Farm to School Program deserves support

It connects schools with the world of American agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Program makes grants available to school districts and other organizations to support projects that connect American young people with farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers in their communities.

According to the USDA, this grant funding is designed in part to “increase the amount of healthy, local foods served in schools and create economic opportunities for nearby farmers.” Beyond that, the endeavor supports an array of collaborative learning opportunities. These undertakings include student field trips to local farms, planting and maintaining school gardens and conducting taste tests of nutritious foods.

“Everybody wins with Farm to School. USDA is proud to help the next generation better understand where its food comes from, while strengthening local economies,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue, who just announced that in 2019, funds available for Food to School grants have reached a record high.

Some federal programs accomplish very little. This one, however, has been immensely successful. Here is some of what had been achieved as of the most recent Farm to School Census:

• $789 million had been invested in local communities.

• 17,089 salad bars offering healthy eating options had been created.

• More than 7,000 school gardens have been planted.

According to the most recent data collected by the USDA, 42% of American school districts surveyed take part in Farm to School activities. That’s an impressive 5,254 districts and 42,587 schools.

Here in Iowa, the program is also thriving. Twenty-nine percent of Hawkeye State school districts are already undertaking Farm to School Program activities. That’s 98 districts with 438 schools and 174,145 students. And that is just a start. An additional 17% of districts that participated in the census indicated that they plan to start Farm to School projects. Many school districts in our readership area have already done so.

The Messenger congratulates the USDA on the success of this superb program. We urge community leaders to give strong support to local schools as they undertake Farm to School Program activities.

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