Farm to School programs across Northeast Indiana will be able to make big strides forward in the next two years, thanks to a USDA Farm to School Implementation Grant recently awarded to Wells County Revitalization on behalf of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network, Parkview Health, and Purdue Extension.
The Office of Community Food Systems within the Food & Nutrition Service of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $12 million in Farm to School Grants this year, announcing awards to 176 grantees, the most projects funded since the program began in 2013. Four of the 2021 USDA Farm to School grantees serve students in Indiana.
The new USDA Farm to School Implementation Grant was awarded to Wells County Revitalization, which serves as the fiscal sponsor of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network. Under this grant, Wells County Revitalization will partner with the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network, Parkview Health, and Purdue University Extension to improve access to local food in eleven participating schools and early childcare sites in northeast Indiana.
The latest data – released in mid-July– from the 2019 Farm to School Census highlight the impact of farm to school efforts on local communities. In school year 2018-2019, school districts purchased nearly $1.3 billion in local fruits, vegetables, and other foods, totaling approximately 20% of all school food purchases. The newly updated Farm to School Census website features state and local breakdowns of participation and spending.
These Farm to School grant partners will produce ‘Harvest of the Month’ videos on farms across the region; deliver training and on-going support for school tower gardens, raised garden beds, and/or greenhouse gardens to eleven participating schools; develop curriculum resources to integrate agricultural education and Harvest of the Month taste test activities into classroom instruction; organize taste tests of Harvest of the Month products; develop networking opportunities for school food service staff, local food producers and community members; celebrate Local Food Week, with partner schools, through educational activities hosted on area farms; and, convene the Northeast Indiana Farm to School Team.
Kylee Bennett, the Farm to School Team Program Director, shared, “Parkview’s Community Well-Being Team is excited our Farm to School momentum will continue, working alongside schools and early childhood sites to expand our region’s Harvest of the Month program, establish more school gardens, and develop engaging curriculum.”
Janet Katz, the Founding Director of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network, stated, “We are so grateful for this USDA Farm to School grant award to be able to work with our Farm to School partners to build relationships between farms and schools across Northeast Indiana. These funds will help students learn how food is produced and will develop new market opportunities for our farms.”
For more information, visit www.neifood.org/news/usda-farm-to-school-grant-received-by-northeast-indiana-partners
The Northeast Indiana Local Food Network supports the growth of a vibrant local food marketplace across Northeast Indiana, by increasing the visibility and economic opportunities for our region’s local food producers and businesses, so they can expand their sales both locally and beyond. For more information, visit www.NEIfood.org.