Jeremy Calvert's fresh strawberries

Jeremy Calvert with Calvert Farms hands out fresh strawberries grown on his farm to first-graders at Cullman City Primary School in May 2017.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries announced today a $100,000 support service grant to add more locally grown produce to school menus.

Specific projects funded by the USDA grant include improvements to an online farmer aggregation database, technical training for child nutrition directors to increase local food purchases, and state-wide Farm to School promotion.

Funding will also be used to develop standards based curriculum that encourage students to eat fresh, nutritious produce and educate them about agriculture. The curriculum will include cooking lessons for locally grown vegetables using a cooking demonstration cart. The grant also aims to increase the number of farmers involved in the Farm to School program by providing farmers with food safety training and certification.

“Increasing the amount of local foods in America’s schools is a win-win for everyone,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “Our children benefit from the fresh, local food served in their meals at school, and local economies are nourished, as well, when schools buy the food they provide close to home.”

The ADAI organized state and community partners to create the Alabama Farm to School Collaborative, including the Alabama Department of Education, the Foodbank of North Alabama/Farm Food Collaborative, the Alabama Farmers Federation, Feeding the Gulf-Coast Food Bank, food hubs, Druid City Garden Project, and EAT South.

 The goal of the Alabama Farm to School Collaborative is to encourage schools to serve fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to students, implement hands-on education in school gardens, and provide nutrition and agriculture education. This is one of 65 projects spanning 42 states and Puerto Rico receiving support this year through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program, an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local specialty crop farmers.

“The Alabama Farm to School Collaborative provides farmers an opportunity to develop relationships with the students in their local schools districts,” commented Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan. “Not only do the students enjoy locally grown food, but now they can make a connection to the person who grew it for them.”

For more information about the Alabama Farm to School Collaborative, please contact Andrea Carter be email at andrea.carter@agi.alabama.gov or call 334-240-7247.

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