The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) announced today that they are one of 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia receiving support this year through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm to School Program (F2S), an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers. PUSD received a $44,486.00 planning grant to impact 18,965 students at 31 sites.
"In rural and urban communities across the country, farm to school is teaching students where food comes from and how it gets to their plate, and encouraging them to make healthier food choices in the cafeteria and at home," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Farm to school programs are an investment in the health of our nation's children and in the vibrancy of rural economies."
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.
PUSD will use planning funds to increase the accessibility, availability, quality and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for students and the community. A F2S stakeholder group consisting of teachers, curriculum specialists, administrators, parents, area farmers, city and community agencies will develop a full implementation plan by August 2014 that uses nationally-recognized research and best practice models.
"This planning process is designed to help us align our policies, procurement and food preparation practices with the farm to school program as well as to assess the needs and readiness to implement a farm to school curriculum district-wide," said PUSD Health Programs Coordinator Ann Rector. "We also intend to increase outreach and education to students, parents and community members, reinstitute more scratch cooking at each site through training food services staff and revise our cafeteria menus meet the new USDA requirements."
USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food. USDA's Farm to School Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which authorized USDA to provide grants and technical assistance to help schools gain better access to local foods. For more information on the Farm to School program, please visit www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool.