Alabama students will be seeing more locally grown produce on the school menus next school year thanks to a newly awarded $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Designed to increase the availability of local foods in schools, USDA Farm to School grants can help farm to school programs get started or expand existing efforts.
“Increasing the amount of local foods in America’s schools is a win-win for everyone,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Our children benefit from the fresh, local food served in their meals at school, and local economies are nourished, as well, when schools buy the food they provide close to home.”
The state’s Farm to School Cooperative — a coalition of state and community partners including the Alabama Department of Education, the Foodbank of North Alabama/Farm Food Collaborative, the Alabama Farmers Federation, Feeding the Gulf-Coast Food Bank, food hubs, Druid City Garden Project, and EAT South — was one of 65 projects recipients from across the country of the USDA’s 2017 Farm to School Grant. The co-op encourages schools to serve fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to students, implement hands-on education in school gardens, and provide nutrition and agriculture education.
Specifically, the state will use grant funds to assist farmers with GAP certification, revise the Alabama farm to school website, develop a state-wide promotional campaign, and support school garden curriculum development. The Tuscaloosa-based Druid City Garden Project, part of the coalition, will utilize funds to facilitate building mobile cooking units for schools to engage students in cooking demonstrations with produce grown in school gardens.
“The Alabama Farm to School Collaborative provides farmers an opportunity to develop relationships with the students in their local schools districts,” commented Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan. “Not only do the students enjoy locally grown food, but now they can make a connection to the person who grew it for them.”