Grant applications are due December 8

Volume 2, Issue 36, November 29, 2016

Beef to School Project Cover


Montana Beef to School Project Releases New Report

It can be done - schools across the country are serving up local beef in their lunchrooms, providing fresh food for students, reducing “food miles” and supporting local businesses.  Discover how and why schools in Montana are working with nearby ranchers and processors to procure local beef in the case study report released by the Montana Beef to School Project. The report explores six beef to school partnerships in Montana. Lessons learned from the case studies are designed to highlight the needs of all key stakeholders in the beef to school process and share tested strategies with communities across the nation.

In addition to this new report from Montana, be sure to check out these three USDA resources about buying and serving local meat in child nutrition programs:

  1. Local Meat in Schools: Increasing Opportunities for Small and Mid-Sized Livestock Ranchers and Fishermen
  2. Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs
  3. Procuring Local Meat, Poultry, Game, and Eggs for Child Nutrition Programs
Meat fact sheet

Erin Hysom

Welcome Erin!

We are excited to welcome Erin Hysom to USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems!

Erin recently joined USDA as a Program Analyst in the National Office. Prior to joining the team, Erin worked at the Maryland State Department of Education where she collaborated with partners across the region to enhance and expand Maryland’s Farm to School and Farm to Summer Programs. During this time, Erin experienced the many benefits of farm to school initiatives: from students eagerly harvesting crops in a school garden to the positive press generated from serving local foods in school and summer programs. Of all the many benefits though, supporting relationships between child nutrition programs and their local communities remains Erin’s favorite. As a New Jersey native and a lifelong Mid-Atlantic resident, Erin is excited to discover the bountiful programs occurring across the country.

Girl with lettuce

Get your applications in!

Applications for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program are due December 8, 2016.

The purpose of this grant program is to assist eligible entities in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. On an annual basis, USDA awards up to $5 million in competitive grants for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs.

Visit our grant opportunities page to review the RFA for complete application instructions, frequently asked questions (FAQ), and additional application support materials. Check out the grant program page for an overview of past grantees, program summary reports, and more.

Apply to host AmeriCorps members

AmeriCorps operates several programs, such as VISTA and FoodCorps, that can support community food systems. Another opportunity is to host a team from the AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). AmeriCorps NCCC teams provide direct, boots on the ground, service to nonprofits, schools, municipalities, federal and state entities, and tribal governments. A few ideas for what service members could help with include building and maintaining school gardens, preserving local foods, teaching youth about healthy eating, or offering cooking classes to kids at summer meal sites.

Application deadlines vary by region, and many of the applications to host summer teams are due In December. You can find more information for sponsoring a NCCC team here.

School Food Focus

Change Beyond the Plate

School Food Focus 2016 National Gathering, Change Beyond the Plate is December 6-8 in Braselton, GA. School Food Focus is a national collaborative that ignites change in our food system by working on both the demand and supply sides of school food. Together, we're changing the way school food is produced and purchased so that every child in the U.S. - regardless of income or race - has access to delicious, nutritious school meals.

Now in its sixth year, the National Gathering is a unique space for attendees to share innovative procurement strategies, connect with supply chain leaders and strengthen the school food movement.

lunch at weld county

Food Hub, Food Truck and Food Education: Northern Colorado School District Takes Farm to School to the Next Level

By Andrea Northup, USDA Farm to School Regional Lead for the Mountain Plains Region and Helen Dombalis, Programs Director and Interim Policy Director for the National Farm to School Network

A bin of acorn squash sits on a pallet at the Weld County School District 6 central kitchen, right next to a bin of yellow onions and a 1,000 pound tote of russet potatoes – all locally-grown. A walk through the facility is enough to convince anyone that Weld County School District 6 is committed to scratch-cooked, locally-grown food for its 22,000 students at 35 schools.  In this rural Colorado school district, where over 40 languages are spoken at home and 66 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price meals, fresh, tasty food is the norm – even down to the green chili, a southwestern favorite roasted in-house, using three varieties of local peppers.

About a quarter of the central kitchen is dedicated to processing fresh fruits and vegetables.  Mushrooms are sliced, carrots are shredded and onions are diced. With funding from a USDA Farm to School Grant in 2013, this food hub portion of the kitchen was furnished with tables, wash stations and equipment to process local food for Weld County’s own meals and for other districts in the area.