$400,000 In Grants Awarded to Increase Early Childhood Nutrition, Agricultural Awareness

Childhood NutritionImage via Pixabay

HARRISBURG, PA — Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced the approval of nearly $400,000 in Farm to School Grants to fund 39 projects that will improve access to healthy, local foods and increase agricultural awareness opportunities for children pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

“The children of today are the future of Pennsylvania agriculture,” said Redding. “Reviewing these 39 projects and their goals to invest in programming that not only improves childhood nutrition but gives them opportunities for first-hand agricultural experiences to grow their knowledge and awareness, I see a bright future for the industry that feeds Pennsylvania.”

The Pennsylvania Farm Bill Farm to School Grant Program aims to enrich the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early childhood education sites. Any school district, charter school, or private school with pre-kindergarten classes, kindergarten, or elementary through fifth grade – regardless of offering in-person, virtual, or hybrid instruction models – was eligible to apply for the program.

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Every one of the 39 projects approved have identified local farmers who will supply fresh, in-season product to support their programming or have plans to initiate their own garden or school to produce hyper-local products. In addition to providing students with access to local, nutritious food, the approved projects provide a variety of agriculture education experiences.

Senator Sharif Street championed the PA Farm Bill Farm to School Program legislation.

Rachel Whitley of Zhang Sah Martial Arts, a grant recipient in Street’s district of Philadelphia, joined the event to discuss their $15,000 project to support a garden they built in 2020. With their Farm to School funds, Zhang Sah aims to immediately address food access for their student body and local community. Whitley outlined their plans to provide hands-on opportunities for 42 students through the end of June and also provide every staff member with 10 hours of agricultural professional development to support the students working in the community garden.

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The full list of approved projects can be found online.

Pennsylvania has long faced a looming agricultural workforce shortage. At one point the industry anticipated a deficit of 75,000 workers as farmers retire and new, technology-based positions become available. Many Pennsylvania Farm Bill programs – including Ag & Youth, Farm to School and Farm Vitality – were designed to address this workforce shortage and secure a stronger and more reliable future for the industry.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Farm Bill visit agriculture.pa.gov/pafarmbill.

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