FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Vera Chang, [email protected], 917.846.1865
Shelburne, VT, December 4, 2014 – Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) is pleased to announce that a $100,000 grant received through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program will support its efforts to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and healthy eating.
The grant to VT FEED, a partnership of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) and Shelburne Farms, will provide training and professional development services to school teams and farm to school practitioners throughout the Northeast. VT FEED helps remove barriers to serving local food in school cafeterias and incorporate hands-on food, farm, and nutrition activities into school curriculum and nutrition programs. Funding will enable VT FEED to expand its annual Farm to School Institute to serve 10-12 school teams not only in Vermont but also regionally. This will strengthen a Northeast peer‐to‐peer community of farm to school practitioners focusing on best practices and provide training to 200 Vermont school food service staff to support serving local, healthy food to students. VT FEED will also offer a series of school food service workshops in partnership with the New England Culinary Institute and the School Nutrition Association of Vermont that will provide professional instruction in scratch‐cooking techniques and nutrition and procurement guidelines.
On Tuesday, USDA also announced that the Northeast Regional Steering Committee of the National Farm to School Network will receive a $50,000 grant to convene regional farm to school leaders working to improve access to local foods in schools. In collaboration with five other New England states and New York, VT FEED will help plan and launch the Northeast Farm to School Leadership Summit (April 7-9, 2015 at University of Massachusetts Amherst), an integral part of the 2015 Northeast Farm to Institution Conference, organized by Farm to Institution New England, Farm to Institution New York, and partners. The two-day Summit will build participants’ expertise in local procurement, state-level networks, supplier-consumer matchmaking, educational and marketing strategies, stakeholder organizing, and information gathering and disseminating.
Betsy Rosenbluth, Project Director for VT FEED and Northeast Regional Lead for the National Farm to School Network said, “Farm to school programs help create thriving local economies, healthier kids, stronger schools, and vibrant communities. VT FEED is proud to have helped over a third of Vermont schools develop groundbreaking programs. We are thrilled to receive a USDA Farm to School grant to continue this great work in Vermont and to spread best practices throughout the Northeast.”
In 2013, VT FEED successfully reached 800 farm to school professionals representing 40 schools, positively impacting nearly 7,000 students. One of 82 projects spanning 42 states and the Virgin Islands to receive support this year through USDA’s Farm to School Program, VT FEED was the only Vermont program awarded.
VT FEED has been commended by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has led national farm to school efforts in the U.S. Senate and championed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, part of the child nutrition bill of 2010, which assures $5 million a year for USDA’s Farm to School Program. Since the program began awarding grants two years ago, Vermont has received $291,712 in funding, supporting more than 200 schools across the state. Senator Leahy is currently working on a reauthorization of the program in the Senate next year. Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in April 2014 supporting the funding for VT FEED. The letter can be viewed here: http://www.leahy.senate.gov/download/los-vtfeed-042314.
Leahy said: “Vermont has long been a pace-setter in the farm to school movement. By bringing local food to the cafeteria table and into the classroom, we improve nutrition, promote healthy eating choices, and help all children understand where their food comes from. It’s a winning strategy for our farmers and our students, and Vermont is proving how well this program works.”
According to USDA’s first-ever Farm to School Census released earlier this year, school districts participating in farm to school programs purchased and served over $385 million in local food during the 2011-2012 school year, with more than half of participating schools planning to increase their purchases of local food in the future.
“USDA is proud to support communities across the country as they plan and implement innovative farm to school projects,” said USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Community partners are coming together to ensure a bright and healthy future for students, and local farmers and ranchers. These inspiring collaborations create long-term benefits for students, as they develop a meaningful understanding of where food comes from, and support our farmers and ranchers by expanding market opportunities for local and regional foods.”
For a complete list of fiscal year 2015 USDA Farm to School grant recipients, please see: http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/grant-awards. To apply as a school team for the Northeast Farm to School Institute (June 24-26, 2015) go to vtfeed.org. To learn more about the Northeast Farm to School Leadership Summit (April 7-9, 2015) go to farmtoinstitution.org.
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Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) is a statewide farm to school program that raises awareness about healthy food, good nutrition, and the role of Vermont farms and farmers in rebuilding healthy food systems. VT FEED offers professional development services and resources to teachers and school food service, provides technical assistance to farmers and school professionals, and connects youth with agriculture and healthy food through such events as Junior Iron Chef Vermont, established in 2008 as one of the first youth culinary competitions to focus on local food and school meals. VT FEED also published the first-ever school cookbook to incorporate new USDA nutrition guidelines in recipes created by and for school chefs, featuring local, seasonal ingredients. Called “groundbreaking” by Ann Cooper, a powerful voice for school food reform, New School Cuisine is helping transform the way we feed children across the country. VT FEED’s work has been featured in EatingWell, Associated Press, and The Boston Globe. Cultivating links between classrooms, cafeterias, communities, and local farms, VT FEED is a partnership between Shelburne Farms and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.