WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) alerted Ohio schools to the looming deadline to apply for the Farm-to-School grant program, which awards up to $5 million in grants to help school connect with local producers offering nutritious options. Applications for the program are due by midnight on April 24th. Last week, Brown joined Tom Freitas, dining services supervisor for Sandusky City Schools—which purchases locally-grown foods for cafeteria meals served to students—to outline new legislation that would expand markets for farmers and increase the availability of nutritious locally-grown for consumers and children.
“By increasing the availability of locally-grown, fresh foods in Ohio’s schools, children learn healthy habits while supporting local agriculture and the Ohio economy,” Brown said. “Many children—particularly in urban and suburban areas, may never set foot on a farm. Through this grant program, we can connect students with hands-on learning experiences, like school gardening to set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating and smart choices, while creating new market opportunities for Ohio farmers who produce fresh, healthy food.”
Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Farm-to-school program helps schools connect with local producers and teaches kids where their food comes from. USDA supports schools through research, training, technical assistance, and grants. School districts can receive more information – including the grant application – by visiting http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/F2S/f2_2013_grant_program.htm.
Last week, Brown outlined how his bill, the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, would help Ohio farmers by addressing production, aggregation, marketing, and distribution needs while helping consumers access and afford fresh, nutritious food. Aimed at helping more farmers sell their products directly to consumers, the legislation would create jobs by assisting farmers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs. It would also ensure that consumers – particularly low-income families and seniors – have better access to nutritious, locally-grown food. There are now nearly 8,000 farmers markets in the U.S., an increase of more than 150 percent since 2000. Nationwide, direct-to-consumer agriculture sales produce $1.2 billion in annual revenues.
The Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Act also includes provisions that would:
- Provide funding to help farmers build the infrastructure—like community kitchens—to process and sell their food locally.
- Break down barriers so that schools can purchase local food more easily. Provide schools with a local school credit to purchase local foods.
- Make it easier for food stamp recipients to spend their money at farmers markets by giving the farmers access to technology necessary to accept electronic benefits—that money goes right back into the local economy. The bill includes a pilot program to test smart phone technology to accept food stamp benefits at farmers market.
- Incentivizes SNAP participation to ensure that beneficiaries can participate in community supported agriculture programs (CSAs).
- Create a new crop insurance program tailored to the needs of diversified and organic farmers who grow a wide variety of crops and can’t easily access traditional crop insurance.
More information on the legislation and how it affects Ohio is available in this summary.
Brown, the first Ohioan to serve on Senate Agriculture Committee in more than four decades, first introduced the bill in 2011 and successfully fought to have key provisions included in the Senate-passed 2012 farm bill.