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Farm to Schools program hits record-breaking funding for 2019

Polk and Spartanburg County schools benefit 

WASHINGTON—On July 16, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the award of more than $9 million to the Farm and School Program grants. The grants will be used to increase the amount of healthy, local foods served in public schools and help to create economic opportunities for local farmers. 

The statement released by Perdue states, “This year marks an all-time high of funding and projects in the program, with grants supporting 126 selected projects across 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These projects are expected to serve more than 3.2 million students in over 5,400 schools.”

 

“The farm to school grants announced today connect schools with the farmers, ranchers, and producers in their communities,” Secretary Perdue said. “Everybody wins with Farm to School. USDA is proud to help the next generation better understand where its food comes from, while strengthening local economies.”   

 

One of the key features of the Farm to Schools program is to educate preschool age children on the importance of healthy local foods, in the hope that it leaves a lasting impression on them. “Our nation’s food supply depends on more young people entering the field of agriculture as farmers retire,” said Perdue. “Farm to school inspires young people to consider careers in agriculture and food systems.” 

 

What this means to Polk and Spartanburg Counties is that the increased funding can help aid the already ongoing Farm to School programs in our area. 

According to the Farm to School Consensus from 2015, 62 percent of North Carolina School districts participate in farm to school activities. The website says that that includes 84 districts, 1,714 schools, and approximately 1,044,810 students. Additionally, 17 percent of the districts surveyed in the census said that they planed to start farm to school activities in the future. Of the 171 school districts in North Carolina, 79 percent completed the USDA Farm to School Census. 

 

In North Carolina, the Farm to School program is engaging 64 percent of preschool children in the farm to school activities, and they estimate that at least 109 school gardens are growing in the state. Polk County participated in the 2015 consensus and continues to be involved with the farm to school programs.

 

In South Carolina, the Farm to School Consensus reported that 52 percent of South Carolina School districts surveyed participated in the farm to school activities. There are 110 school districts in South Carolina, 91 of those schools completed the USDA Farm to School Census. 47 of the districts surveyed were active participants in the farm to school’s programs. 

The 47 districts are composed of 643 schools with an estimated 404,442 students. A reported 20 percent of the districts that were surveyed had plans to start farm to school activities in the future. Spartanburg District 1 was also a participant in the farm to school program during the 2015 census. 

 

The new funding was made possible through the congressional budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The increased funding allowed the USDA to award 52 more grants than the previous highest year, grants range from $20,000 to $100,000 and fund equipment purchases and experiential learning activities. The activities allow students the opportunity to experience local farming first hand through school field trips, planting school gardens, and taste testing locally grown foods.

By Samuel Robinson

Sam.robinson@tryondailybulletin.com