Portland and Jackman school districts receive USDA farm-to-school grant

The Portland Public School District and District 12 in Jackman both received U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School grants to improve student nutrition programs.

The Farm to School Grant Program assists eligible entities in implementing farm-to-school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. On an annual basis, USDA awards up to $5 million in competitive grants for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships and implementing farm-to-school programs. With the new USDA meal pattern and the obesity issues facing our students, the Department encourages the distribution of fresh products to Maine’s students.

Portland Maine Public Schools proposes to use its $99,895 USDA grant to increase local products consumed by students in the school meal program through innovative purchasing strategies and to increase experiential nutrition education. The district’s ultimate goals are to increase the proportion of local food purchased by the PPS Food Services Program, increase student consumption of local food, and increase public awareness and community engagement in our efforts.

The project plan includes updating central kitchen equipment, certifications, and training in order to become a large volume processor of local foods. The plan also includes a number of experiential learning activities such as school gardens, after‐school agriculture clubs, school curriculum, taste testing and bringing chefs to schools.

Jackman will use its $44,119 grant to act as the coordinating agency to provide education, develop and sustain locally grown foods in collaboration with local volunteers and businesses for improved economic development, health and wellness of children and their families and to increase agricultural endeavors in the community. The key components will be to sustain a school garden, form a community planning and governing team, develop a buying cooperative, and develop an educational toolkit guide to sustain the program.