Submitted by Sylvia Crum
The USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Community Food Systems has awarded $ 98,952 to Appalachian Sustainable Development to expand current school garden programming and to create a regional farm-to-school coalition.
The project will provide low-income children with fresh and healthy food, the skills to grow food, and the community support needed for widespread culture change.
In collaboration with several partners, ASD plans to: offer digital training material to provide agricultural education; create a replicable model for establishing and maintaining sustainable gardening programs; provide access to a network of stakeholders for support and expertise; provide aggregation and distribution services; facilitate bulk supply purchases; and increasing access to the local food supply chain for procurement.
âWe are very grateful for this opportunity to bring together our community partners to support the creation of a sustainable school gardening program in the region. In addition to supporting the expansion of gardens in the region, this grant will allow ASD and all of our wonderful partners to build a sustainable future for these programs through the new coalition, âsaid Kathlyn Terry Baker, CEO of Appalachian Sustainable Development.
For the 2021-2022 school year, the USDA Farm-to-School Grants program will provide $ 12 million in grants to 176 farm-to-school projects spanning 45 states, the District of Columbia and four tribal organizations. Another record year for the program, this is the most projects funded since the program began in 2013. Prices range from $ 6,000 to $ 100,000. The grants will serve more than 6,800 schools and 1.4 million students.
The 2021 Farm-to-School Grant recipients represent the resilience and commitment to local food systems of partners involved in farm-to-school efforts, including agricultural producers, tribal nations, non-profit organizations, state agencies and schools serving rural and urban areas.
“Helping schools expand access to healthy, locally grown produce through these grants is just one of the many ways the USDA is transforming the US food system,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack . âNot only will this give children more nutritious food options in school, but it will support local agricultural economies, while also connecting them to the farms and farmers who grow the foods we all depend on. “
The USDA Farm-to-School Grants are awarded annually to help fund projects that increase the amount of local foods served in infant nutrition programs, teach children about nutrition and agriculture through garden and classroom education, and build the capacity of schools and farmers to buy and sell local foods.
Since 1995, ASD has worked in the Central Appalachians, bringing hope and making a difference to the people who call the region home.
What started as opportunities for struggling tobacco farmers to grow fruits and vegetables has turned into sustainable solutions to regional challenges that impact economic development, workforce development, access to food, health and well-being.
Over the years, ASD has expanded its reach from northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia to include partners in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. Visit https://asdevelop.org to learn more.