The funding bill passed by the Senate and House this week, and signed by the President on Friday, included a bright spot for the farm to school movement. Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill includes an additional $5 million in discretionary funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, which doubles the annual available funding for this highly impactful and important program for one year. This is a significant win for the farm to school movement. Demand for the program is more than four times higher than available yearly funding, and this additional discretionary funding will help make the program accessible to more schools, farmers and communities across the country.
Please join us in thanking Sen. Leahy for this win and for helping make healthy, local food in schools a reality for millions of children across the country. You can send him a thank you on social media (@SenatorLeahy) or give his office a call at (202) 224-4242 to let him know that you appreciate his ongoing efforts to strengthen and support farm to school. Sen. Leahy championed a similar funding win in the 2018 appropriations bill. As a result, approximately $7.5 million will be awarded in FY 2019 and FY 2020 USDA Farm to School grants.
National Farm to School Network has been advocating for an increase in funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program for several years. This important program increases the use of and improves access to local foods in schools – thus boosting farm income and economic opportunities – while also fostering experiential food education for our nation’s children. Since the first cycle of grants in 2013, USDA has received over 1,900 applications requesting more than $141 million, though has only been able to make 437 awards from the $30 million available.
While the additional $5 million in discretionary funding included in the FY 2019 funding bill is a big boost for the program, this funding is temporary. It’s important that we continue to advocate for a more permanent solution for sustaining the USDA Farm to School Grant Program and its impact for communities with high-need across the country. National Farm to School Network continues our advocacy work to ensure that farm to school opportunities are accessible to every student, farmer and community across the country. Stay tuned to our blog for more policy news, updates and opportunities to join us in this advocacy and make your voice heard.