Rural Action recently announce that they have been awarded a Farm to School Support Services Grant Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm to School Program. The grant ensures that Rural Action, in partnership with Hocking College, can make an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with fresh, local food. Through this grant, Rural Action received a $100,000 support service grant that will impact more than 10,800 students across six school districts.
In "Farm to Institution to Schools: Connecting Value Chain Partners for Appalachian Ohio Schools," Rural Action, will work with a network of six rural school districts in southeast Ohio to overcome fresh, local product preparation barriers by connecting the Chesterhill Produce Auction with Hocking College to provide centralized preparation work as part of culinary arts student lab experience.
"This is an example of what a partnership with a college can do for the greater community. Through this grant, an institution-Hocking College-will partner with a community organization to create real, positive change," said Tom Redfern, Rural Action's Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry.
This USDA investment will allow Rural Action to expand upon its current Farm to School program. Fresh food from the Chesterhill Produce Auction and other local farmers will be purchased by schools, delivered to Hocking College, prepared and preserved using flash freezing as part of student training hours, and sent to participating schools for use in dining service menus throughout the week. Additionally, Hocking College will provide training for in-house preparation of fresh, local products in K-12 school cafeterias for expanded school capacity.
"We firmly believe through direct relationships with our area farmers we can further solidify and guarantee a safe, nutritious diet for our children. The Farm-to-School program supports the social, economic and environmental needs of our community, while benefitting the area school children as well as the students preparing the food in the Hocking College School of Hospitality," Master Chef Alfonso Contrisciani, Dean of Hocking College School of Hospitality, said.
The funding from the USDA is significant in helping area kids get healthy, local food.
USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes. Rural Action is one of 82 projects nation-wide to be awarded with funding this year.
Rural Action is a membership based organization working to build sustainable local economies in Appalachian Ohio. For more information about Rural Action's work visit www.ruralaction.org.