Published : Friday, December 4, 2015 | 6:20 PM
The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) is one of 74 projects in 39 states to receive grants this year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program, an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers. PUSD received a $100,000 implementation grant to impact 17,105 students at 31 sites, including children’s centers.
“Farm to school programs work—for schools, for producers, and for communities,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By serving nutritious and locally grown foods, engaging students in hands-on lessons, and involving parents and community members, these programs provide children with a holistic experience that sets them up for a lifetime of healthy eating. With early results from our Farm to School Census indicating schools across the nation invested nearly $600 million in local products, farm to school also provides a significant and reliable market for local farmers and ranchers.”
“This grant will build on the success that our district has had in reducing the rate of student obesity by 11 percent in the last five years,” said Associate Superintendent of School Support Services Mercy Santoro. “This program is essential to keeping our students healthy and engaged in learning.”
Farm to School programs not only boost economic development by supporting local farmers, but the programs also create learning opportunities for students taking science, agriculture, and engineering classes. Students who are learning to grow tomatoes, collard greens, and potatoes in school gardens watch weather forecasts, research healthy fertilizers, and study how plants use photosynthesis to grow.
PUSD was awarded a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant in 2014. This new Implementation Grant will systematically link fresh food procurement and preparation through staff and teacher training; classroom curriculum; and experiential activities for students in cafeterias, school gardens, and field trips to create an integrated, well-coordinated, and district-wide farm to school approach.
Farm to school programs are one of the many tools and resources USDA offers to help schools successfully serve healthier meals. In the past three years since the bipartisan passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, kids have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school. Over 97 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards.
In addition to school meals, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers several other nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (Commonly known as WIC), and the Summer Food Service Program. Together, these programs comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.
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