Expanded grants bring locally grown food to schools

Published 5:57 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Minnesota school districts aiming to increase their purchase of fresh, locally grown, nutritious foods in school meal programs can apply for one of two grant opportunities through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). Applications are also being accepted for equipment purchases that support Farm to School initiatives.

Through the MDA’s Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), school districts across Minnesota will receive nearly $3.5 million for purchasing Minnesota-grown and -raised foods used in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. School districts may apply for one of the following two USDA-funded grants:

Farm to School First Bite Mini-Grant: Grants are intended for school districts that have little to no experience with Farm to School programing.

Farm to School Full Tray Grant: Grants are intended for school districts that have some Farm to School experience.

“We’re excited that this additional funding will let us strengthen our already robust Farm to School partnerships with Minnesota schools,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. “These grants will help to strengthen our state’s local and regional markets, support small and emerging farmers, and ensure our kids are eating the freshest, most nutritious food our state can offer.”

This year, applicants for both the First Bite and Full Tray grants may also apply for up to $35,000 for equipment purchases. Nearly $750,000 is available for equipment grants and will be supported through the MDA’s Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) program. School districts must match the equipment portion of their grant on a 1:1 basis. Equipment grants are only available to school districts that apply for a First Bite of Full Tray grant.

The First Bite grant is intended to be an intentional learning process for the applicant. Recipients will not be eligible for the First Bite grant again. School districts may apply for a minimum of $2,500 and a maximum of $10,000. There is no match required.

Full Tray grants will be awarded to school districts that have experience purchasing Minnesota-grown and -raised products but want to expand their Farm to School programs. Applicants may apply for up to $100,000 based on the district size. There is no match required.

All Farm to School grant applications must be submitted by 4 p.m. Thursday, November 17, 2022.

Funding for Farm to School local food grants is made available through the USDA Local Foods for Schools Cooperative Agreement with support from the Cargill Foundation. Funding for Farm to School equipment grants is made available through the AGRI program, which administers grants to farmers, agribusinesses, schools, and more throughout the state of Minnesota. The AGRI Program exists to advance Minnesota’s agricultural and renewable energy sectors.