Last week, Minnesota had a huge win for Farm to School, becoming the first state in the nation to sign an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) as part of its Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program. The agreement will provide $3.4 million dollars for Minnesota school districts to purchase local, nutritious foods to serve in school meals over the next year. This landmark agreement is part of a national effort to support states in augmenting purchases of local food, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy is proud to have gathered at The Good Acre food hub to celebrate with representatives from USDA, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), and growers, school food service staff, other members of the MN Farm to School Leadership Team and champions of Farm to School in Minnesota.
Minnesota is ready to put these dollars to work in the coming year in part because MDA already has an existing Farm to School Grant program through which they can distribute the funds. IATP worked together with stakeholders from around the state to push for Minnesota to establish this grant to reimburse schools for purchases from local farms. We were thrilled to see our bill passed in 2019, and MDA piloted the grant to great success with an initial $400,000 in funding. Demand has greatly exceeded the amount of funds available. For example, last year, schools requested $1.5 million of funding for the $800,000 available, and when surveyed, schools indicated that they could spend $4 million on local products if there were no caps on how much they could request. This influx of funds dramatically expands support for schools to buy local for next year, and we have a chance to see what it means to invest significant funds back into our local communities. We look forward to capturing the impact of this support for farmers, kids and communities, and will work with partners to continue to grow support for this successful grant program beyond this one-year infusion of funding.
School districts that are interested in applying for this funding should keep an eye on MDA’s Farm to School Grant page and the Farm to School Minnesota website, where information and support for Fiscal Year 2023 grants will be available in early fall 2022. IATP will be working with partners from the MN Farm to School Leadership Team to offer webinars, office hours and other technical assistance to schools to ensure as many schools as possible can successfully access these funds to support their neighbor farmers.
IATP is excited to be part of building a robust Farm to School program throughout the state as we take advantage of this huge opportunity to support more Minnesota farmers and connect more local foods to more Minnesota kids.
Carrie Frank (retired Food Service Director, Dover-Eyota schools), John Peterson (Ferndale Market), Daron Korte (MDE Assistant Commissioner), Thom Peterson (MDA Commissioner), Jenny Lester Moffitt (USDA Under Secretary), Erin McKee (IATP), Theresa McCormick (The Good Acre)
Not pictured: Panelists Moses Momanyi (Dawn2Dusk Farm & Kilimo Minnesota) and Angie Richie (Roseville Schools)