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Taking a Bite out of the Local Apple in the Windy City

March is National Nutrition Month, and local food plays an important role in providing Americans with fresh, healthy fuel for their bodies. From farmers to financiers to schools and hospitals, there is a lot of passion for sharing good food by supporting strong local and regional food systems. I experienced this firsthand during my trip to Chicago, Ill., where I spoke at last week’s Good Food Festival & Conference.

The trip came on the heels of a recent announcement that USDA is making $97 million available to expand access to healthy food and support rural economies.  Grants from my agency -- the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – make up over $90 million of that funding.  AMS was a sponsor and exhibitor at the trade show, where we shared information with stakeholders about the many resources we have to support local and regional food systems. Through our Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (comprised of the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program), AMS supports producers, local food entrepreneurs, and rural and urban communities across the country.

From Small Potatoes to 36,000 Pounds of Carrots: Farm to School Grows

In the past few years I’ve seen an increasing number of news stories about successful farm to school programs. As reflected in the first USDA Farm to School Census, farm to school programs are thriving from Alaska to Florida and in every state between.

I attended a recent event that demonstrates just how quickly—and by what lengths—farm to school is growing. On January 15th, students in all Chicago Public Schools (CPS) were served sliced carrots grown at a farm only 90 miles away in Milwaukee.