It’s no secret that supply chain issues experienced across the country have created challenges with food accessibility. Rising COVID-19 cases along with severe weather complicated the flow of goods and services, yet USDA programs have responded with creative solutions to ensure Americans had access to healthy foods.
To make a national impact, FNS thought local. We implemented several programs that provide relief to schools, offer economic opportunities for farmers, and boost purchases of local and domestic agricultural products. And USDA’s Farm to School Grants represent a shining example of how we’re able to help nourish children during uncertain times.
In July, FNS awarded $12 million in Farm to School grants to 176 awardees, serving 6,800 schools.
In West Virginia, the grant enables students at Mountain View High School to work at the “Go Growcery” mobile market, which travels through communities providing residents fresh produce. The mobile market is funded through USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program and teaches students important skills in entrepreneurship, agriculture, retail, and marketing. USDA also works with McDowell County educators to create a garden-based curriculum.
Meanwhile, at Daleville Community Schools in Indiana, kindergarten students learn to sow fruit and vegetable seeds. Kids plant, grow, and harvest produce, which is then incorporated into school meals. The farm-to-school grant also helped the schools install greenhouses so students can tend to plants year-round. School Superintendent Greg Roach explained, “we want students to understand that food is often cheaper and readily accessible when it’s grown in a local garden.”
On the west coast, the California Wheat Commission has partnered with the Shandon Joint Unified School District to provide students bread, pizza, tortillas, and pasta, made with 100% locally sourced whole wheat.
Through USDA initiatives like the farm-to-school program, over 1.4 million children had access to healthy and nutritious foods in 2021.
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How can we as food service professionals start a community of individuals who help with the food shortages, sustainability and all around community outreach to such a large number of families who are struggling right now? Our motto at WTS's nutrition dept. is "YES, WE CAN"
How can we as leaders meet to discuss and come up with pro active solutions?