Vermont Nets $100,000 In Grants To Connect School Cafeterias With Local Farms And Firms

First-Ever Grants Under Leahy’s Farm To School Program

(WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14, 2012) – A farm to school program authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is investing $100,000 in efforts to connect Vermont’s school cafeterias with local agricultural producers.

Leahy included the farm to school grant initiative in the child nutrition bill of 2010 – the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act -- and he also included its mandatory funding source.  Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) have been strong advocates in Congress for the burgeoning farm to school movement, of which Vermont has been a leader, with about 200 of the state’s 420 schools participating.

These are the first-ever grants under the Leahy program.  The grants will help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, 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 Vermont grants are among 68 projects nationwide, spanning 37 states and the District of Columbia and totaling $4.5 million, that are being released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Starting this month and for the next 18 months, The Vermont Agency of Agriculture will direct the grants to four regional food hubs, serving 56 Vermont schools, to strengthen the regional support structure for farmers and food service staff, develop and implement best practices by regional food hubs focused on school food procurement, and refine models for helping regional food hubs support farm to school programs and increasing the purchase of local foods by local schools.  The grant partners are VT FEED (Vermont Food Education Every Day) and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT); the UVM Extension Service; and UVM’s Center for Rural Studies.

Leahy said, “Linking Vermont’s farms to our cafeterias is a winning strategy, and it’s a natural fit for Vermont on several levels.  These new revenue streams strengthen our farms and local economies, creating jobs.  These links improve nutrition and healthy eating choices and help kids understand where their food comes from.”

Sanders said, “I am very pleased that the Department of Agriculture has recognized – and is supporting – Vermont’s role in leading the nation in linking up school cafeterias and our local farms.  A key to making the farm to cafeteria effort successful is creating and sustaining food hubs, which allow farmers to work together to provide a varied list of food products to schools in their area of Vermont.”

Welch said, “This is great news for Vermont.  In addition to providing nutritious meals to Vermont’s school children, this important program will also invest in our local communities and support our family farmers. ”

Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross said, “Vermont has been a model for many farm to school programs around the country, from our grant program to our innovative model of integrating local food into school cafeterias, classrooms and communities.  We are excited about this award and ready to begin documenting the role our food hubs play in supporting farm to school programs and community-based agriculture in our state.  We are grateful to USDA, Senator Leahy and the rest of our congressional delegation for working to make this funding opportunity a reality.”

Abbie Nelson, director of VT FEED, said, "VT FEED has been working in the farm to school movement for over 12 years and has seen exciting development in Vermont classrooms, cafeterias and communities for real change in school food culture and school community connections to local food and farms.  We are very thankful for Senator Leahy's consistent advocacy for farm to school programming nationally and for Vermont.  We are honored to be selected to receive the USDA Farm to School Grant and  to continue the advancement of farm to school programs with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the Vermont Food Hubs serving Vermont schools."

The full list of grantees can be viewed here.


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Other Vermont contacts: Abbie Nelson, director, VT FEED, 802-434-4122

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