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CPS Awarded One Of USDA's First "Farm To School" Grants

By Anthony Todd in Food on Nov 27, 2012 4:00PM

2012_11_27_USDA.png When he started in 2009, one of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's new initiatives at USDA was the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" program. This program (unlike much of USDA's work which promotes conventional commodity crop production) was designed to provide money and resources to communities looking to do more with local farms. We talked to USDA Undersecretary Ann Wright about this last year, if you want more details. Last week, as part of the project, USDA awarded its first round of "Farm to School" grants, and Chicago Public Schools got one.

Obama Foodorama (the blog for all things food policy) went through the entire list of grants - the list is long and varied. Many of the programs support new staff and infrastructure to bring locally-grown produce into school meals. Agriculture Undersecretary Kathleen Merrigan argued for the economic impact of these grants. "When schools buy food from nearby producers, their purchasing power helps create local jobs and economic benefits, particularly in rural agricultural communities. Evidence also suggests that when kids understand more about where food comes from and how it is produced, they are more likely to make healthy eating choices."

Other grants go to promote partnerships with distributors, encouraging more famers to develop relationships with schools and the creation of school gardens. What's Chicago getting? A $100,000 grant designed to "make more locally grown produce available in Chicago Public Schools, including implementing a school garden safety program and formalizing a locally farmed produce procurement program. The one‐year project will make school‐garden grown produce available on the menu and promote nutrition/gardening education in schools in addition to creating a sustainable procurement agreement with local farmers."

Some Chicago schools (most notably the Academy for Global Citizenship) are already doing this sort of work, with great success. Hopefully this grant will begin to bring these ideas to more schools across Chicago.