Healthy Acadia Receives USDA Grant to Increase Local Foods in School Cafeterias
December 5, 2014

Healthy Acadia, working in partnership with Washington County: One Community, is pleased to announce that they are one of 82 projects nationally to receive support this year through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program. The USDA Farm to School Program is an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers. This two-year $100,000 support service grant will increase local procurement opportunities at area schools, with a goal of impacting over 2500 students in twenty Washington County schools.

“USDA is proud to support communities across the country as they plan and implement innovative farm to school projects,” said USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Community partners are coming together to ensure a bright and healthy future for students, and local farmers and ranchers. These inspiring collaborations create long-term benefits for students, as they develop a meaningful understanding of where food comes from, and support our farmers and ranchers by expanding market opportunities for local and regional foods.”

USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes.

“Through this project, we will build on our past successes in farm to school and our strong existing relationships in order to take our work to the next level of impact and effectiveness,” states Regina Grabrovac, Healthy Acadia’s Washington County Food System Coordinator, working in partnership with Washington County: One Community. “We have already identified priority needs and opportunities that could dramatically increase farm to school procurement as well as farm to school infrastructure in eligible schools across the region. With these funds we can significantly address existing challenges by supporting the local farm economy, increasing access to healthful foods in the schools, and increasing food and nutrition education for children and their families.”

This grant will enable Healthy Acadia, in partnership with Washington County: One Community, to increase the procurement and use of local foods through numerous measures, including through the development of value-added locally grown products in collaboration with the Cobscook Bay Resource Center. These products will be trialed at interested schools to determine cook and student response. The grant will also support the establishment and strengthening of Farm to School program infrastructure at 20 schools, with the goal of reaching over 2500 students.

“This proposal will significantly strengthen the ability of local producers to aggregate, store, and process their products to facilitate an increase of sales to school cafeterias, while also providing in-school programming to enhance the appeal of local foods to school staff, students, and parents,” commented Will Hopkins, Executive Director of the Cobscook Bay Resource Center, which will be involved in the development of trial frozen products for school use.

USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food. USDA's Farm to School Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which authorized USDA to provide grants and technical assistance to help schools gain better access to local foods. For a complete list of fiscal year 2015 Farm to School grant recipients, please see: http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/grant-awards

Healthy Acadia and Washington County: One Community are both Healthy Maine Partnerships that work to improve the quality of life for residents in the two-county Downeast region. For more information about this project or the organizations’ food related programming, contact Katie Freedman, Healthy Acadia’s Food, Farm and Nutrition Program Manager at 667-7171, or Regina Grabrovac, Food System Coordinator for Washington County, housed at Washington County: One Community’s Machias office at 255-3741.