The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday the projects selected to receive the USDA’s annual farm to school grants designed to increase the amount of local foods served in schools.
Sixty-five projects were chosen nationwide, including five schools in the town of Coamo, this media outlet confirmed.
The $100,000 will be split among the following public schools: Segunda Unidad Eugenio Nazario Soto; Román Colón Correa; Segunda Unidad Enrique Colón; José Ramón Rodriguez; and Herminio W. Santaella.
“The Municipality of Coamo will increase local food production and consumption of fruits and vegetables by students in cafeterias at five schools. Curriculum will be expanded to include topics such as food security, food sovereignty, soil, climate change, insects, fruit and vegetables sowing, and aromatic plants in Puerto Rico agriculture,” the USDA said, describing how the funding will be used.
“A student-targeted nutrition campaign will be launched to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables, acquire locally cultivated produce, and teach the benefits of good nutrition, physical activity, and academic achievement,” the agency said.
According to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, schools with strong farm to school programs report higher school meal participation, reduced food waste, and increased willingness of the students to try new foods, such as fruits and vegetables. In addition, in school year 2013-2014 alone, schools purchased more than $789 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. Nearly half (47 percent) of these districts plan to purchase even more local foods in future school years, the USDA noted.
“Increasing the amount of local foods in America’s schools is a win-win for everyone,” said Cindy Long, deputy administrator for Child Nutrition Programs at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which administers the Department’s school meals programs.
“Farm to school projects foster healthy eating habits among America’s school-age children, and local economies are nourished, as well, when schools buy the food they provide from local producers,” she said.
This year’s grants range from $14,500 to $100,000, awarding a total of $5 million to schools, state agencies, tribal groups, and nonprofit organizations for farm to school planning, implementation, or training.
Projects selected are located in urban, suburban and rural areas in 42 states and Puerto Rico, and they are estimated to serve more than 5,500 schools and 2 million students, the USDA said.