USDA Farm to School Grants Released
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications for the Fiscal Year 2024 Farm to School Grant Program with a maximum award amount of $500,000 and total funding availability of $12 million. Applications are due January 12, 2024.
What is the purpose of the Farm to School Grant Program? This program is designed to increase the availability of local foods in schools and help connect students to the sources of their food through education, taste tests, school gardens, field trips, and local food sourcing for school meals. Grants can launch new farm to school programs or expand existing efforts.
Ultimately, farm to school programs are believed to strengthen children’s and communities’ knowledge about, and attitudes toward, agriculture, food, nutrition, and the environment; increase children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables; increase market opportunities for farmers, fishers, ranchers, food processors, and food manufacturers; and support economic development across numerous sectors.
Who are eligible applicants for this program? Eligible applicants may include schools and other institutions that operate Child Nutrition Programs, Indian Tribal Organizations, agricultural producers or groups of agricultural producers, nonprofit entities, and state and local agencies.
Applicant eligibility varies by grant track, as detailed in the Farm to School Grant Request for Applications and summarized below.
What are eligible projects for this program? The RFA offers three tracks – Implementation, State Agency, and Turnkey – to support a variety of projects and implementation stages.
Implementation and State Agency tracks’ primary objective is to improve access to local foods in eligible sites through comprehensive farm to school programming that includes local sourcing and agricultural education efforts. Though the objectives are the same, each track has distinct allowable activities and eligibility as described below.
Implementation projects’ programming may include local sourcing or agricultural education, some may do both. The maximum award of $100,000 is for Implementation grants that do not have a multi-state or national scope or if the applicant is not an Indian Tribal Organization. For projects that meet one of those criteria, the maximum award is $500,000.
Eligible activities for local sourcing include: incorporating more unprocessed and value-added, minimally processed, locally or regionally sourced meal components into cafeteria program meals; providing training on Good Agricultural Practices to ready producers for the school food market; improving infrastructure to accommodate new local ingredients or local menu items; and developing recipes that incorporate local products, among others.
Eligible activities for agricultural education include: integrating agricultural education with career and technical preparation programs to encourage the next generation of agricultural producers; expanding experiential learning opportunities, such as creation of school gardens, developing school-based farmers markets, providing support to ag/food clubs, and/or increasing exposure to local farms and on-farm activities; and encouraging increased consumption of fruits and vegetables through promotional activities, taste tests, and other activities featuring local products, among others.
Projects that incorporate both local sourcing and agricultural education may engage in the following activities: conducting a state or regional farm to school institute; operating service projects that support farm to school initiatives in eligible sites; and/or incorporating food justice, food sovereignty, youth empowerment, or other related efforts into farm to school programming, among others.
State Agency grants are intended to promote agricultural education and increase the amount of local food served in eligible operators by funding state agencies to support and grow farm to school efforts in their states. The maximum award for State Agency grants is $500,000.
Project programming may include local sourcing or agricultural education, some may do both.
Eligible activities for local sourcing include: offering training and technical assistance to school operators on local sourcing; or supporting the expansion, tracking, and marketing of local foods to a school food authority through USDA Foods and USDA DOD Fresh programs; or hosting a Bringing the Farm to School: Agricultural Producer Training as one component of a project containing other activities aligned with the required objective, among others.
Eligible activities for agricultural education include: offering training and technical assistance to school operators on school gardens, or agricultural education strategies; and developing, implementing, or enhancing school garden, and/or agricultural education tracking systems.
Projects that incorporate both local sourcing and agricultural education may engage in the following activities: conducting a state or regional farm to school institute; hiring staff to support statewide farm to school, farm to summer, and/or farm to Child and Adult Care Food Program efforts; building, expanding, and/or regularly convening a network of key partners; and conducting an equity analysis of the USDA’s farm to school efforts, among others.
Turnkey tracks include Turnkey – Action Planning; Turnkey – Edible Gardens; and Turnkey – Agricultural Education projects. For all Turnkey projects, the maximum award is $50,000.
Turnkey – Action Planning projects will develop a Farm to School Action Plan for submission at the end of the grant period.
Turnkey – Edible Gardens projects will plan, implement, and evaluate a food production operation (i.e. gardens, indoor grow towers, greenhouses, farms, aquaponics, livestock, etc.) that produces food for eligible operator activities.
Turnkey – Agricultural Education projects will plan, implement, and evaluate the integration of farm to school topics into eligible sites’ curriculum.
What are the funding priorities for this program? Priority will be given to projects that:
- Make local food products available on the menu of the eligible school(s);
- Serve a high proportion of children who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches;
- Incorporate experiential nutrition education activities in curriculum planning that encourage the participation of school children in farm and garden-based agricultural education activities;
- Demonstrate collaboration between eligible schools, nongovernmental and community-based organizations, agricultural producer groups, and other community partners;
- Include adequate and participatory evaluation plans; and
- Demonstrate the potential for long-term program sustainability.
Farm to School Grant awards will offer up to 10 priority scoring incentives (bonus points) to applications serving at least 40 percent of students who are eligible for free or reduced price meals; applications from Indian Tribal Organizations serving tribal communities; applications from organizations led by and serving Black, Indigenous or other communities of color; applications based in and serving rural communities; and applications from agricultural producers or groups of agricultural producers.
Is cost share required? A 25 percent match of the total project budget is required for this program.
What is the project and award timeline? Applications are due January 12, 2024 by 11:59 pm Eastern Time.
The anticipated date for award announcements is July 2024.
For all funding tracks, the grant term is up to 24 months.
The full Request for Applications (RFA) can be found here.
For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at email@example.com or call us at 530-893-4764.