Press Release: Agency of Ag Announces New Grant Funding for Farm to School and Universal Meals

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In honor of Farm to School Awareness Month, which begins October 1st, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) gathered together today with Vermont Farm to School leaders at Winooski School District to celebrate the impacts of Farm to School programming and to announce new grant funding for Universal Meals in Vermont schools. Among the celebrants were Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross, State Senators Sirotkin and Zuckerman, Winooski Schools Superintendent Sean McMannon, Farm to School partners, teachers, students, and administrators. Following the celebratory remarks, event attendees were treated to a “local food taste test” featuring Nepalese and Somali cuisine served by Winooski students.

Since 2007, the Vermont Farm to School Grant Program has awarded over a million dollars to more than 100 schools throughout the state to facilitate the integration of local foods in school cafeterias, classrooms and communities, impacting roughly 30 % of all schools in Vermont. Today, Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross announced more than $130,000 in funding available to Vermont schools in 2017 to support…

· Planning and development of new Farm to School Programs

· Expanding existing Farm to School programs, or

· New for 2017 – Transitioning eligible schools to a universal meals program, which enables schools to offer all students fresh, healthy meals at no charge

“Vermont is a national leader in Farm to School programming,” said Vermont’s Agriculture Secretary, Chuck Ross. “Our schools spend nearly 1 million dollars a year on locally sourced foods, and we are taking the lead again today as we announce the integration of funding for Universal Meals in our Farm to School Grant Program. Farm to School Programs help build a culture of ‘Ag Literacy’ in our schools and communities. These programs are an essential part of building the connection between agriculture and the next generation of Vermonters, while also teaching our students to make healthy choices and ensuring food access for all. Additional support for Universal Meals will allow our schools to expand their depth and breadth of their programming, providing more Vermont students with fresh, local foods every day.

“The benefits of universal school breakfast and lunch are well-documented,” according to Anore Horton, Nutrition Initiatives Director at Hunger Free Vermont. “Class participation increases, readiness to learn increases, school nurse visits decrease, behavioral referrals decrease, and school meal program finances improve. Vermont legislators recognized these many benefits, and have acted to help more schools transition to a universal model and gain these benefits for their students. We applaud them!”

Today’s event also served as an opportunity to highlight new research from the Vermont Farm to School Network which explores the economic impact of local food purchases made by Vermont schools. Among other data points, the research indicates that every dollar spent on local food by Vermont schools contributes an additional sixty cents to the local economy. This research was conducted by the University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies and funded by the Vermont Community Foundation.

For more information about the Vermont Farm to School Grant Program or to download the Request for Proposals (RFP), visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/funding_opportunities/vaafm_funding/farm_to_school

All Vermont schools, consortium of schools, and school districts are eligible to apply for Farm to School funding. Eligibility for Universal Meals funding may vary. Program applications must be submitted online through the WebGrants system no later than October 28, 2016.

Vermont Farm to School Grant Program is made possible by collaboration between the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Agency of Education, Department of Health, and the Vermont Farm to School Network.