Florida Receives $440,000 in USDA Farm to School Grant Funds

Clint Thompson Florida

Tallahassee, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced it will award $440,913 to six Florida-based recipients for the Farm to School Grant program. The Florida awardees include the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and its direct support organization Florida Agriculture in the Classroom.

USDA Farm to School Grants support a wide range of activities that increase the amount of local foods served in child nutrition programs and teach children about food and agriculture. Award recipients represent organizations, state agencies, and school districts involved in farm to school efforts. Awardees will utilize awards to fund initiatives that bring fresh, local foods into schools, foster economic opportunities for American farmers, as well as develop and deliver farm to school training.

Nicole “Nikki” Fried
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services

“This USDA Farm to School Grant funding will help us provide access to fresh, nutritious foods for Florida’s children, promote science and agriculture education programs, and create economic opportunities for local farmers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Thank you to the USDA for supporting these vital projects, which fuel local economies and boost our fight against food insecurity across the state.”

Florida Recipients: The following is a list of Florida grant projects funded by the 2020 Farm to School Grants:

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – $64,588

Location: Tallahassee, Florida

Project Description: The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will engage K-12 STEM and agriculture educators interested in starting or strengthening aquaculture education programs in their schools. Educators will participate in a three-day intensive training and skills-building workshop. FDACS will award aquaculture systems and supplies to 20 schools selected through a competitive application and review process.

This project will help provide teacher training, technical support, and physical resources for schools to incorporate aquaculture into lesson plans, hands-on activities, experiential learning opportunities and agriculture, garden or Farm to School initiatives. Key partners include the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS) Tropical Aquaculture Lab and an experienced Florida K-12 aquaculture educator. This project ultimately has the potential to enhance agriculture education for hundreds of students throughout the state.

Florida Agriculture in the Classroom – $100,000

Location: Gainesville, Florida

Project Description: Florida Agriculture in the Classroom is a direct support organization that works closely with FDACS to increase agricultural literacy through PreK-12 education in Florida. Grant funding will be used to hire a School Garden Specialist to assist Florida educators on how to start a garden, get funding, use it as a teaching tool, create a successful garden team and assist with applying to receive FDACS’ school garden certification. Through these efforts, students will have additional access to fresh fruits and vegetables to increase the amount of locally grown produce served in the cafeteria.

Florida Impact, Inc. – $50,000

Location: Tallahassee, Florida

Project Description: Florida Impact, Inc. is a partner of the Fort Braden K-8 School, Leon County Public Schools District Food and Nutrition Services, Red Hill Small Farm Alliance, and Florida A&M University. The project will develop a plan to incorporate fresh products in the school menus and train school food service personnel on how to prepare local fresh food.

The partnership seeks to develop a plan to incorporate fresh products in the school menus and assist school food services personnel with training on ways to incorporate local fresh food in their cooking. The planning group will research best practices and curricula for teaching students about local food and agricultural production to build an increased understanding and appreciation of the importance of fruits and vegetables for optimal nutrition.

Leon County School District – $100,000

Location: Tallahassee, Florida

Project Description: Leon County School District will implement a comprehensive Farm to School program, including local procurement, and expand agricultural education efforts. Leon County School District was recently awarded $20,000 through the Department’s 2019 Florida Farm to School Award Program. The Farm to School program will operate at the Woodville K-8 School, where agricultural classes will be expanded to provide students and the community with the opportunity to access fresh food.

The Education Fund, Inc. – $100,000

Location: Miami Lakes, Florida

Project Description: The Education Fund’s Food Forests for Schools (FFS) transforms public schoolyards into outdoor eco-labs that provide both nutrient-dense food for cafeterias and agricultural education. FDACS works with the Education Fund Inc. in teacher training events to promote Harvest of the Month curriculum, School Garden Certification, and other related initiatives. The project will expand the FFS model and procurement of local and Florida grown produce of items similar to FFS crops, standardize school meal recipes, and FFS procedures.

A researcher from Florida International University will also evaluate production and general plant and soil health to help understand the suitability (and sustainability) of FFS species in the South Florida environment. In previous years, weekly harvests and a progressive partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools led to policy change and cafeteria manager training, resulting in school-fresh produce enhancing school meals and filling homebound harvest bags, affecting 31,532 students annually.

The BloominThyme Collaborative Inc. – $26,325

Location: Leesburg, Florida

Project Description: The BloominThyme Collaborative Inc. will collaborate with the University of Florida Extension Office and the Lake County Public School District to develop a broad plan for procuring locally sourced produce and serving it in school cafeterias. In November 2019, BloominThyme participated in the first annual Florida Farm to School Conference hosted by FDACS. The project will focus on K-8 schools with a high rate of students receiving free or reduced lunch and breakfast and provide opportunities for hands-on learning with the installation of school gardens. Harvest tastings and nutritional education will be provided, and families will be encouraged to consume fresh produce at home by receiving easy-to-prepare recipes.

Last year, Commissioner Fried released the 2019 Florida Farm to School Annual Report, highlighting $144 million in Florida economic impacts by partnerships between local agricultural producers and schools. The annual report provides an overview of how Florida agricultural products impact school meals, how the Farm to School Initiative enhances access to healthy choices, connects communities to local producers and keeps taxpayer dollars local.

Florida’s Farm to School Initiative works to increase Florida products service in schools, offer healthier options for Florida’s children, and get students involved in nutrition and agriculture education through school garden activities.

Source: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services