Money provided by the federal and state departments of agriculture, Iowa schools to serve more locally grown foods in cafeteria meals

Iowa – Financed by the federal and state departments of agriculture, Iowa schools have more money to serve more locally grown foods in cafeteria meals.

The USDA Farm-to-School Grant gave a total of $100,000 to the Iowa Department of Education, including $25,000 from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The monies will be used to connect schools with local farmers in order to obtain produce and meat for breakfast and lunch.

This is Iowa’s second straight Farm-to-School grant, covering the school years 2022-23 and 2023-24.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig stated in a press release, “It’s a win-win when we can support our schools in providing nutritious and delicious meals to Iowa children while simultaneously increasing demand and markets for locally grown and produced Iowa products.”

In addition to funding the purchase of local food, the grant also covers sustainability and healthy eating education in Iowa schools. Schools can utilize grant funds to invite a local farmer or chef to speak with students about how a particular product is grown, and teachers can use the funds to teach gardening.

Already, state schools commemorate Iowa Local Food Day each year on the fourth Wednesday of September, followed by National Farm to School Month in October. The programs are sponsored by the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition, an organization whose mission is to provide local foods to schools.

The coalition says that by serving local food, such as a muffin made from Iowa corn, students learn lessons such as how food is manufactured and why farming is so essential in Iowa.

Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education, stated that grant-funded activities of this nature are beneficial to schools, students, and local economies.

“Establishing strong local connections with farmers and producers and integrating fresh local ingredients in school meals affects student health and learning and keeps school purchasing dollars in Iowa,” said Lebo in a statement.

The Iowa Department of Education is one of this year’s 123 award recipients. The Farm to School grant program was launched in 2013 and has financed local food projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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