2018-07-05 / Community

Laker awarded nearly $100,000 in farm-to-school program

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Elkton- Pigeon-Bay Port Laker Schools, Pigeon, was awarded a $99,849 grant to strengthen the district’s ability to connect directly with local suppliers and prepare more local foods for school lunches, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grant will fund equipment needed to process local food products and a food service worker to prepare the meals using local foods. Additionally, the grant will allow for food service workers from Huron County to learn more about how to incorporate local foods into their menus.

USDA’s Farm to School Grants fund school districts, State and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations, agricultural producers, and non-profit organizations in their efforts to increase local foods served through child nutrition programs, teach children about food and agriculture through garden and classroom education, and develop schools’ and farmers’ capacities to participate in farm to school. For the 2018-2019 school year, 73 grants will serve more than 6,006 schools and 2.8 million students, nearly 66 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS) received additional funding appropriated through the FY18 Omnibus Bill for the Farm to School Grant Program. Over the next two grant cycles, OCFS will release an additional $5 million in farm to school grant funds to support farm to school activities across the nation. This means that there will be at least $7 million in available farm to school funds in fiscal years 2019 and 2020. Additional funding will help reach more communities seeking to incorporate local products into the school meals program, integrate agricultural education in the classroom, and cultivate and expand school gardens. The FY 2019 Farm to School Grant Request for Applications (RFA) will be released in fall 2018.

The implementation grant will take the Laker farm to school program to the next level, said Laker Elementary Principal Kathy Dickens, in a press release from the school.

“It will allow us to increase our capacity to serve local healthy foods,” said Dickens, who wrote the grant request. “The project will include kitchen equipment for both the elementary and the secondary to allow for preparation of menus using local produce. It will also cover funds to hire kitchen help to prepare the local foods. Funds will allow for training of local food service workers on how to prepare and serve local healthy foods. Funds will also allow us to build a student greenhouse allowing students to plant, harvest, and eat their own produce. The greenhouse will provide a terrific STEM learning opportunity for our students.”

Dickens said having local, healthy produce on the lunch menu is very important in providing quality foods with high nutrition value.

“It is healthy, it is fun, it is economical and it is tasty,” she said. “If students learn to try new things now, they are more likely to eat such healthy foods throughout life. The long term benefit will be better health for our students.”

Dickens is looking forward to the possibilities with the greenhouse.

“It will be so exciting to have our students plant, nurture, harvest, prepare and eat their own produce,” she said.

Dickens said if there are any local farmers or expert gardeners that would like to work with the school on the greenhouse project, they can contact her by calling 989-453-4600, option 2, or email kdickens@lakerschools.org.

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