increased willingness on the part of children to try new foods, notably fruits and vegetables.  Students at Vermont schools with Farm to School programs were above the state and national averages for fruit and vegetable consumption 


The Leahy-authored USDA Farm to School program receives $5 million per year in annual appropriations.  This year Leahy and Senator Thad Cochran (R – Miss.) introduced bipartisan legislation to raise the program’s funding level from $5 million to $15 million, and increase the maximum grant award to $200,000.  The legislation also expands the scope of the program to include preschools, summer food service programs, and after-school programs, and it enhances access to tribal foods and other farming, such as aquaculture.  The legislation also helps grantees improve procurement and distribution of local food.


Leahy added: “In Vermont we have long seen the benefits of farm to school programs in addressing child hunger.  Since we started the USDA program, grant applications have far exceed the funds available.  It is time we provide additional support to this commonsense strategy.”


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