Northwest Tennessee Leads the State in Farm to School

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on July 25, 2022, it is awarding more than $10 million in Farm to School Grants to 123 projects across the country. Four of these projects will bring West Tennessee a total of $347,318. Additionally, for the first time, the department is empowering states with $60 million in non-competitive grants to develop stronger and sustainable Farm to School programs over the next four years, of which the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is collaborating with Communities Unlimited, TN Department of Agriculture and Healthy Flavors Arkansas to support developing resources. All actions will help more kids across our state and nationwide eat healthy, homegrown foods.

“The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is very excited to foster the connections children have with local foods, agricultural education and hands-on growing experience,” state NWTNLFN Executive Director, Samantha Goyret. “In collaboration with 8 school district’s Farm to School Teams, we are working through a collective impact framework to advance each school district’s Farm to School vision and goals to continue the development and growth of the Farm to School movement in our region.”

Farm to School increases the amount of locally produced foods served through child nutrition programs, while also educating children about how their foods are harvested and made. 

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network received a Farm to School (F2S) implementation grant and supported the development of 3 additional grants submitted and awarded. The LFN is partnering with 51 schools in 8 school districts including: Cheatham County School District F2S Planning Project, Weakley County School District F2S development, Obion County School District F2S development, Trenton Special School District Edible Garden Grant, Gibson County Special School District Edible Garden Grant, Bradford Special School District F2S development, Milan Special School District F2S development, and Humboldt City Schools F2S development. Since 2019, the LFN has been partnering with school districts through USDA funded farm to school turnkey Farm to School planning projects. To learn more about the projects funded, please visit nwtnlfn.org/farm-to-school

“The expansion of Farm to School is more important than ever for our kids,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “When schools and local producers work together, children benefit from higher-quality foods on their plates and program operators have stable sources for the products they need.” Vilsack added farm to school is an investment in the next generation and one of many ways the department is advancing nutrition security – the consistent, equitable access to healthy and affordable foods that promote well-being.

The Tennessee projects funded will serve over 20,000 children in 8 school districts across the region. Further, USDA acknowledges that many people have been historically underserved and marginalized through unfair food systems. The projects selected by the department reflect its commitment to transforming food systems to be more equitable through Farm to School:

  • An estimated 62% of students served by all funded projects are eligible for free and reduced-priced school meals.
  • 100% of Tennessee funded projects serve rural areas or economically disadvantaged areas.

For more information on how your community can get involved with Farm to School activities, please visit the FNS website.

“States and school districts with strong Farm to School programs have been more resilient in the face of recent supply chain disruptions, compared to operators lacking relationships with local producers,” said Stacy Dean, deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “The Farm to School program deserves to be at the forefront of long-term solutions that operators can lean on to ensure nutritious, local products are always within reach.”

When schools source foods locally, it supports American farmers and strengthens the economy. Through their network, the Local Food Network is helping connect farmers and school nutrition directors in our region. Learn more at nwtnlfn.org/local-food-procurement

Learn more about the NWTN Local Food Network’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL. Learn more at the LFN’s Farm to School Programming at nwtnlfn.org/programs/farm-to-school.