The Iowa Department of Education today was awarded nearly $100,000 through a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and supported by matching funds from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship aimed at connecting Iowa schools with local and regional farmers to incorporate fresh, locally grown food in school meals.
This is the second consecutive Farm to School Grant awarded to the Department to support programs that increase the availability of local foods in schools and provide educational programming on sustainability and the impact of healthy eating on overall wellness. The Department is partnering with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa State Extension and Outreach to bring an array of expertise to help ensure sustainability of programming and successful outcomes.
“It’s a win-win when we can assist our schools with providing nutritious and delicious meals to Iowa students while also building demand and markets for locally grown and produced Iowa products,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “Initiatives like the Farm-to-School program are important because they help to shorten the distance from farm to plate, improve our supply chain resiliency, and foster long-term connections between students, schools, and farmers.”
“This Farm-to-School funding is a great benefit to students, schools and local economies,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo. “Establishing strong local connections with farmers and producers and incorporating fresh local ingredients in school meals impacts student health and learning and helps keep school purchasing dollars right here in Iowa.”
This funding will be used to provide opportunities for school nutrition program operators to connect with Iowa farmers at monthly meet-ups, develop training tools to help operators better understand purchasing and food safety procedures, encourage avenues for local foods to be incorporated into school menus and celebrate farm to school activities across the state. The two-year grant period will cover programming during the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.
Total funding includes $67,677 from the USDA and $25,000 from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
The Iowa Department of Education is one of 123 recipients of the 2022 Farm to School grant. In total, the grant recipients will serve over 3 million children at more than 5,000 schools in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Since the USDA Farm to School Program’s inception in 2013, nearly $75 million in Farm to School Grants have been awarded, funding more than 1,000 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico. These projects have reached over 25 million students in close to 60,000 schools.
More information is available on the Farm to School webpage.