USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday announced grants for 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia that support the agency's efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through its "Farm to School" program.
Vilsack said the programs – in both rural and urban schools – teach students where food comes from, while providing healthy foods that are grown locally on farms and ranches.
"These programs also create new market opportunities for local farmers and ranchers interested in partnering with nearby school districts," Vilsack said, "and by helping to create an even more diverse and thriving agriculture sector, Farm to School efforts hold potential to create new jobs in rural areas."
The USDA's selected projects will serve more than 13,000 schools and 2.8 million students, nearly 45% of whom live in rural communities, USDA said.
Somerville Public Schools, Massachusetts: Schools will work to develop a district-wide farm to school program with community partners that focus on creating youth jobs and promoting healthy eating and physical education.
Olympia School District, Washington state: Olympia will partner with two local farms to help students apply biology, American history, and horticulture skills towards farm management. The farms will grow organic produce for the school district and serve as an outdoor educational space for students, USDA said.