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Tok School District Hopes to Feed Students More Local Food

Alaska Gateway schools win a $44,999 grant to buy local food

   SAN FRANCISCO and ANCHORAGE, Nov. 26, 2013 – USDA-Farm Service Alaska State Executive Director, Danny Consenstein, and USDA-Food and Nutrition Service, Acting Administrator, Jesus Mendoza, Jr. announced a grant for a Farm to School project in Tok, Alaska.  The Tok school project is one of 71 awards spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia that support USDA’s efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School Program.  Of the 71 awards, thirteen were made in the Western region across six states.

   "Farm to School programs help teach students where their food comes from, provide healthy foods that are grown locally, and support local businesses,” said Mendoza. "These programs create new market opportunities for local growers and encourage innovation, like growing indoor lettuce through the winter.   Farm to School efforts can create new jobs in Alaska's rural communities.” 

   "The Alaska Gateway School District in Tok, Alaska, will enhance an existing greenhouse and garden project to increase on-site food production, as well as work with an agricultural consultant to maximize quality and quantity of food production during Alaska’s short growing season. These projects highlight the critical need for a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill now more than ever," said Consenstein.  "Producers need renewed and expanded access to Farm Bill programs to fuel the growing demand for local food in new markets, including school meals programs, and to increase economic opportunities for America’s farmers and ranchers."

   With this funding, the district will develop a plan to ensure at least 20 percent of the food it serves in schools is regionally sourced.  The program will reduce the amount of food the district needs to import from the Lower 48 and educate students on the benefits of eating locally sourced food, according to information provided by the State of Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. 

   The district also received funding from the state to start a greenhouse and garden project, which the federal grant will help expand. Alaska Gateway will work with an agricultural consultant to create a crop selection and development plan.

   USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes. For a complete list of FY14 Farm to School grant recipients, visit: http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/FY_2014_Grant_Award_Summaries.pdf.

   USDA recently released the results of the first-ever Farm to School Census, which showed that in school year 2011-2012, school districts purchased and served over $350 million in local food, with more than half of participating schools planning to purchase more local foods in the future. School districts that missed the opportunity earlier in the year to respond can submit information regarding farm to school practices through November 30, 2013.

   USDA's Farm to School Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which authorized USDA to assist eligible entities, through grants and technical assistance, to improve access to local foods in schools. It is also a core element of the USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department's work on local food systems.

   USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food.  America's students now have healthier and more nutritious school meals due to improved nutrition standards implemented as a result of the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

   USDA's MyPlate symbol and the resources at http://choosemyplate.gov provide quick, easy reference tools for parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and communities.

   USDA awarded $5.2 million in grants to provide training and technical assistance for child nutrition foodservice professionals and support stronger school nutrition education programs.

   Collectively these policies and actions will help combat child hunger and obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation's children. For more information on the Farm to School Program, which is administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), visit: www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool.

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