$500,000 Available to Improve Childhood Access to Healthy, Local Foods

child foodImage via Pixabay

HARRISBURG, PA — Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced the opening of the 2020-21 PA Farm Bill’s $500,000 Farm to School Grant Program to improve access to healthy, local foods and increase agriculture education opportunities for children pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

“The future of Pennsylvania agriculture relies on developing an agriculture literate society, and that begins with our very youngest Pennsylvanians,” said Redding. “It’s so important that we talk to young kids about where their food comes from and foster an appreciation for the role of agriculture in their everyday lives.

“The best way to do this is to improve childhood access to nutritious, local foods, which is exactly what this $500,000 Farm to School Grant Program is here to do,” said Redding.

Redding state 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 – is eligible to apply for up to $15,000. Eligible applications should include:

  • A list of Pennsylvania farmers who have agreed to supply products from their farms;
  • Nutrition and agriculture education, including integration into regular classroom subjects;
  • Training of teachers and other educational staff on nutrition and agriculture education;
  • Inclusion of parents, caregivers, and community groups in educational activities; and
  • Field trips to Pennsylvania farms or other direct agricultural experiences which teach children about sources of food and Pennsylvania agriculture.
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Redding was joined by state Representatives Danilo Burgos and John Hershey, champions for the Farm to School legislation in Governor Tom Wolf‘s initial Pennsylvania Farm Bill, and Rick Sayles, project coordinator for the Steelton-Highspire School District Farm to School project from the last round of funding.

With their $15,000 Farm to School grant, Steelton-Highspire has worked to launch their Environmental & Agricultural Technology (EAT) Enrichment Project with a goal to address student food insecurity by increasing knowledge of food and agriculture disciplines such as horticulture and STEM. The district acquired contracts with local farmers and agribusinesses such as Strites Orchard, Chartwells, Stocks on Second, and Penn State master gardeners to plan activities for students that simultaneously provided access to fresh, local food and provided opportunities to learn more about how food gets from farm to school.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted traditional learning models, the district adapted its programming with weekly pop-up learning lunches and a produce stand manned by EAT project students. The district was also able to coordinate small group “Fruit & Fun” events with Strites Orchard, where K-5 students enrolled in an after-school program picked and donated more than 800 pounds of produce for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.

“Our Farm to School grant has allowed us to increase agriculture education programming and provide an opportunity for students to apply their learning to their every day life,” said Sayles. “The Steelton-Highspire School District is grateful for this opportunity to better our students lives and the entire school community.”

The PA Farm to School Grant Program is now open and accepting applications through March 30, 2021.

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The PA Farm Bill is a comprehensive set of programming and funding for Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry. With the third round of funding proposed in Governor Wolf’s 2021-22 budget, the PA Farm Bill will continue to strengthen the resiliency of the industry so many rely on to sustain life.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Farm Bill visit agriculture.pa.gov/pafarmbill. The Department of Agriculture is actively working to roll out grant programs for the 2020-21 funding. The Ag and Youth Grant Program and Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Program are open now with their application periods closing on March 5, 2021. The Urban Ag Grant Program opened on March 1 and has an April 16, 2021 deadline.

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