Support for School Garden Helps #GrowSharon, Educate, and Engage Students

Thanks to the generous support from the Northwest Tennessee [NWTN] Local Food Network, grant funds, and the Weakley County Soil Conservation District, students at Sharon School have even more opportunities to learn and participate in the cycle of food – from the ground straight to the lunch table.

Through the collaboration, Sharon School has welcomed new galvanized steel raised beds into its school garden. The tasty and nutritious vegetables grown in the garden will be harvested and served up for lunch to hungry students. The new garden beds will provide fertile ground for hands-on learning experiences in agriculture, sustainability, and nutrition. 

In addition to local support from the Soil Conservation District, a $500 GroMoreGood Grassroots grant kicked off the initiative through the NWTN Local Food Network. This grant, facilitated by the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation and KidsGardening.org, provided the crucial funding to jumpstart this phase of the school garden project.

Samantha Goyret, Executive Director of the NWTN Local Food Network, has been instrumental in shaping the Farm to School initiative in Weakley County.  She expressed her gratitude for generous local partners.

“We are thankful to the Weakley County Soil Conservation District for this support. Working to conserve and protect soil and water resources in Weakley County through education and outreach. The partnership was the missing piece to making this project happen for Sharon School.”

-Samantha Goyret

Goyret’s passion for educating children about growing food and healthy eating habits has been instrumental as the driving force behind the program’s success. She believes in the importance of teaching students about where food comes from and healthy eating habits.

“Our goal is to not only educate children about where their food comes from but also to instill a deeper understanding of the benefits of healthy eating for themselves, their families, and our communities. By integrating the produce they grow into the school cafeteria, we create a full feedback loop that reinforces this understanding.”

Sharon School students working on cleaning up the garden.

Under the guidance of Dresden High School teacher and FFA chapter advisor Jonathan Holden, Dresden FFA students built, loaded, delivered, unloaded, and placed the raised beds at Sharon School in February. Students, faculty, and staff at Sharon School have also been cleaning and preparing the area for spring planting.

Recognizing the pivotal role of school leadership, Samantha commended Sharon School’s Principal Michelle Clements, Assistant Principal Beth Davidson, and teachers Danielle Johnson and Lydia Hazlewood for their guidance and dedication to the project.

“Having strong leadership at the school level is crucial for the success of any school garden project. These individuals lead the charge each year by integrating outdoor learning experiences into the curriculum, ensuring that students are engaged and learning from the entire experience.  Weakley County Schools is the beacon that is leading the Farm to Schools movement in West Tennessee.”

The theme for this school year at Sharon School is #GrowSharon, according to Principal Michelle Clements, and this collaboration reflects the theme perfectly.

“We love providing our students with the chance to grow with hands-on learning experiences that they can use for the rest of their lives. We are thankful to have these partnerships that allow students to get their hands in the soil, learn about agriculture, and to get a better understanding of all that it encompasses to grow nutritious and sustainable foods.”

-Michelle Clements

The NWTN Local Food Network, founded as a grassroots organization in 2015 and later established as a nonprofit in 2018, has been instrumental in fostering partnerships between schools and communities to promote sustainable agriculture and nutrition education. With a focus on empowering students to make healthy choices and fostering community resilience, the NWTN Local Food Network is at the forefront of the Farm to School movement in West Tennessee.

For more, visit weakleycountyschools.com

It’s Pumpkin Patch Time!

October is Farm-to-School month, and pumpkin season is HERE! This season, visit pumpkin patches all around Northwest Tennessee for the whole family to enjoy while supporting our local farmers and communities!

Check out our list of Northwest Tennessee pumpkin patches…

Donnell Century Farm
3720 Hwy 70 East
Jackson, TN 38305
Get Directions: 3720 Hwy 70 East Jackson, TN 38305 (Spring Creek Community)
(731) 424-4526
Andrew Donnell: Farmer@DonnellCenturyFarm.com
Agri-tourism: Our attractions include a 250 ft. Zipline, an epic Corn Maze, the infamous Candy Cannon, Gemstone Mining, Farm Animals, and so much more. Come one, come all and enjoy the day on the farm!
HOURS: Saturday: 10-6, Sunday: 12-6, Fridays in October: 12-6
Pumpkin & Corn Maze Fall Festival September 30- November 5. Visit their website to purchase tickets (https://donnellcenturyfarm.ticketspice.com/pumpkin-festival-and-corn-maze-23).
Pumpkin Destruction Day Weekend – November 4th and 5th

Fall Fest Family Day at the Obion County Library
1221 E Reelfoot Ave
Union City, TN 38261
October 21st starting at 10am
EVENT: Activities include pumpkin painting, magic shows, and a foam party. A free activity for the entire family!

Dixie Chile Ranch
3159 E. Union Grove Road
Kenton, TN, 38233
Timothy D. Brady & Terri Jenkins-Brady
(731) 225-0456
dixiechileranch@gmail.com
Farm Stand: Freshly locally grown variety of specialty pumpkins (Gourds)
HOURS: Sold on the farm, through our CSA, Business and Home Delivery Service, and Local Farmers Markets.

Future Vision FarmsClay Sheds
3830 Whitlock Road Paris, TN 38242
Tyler Smith
(731) 336-4892
futurevisionsfarms@gmail.com
@futurevisionsfarmstn
Agritourism: pumpkin patch, hayride, barrel train, corn maze, pumpkin painting, food trucks, sunflower field, petting zoo (sundays), slides, swings, games and more!
HOURS: Saturday 10am -5pm, Sunday 1-5pm
Future Vision Farms offer a wide variety of goods and services that can be obtained by wholesale, retail, on-site service, Murray and Martin Farmer’s Markets

Green Acres Farm
158 Medina Highway, Milan, TN 38354
Denton Parkins
(731)- 686-2004
greenacresfarmmilantn@gmail.com
Greenacresmilan.com
Agritourism: Pumpkin Patch, Corn Maze, Zinnia Patch, Pumpkinville and more!
HOURS: Pumpkin Patch, Pumpkinville and Corn Maze opening September 22nd. Sun-up ‘til sun-down until October 31st. Follow Facebook Page for seasonal hour
updates.

Holt Family Farms
357 Woodruff Road Dresden, TN 38225
Andy & Ellie Holt
(731) 364-3459
Ellie Holt (731) 819-2261
email@holtfamilyfarms.com
Pumpkins, Mums, fall décor, jams, eggs, local honey, all-natural bath and body products, goat milk soaps and Hayrides. Open to hosting students and groups for field trips. Also offer Fall Decoration Packages.

Pumpkin Patch includes a petting zoo, hayride, pony rides, barrel train rides and the corn
cannon. Last hayrides, pony, and train rides will leave at 6:30. Open September 30 – October 28
HOURS: Fridays 1 – 7pm, Saturdays 10am – 7pm

Nanney Pumpkin Patch
1767 Sharon Road, Sharon, TN 38255
Cody Nanney
(731) 514-2431
nanneyfarmspumpkinpatch@gmail.com
Agri-Tourism: Pumpkins, Mums, Cornstalks, Straw, Hayrides (last ride leaves at 5:30pm)
HOURS: Monday-Friday: 7 am – 7 pm, Saturday: 10am – 6pm, Sunday: 1 pm – 6 pm
Pumpkin Patch will be open on September 30th
October 14th food truck, pumpkin painting event day

Pa’s Pumpkin Patch
420 Little Road Martin, TN 38237
Mark Baker (Pa)
(731) 514-9103
Agri-Tourism: locally grown pumpkins, gourds, mums,
straw, & corn stalks, playground.
HOURS: 7am-8pm, 7 days a week, until sold-out

Parham’s Pumpkins
1250 Jewell Store Rd. , Dresden, TN, 38225
(731) 514-1180 parhampumpkins@outlook.com
Agri-tourism: Pumpkins, Mums and U-Pick Flowers, Family photos
HOURS: Monday – Sunday, Sunrise to Sunset

The Pumpkin Barn, LLC
2557 S. Bluff Road, Obion, TN 38240
Alan Shirley
(731) 442-0644
alanshirley49@yahoo.com
Agri-tourism: Hay Bales, Pumpkins, a Petting Zoo, a playground, and inflatables
HOURS: Monday – Sunday, 9 am – 6 pm

Todd Family Fun Farm
101 Tom Austin Road, Yorkville, TN 38330
James and Martha Todd
Barn: (731) 643-6720
Martha Todd: (731) 234-1568?
toddfunfarm@wk.net
Toddfunfarm.com
Agri-tourism: Corn maze, hayrides, pig races, gemstone mining and geocaching.
HOURS: Saturday: 10 am – 9 pm, Sunday: 1:30 pm – 5 pm

Post your family fun pumpkin patch photos using this hashtag: #GetItLocal

Students Return to the Drawing Board for Harvest of the Month Poster Contest

Student artists in K-12th grades are invited to submit Harvest of the Month poster entries during Farm to School Month from October 1st through October 31st. All students in the following school districts from our 9-county region are eligible to participate from Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Lake, Henry, Obion and Weakley County Schools.

In celebration of National Farm to School Month through an initiative of the Farm to School program of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, the 2024-25 school year Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month poster series will feature artwork selected by a panel of volunteer judges – artwork needs to be postmarked by November 3, 2023. All materials can be downloaded at nwtnlfn.org/taste-of-tennessee

The Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month is an educational marketing program that encourages students and their communities to learn more about local food including its seasonality and sustainability. Each month a different fruit, vegetable, or protein is highlighted, reflecting the current growing season in Tennessee.

To enter the poster contest, students must portray one of the prescribed fruits,  vegetables, or proteins, and submit entries to their school cafeteria managers by October 31, 2023.The winner will be announced before the end of the school year.. 

Winners’ artwork will be displayed in the Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month poster series  on the walls of participating school cafeterias starting in 2024.. 

Artwork submission deadline is on Tuesday, October 31, 2023 and must be postmarked by November 3, 2023. Winners will receive region wide recognition and their featured Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month product prize.

Please send artwork to: Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, HOTM Poster Contest, 113 Elm Street, Martin, TN 37237. For questions, please email nwtnfoodguide@gmail.com or call (731) 332-9071.

To download the registration packet, including the rules to participate and registration form, please visit: nwtnlfn.org/taste-of-tennessee. The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a nonprofit organization serving as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL. #GetitLocal #FarmtoSchool #TasteofTN

#Get it Local! Registration opens for Local Food Guide

We invite YOU to fill out our FREE registration form by November 30, 2023 to be included in this year’s Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide Magazine. Get started at nwtnlfn.org/food-resources.

Residents throughout the region use the NWTN Local Food Guide Magazine to find family farms, farmers markets, wineries/distilleries, restaurants, food artisans and bakers, farm stores and stands, pumpkin patches, u-pick farms, CSAs, animal products, beekeepers, processors, food trucks, locally owned restaurants, locally owned plant vendors, and food relief organizations. 

Do you grow food? Do you own a local restaurant or food truck? Do you make artisan foods? Do you have chickens with eggs for sale? Are you a beekeeper? Do you sell plants? Do you raise or process freezer beef/pork? Are you involved in agri-tourism or have a u-pick farm? Does your organization provide food relief? Do you own a local restaurant or cafe?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions then #Get It Local in this year’s NWTN Local Food Network’s Local Food Guide. The guide is a FREE directory of locally produced and distributed foods in Northwest Tennessee. Whether you are a backyard gardener, small-scale or large scale farmer – all are invited to list their products and services by registering for a FREE listing (please note: personal addresses will not show on the listing, but it is needed to mark your business on the regional map).

Left to Right: Lindsey Frilling – Director of Obion County Chamber of Commerce, Scott Williams  – Director of Discovery Park of America, Samantha Goyret – Executive Director of the NWTNLFN.ORG & Mayor Jake Bynum of Weakley County #GetitLocal

“We distribute Local Food Guides through schools, and community events throughout our region and state,” declared Caroline Ideus, Outreach Director of the NWTNLFN, “We want to shine a light on our growing local food movement in West Tennessee. “

The registration listings are free due to the printing support from Ad Sales. 100% of Ad Sales cover the cost of printing with no administrative charges. For more information or to purchase an advertisement, please message/call Samantha Goyret, (731) 332-9071 or email nwtnfoodguide@gmail.com.

“The LFN is working with farmers listed in the guide to establish and expand farm to school programs increasing locally grown food in schools for our children to enjoy a fresh healthy meal straight from the source,” stated Samantha Goyret, Executive Director of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network. “Additionally, we are seeking to list more locally owned restaurants and hunger-relief organizations in this year’s Local Food Guide Magazine. It’s free to register.” 

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a local nonprofit organization based out of Martin, TN serving as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL. This year’s 2024-2025 NWTN Local Food Guide will be distributed throughout the 9-county region of Northwest Tennessee in late Spring. Registration is due by, November 30, 2023. 

Register directly here https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LFG2023 or learn more at nwtnlfn.org/food-resources.

Yates Jackson, a winner of the #Grow Food Challenge 2021, was featured on the cover of the 2022 Local Food Guide Magazine.

Do you have an amazing photo? Send it to us – it could be featured, too! nwtnfoodguide@gmail.com

Grow Food Challenge Winner Donates Prize and Hunger Relief Guide Published

Beginning on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22 through July 1, 2023, the #GrowFoodChallenge partnered with 14 Seed Distribution Partners in 9 northwest Tennessee counties to distribute 2,700 seed packets donated by the Society of St. Andrews, Sow True Seed, Community Gardens Commission, Barefoot Gardens, and Ferry Morris. 

Doubling the amount from last year, in 2023, 105 participants registered, impacting a total of 609 individuals, families, and childcare centers, including 338 children from nine (9) Northwest Tennessee Counties: Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion, and Weakley, TN. 

The #GrowFoodChallenge is a yearly call to action for individuals, families, schools, & community groups in Northwest Tennessee to grow food (#NWTNEssentialGardens) & build soil (#ComePostYourCompost). Local growers are encouraged to donate their extra produce to food pantries throughout the region by visiting the NWTN LFN’s webpage: nwtnlfn.org/volunteer/plant-a-row-for-the-hungry.

#Grow Food Challenge participants could participate in three themed photo entry opportunities to win prizes: START. GROW. HARVEST. Participants entered up to a total of 6 photos showcasing their growing food and food waste projects. There were several prizes associated with each theme including the grand prize to fill a chest freezer with a quarter processed beef from NB Beef Company.

Owen Wenz, is the #GrowFoodChallenge winner of a family pass for four from Discovery Park of America! Owen is very knowledgeable about plants and loves to grow food! It’s little guys like him that inspire big kids like us to grow more food and reduce food waste!

Margaret Perry Childcare Center inWeakley County, Tennessee won theBamboozle compost pail prize from this year’s#GrowFoodChallenge. The staff and children not only grow healthy food, they serve healthy food in their daycare meals, too!#farmtoECE

Bethany Overington from Carroll County won the START prize for the #GrowFoodChallenge donated by Tractor Supply out of Milan, TN.

The NWTN Local Food Network recently published a Hunger Relief Guide. Local growers are encouraged to donate their extra produce to food pantries throughout the region by downloading the guide from NWTN LFN’s webpage: nwtnlfn.org/volunteer/plant-a-row-for-the-hungry.

On Saturday, July 1st, at the Martin Farmer’s Market Celebration Event, Samantha Goyret and Caroline Ideus, Local Food Network Team Members and Co-Managers of the Market, with the help of musician Alex Sadler, announced the winner of this year’s #Grow Food Challenge. 

The McKenzie Senior Center from Carroll County, TN was announced as the grand prize winner. They won a chest freezer to include a quarter processed beef from NB Beef Company out of Sharon, TN. 

Pictured here, left Samantha Goyret and Right Caroline Ideus present a sign of gratitude to NB Beef Company owners – Cody Nanney and Justin Burlison, who donated a quarter of their locally raised and processed beef to the #GrowFoodChallenge Grand Prize Winner: McKenzie Senior Center who will be donating their prize to United Neighbors, a food pantry in Carroll County.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with NWTN Local Food Network to provide this type of offering. Eat local and Eat beef!”

– Justin Burlison, Co-owner of NB Beef Company

These gifts keep on giving because, as a collective decision, the McKenzie Senior Citizens Center has donated their prized freezer full of local beef to United Neighbors, a local thrift store and food pantry located in McKenzie in Carroll County, TN.

Left to right: A #GrowFoodChallenge collaboration with Samantha Goyret – NWTN Local Food Network, Cody Nanney – NB Beef Company, Saudia Aiken – United Neighbors, Karen Ibarra – McKenzie Senior Citizens Center

“We have been serving our community’s seniors since 1963 with a total 82 active annual members today,” stated Carol Armpriest, President of the McKenzie Senior Citizens Center.  “We decided to donate our grand prize to United Neighbors because they could use a freezer full of local beef for their clientele in our community. It aligns with the activities the Local Food Network is promoting in the #GrowFoodChallenge – provide your extra food to others who are in need.”

Photo: (Left to Right) Carol Armpriest, Samantha and Sofia Goyret, and Karen Ibarra pose with the Hunger Relief Guide and their #GrowFoodChallenge Winner Certificate in front of the McKenzie Senior Citizens Center square-foot garden that is located behind their building, near the EW James Grocery Store parking lot in McKenzie, TN. They will be donating their prize to United Neighbors, a local food pantry.

Karen Ibarra, also pictured, partnered with Carol in creating the garden with the goal of benefiting the McKenzie Senior Center members and local community with vegetables and knowledge about growing your own food. As a UT Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, Mrs. Ibarra stated, “sharing the garden experience and the beef also aligns with the mission of the Tennessee Master Gardener Program to improve the lives of Tennesseeans by promoting individual and community health and environmental stewardship.”

“The timing of this gift could not be at a better moment,” stated Saudia Akin, Executive Director of United Neighbors. “We are seeing more families in need of food this year, and we often run out of food by the end of the month. Providing this local source of protein is an incredible gift to our clientele in need.”

United Neighbors, located on 2455 Cedar Avenue in downtown McKenzie, will be offering food boxes to anybody in need on Wednesday, October 4th at 5pm.

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based out of Martin, TN with a mission to serve as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL in Northwest Tennessee.

We hope you can join us for next year’s Northwest Tennessee #GrowFoodChallenge. Learn more at nwtnlfn.org/grow-food-challenge.

The #GrowFoodChallenge is paid for through a #SeedMoney Grant with the following generous seed donors; Society of St. Andrews, Sow True Seed, Ferry Morse Company, Cooperative Gardens Commission; and the following prize donors: Discovery Park of America, Greenway Nursery, Tractor Supply Company, Walmart, Bamboozle, the TN Environmental Council, Rural King and NB Beef Company.

Celebrate Applesauce Day!!

The Martin Farmers Market in partnership with the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network (LFN) and Weakley County Extension is celebrating the changing of the seasons the weekend of September 16, 2023, by encouraging individuals, families, students, and seniors to make, try and eat applesauce.

Join us for an Applesauce Day Celebration on Saturday, September 16th from 8am – 12 noon at the Martin Farmers Market featuring applesauce cooking demonstrations and taste tests from the Weakley County Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, McKenzie Hurst. You can also purchase a variety of apple themed products from a variety of Martin Farmers Market vendors.

“We wanted to create a Tennessee tradition to celebrate the beginning of fall, broaden people’s knowledge about local apple varieties, encourage families to cook together, and to embolden culinary skills.”

-Caroline Ideus, Outreach Director of the Local Food Network and co-manager of the Martin Farmers Market.

Apples are the featured Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month product during the month of September. Any day can be applesauce day! Source your local apples from: The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide 2022 Magazine at nwtnlfn.org/food-resources or the Pick TN Website: www.picktnproducts.org/listview/apples

Applesauce Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 medium local apples (2-3/4″ diameter) – peeled, cored and chopped (Visit Pick TN Website)
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions
Peel and core the apples. Slice apples in quarters or sixths. In a saucepan, combine apples, water, and cinnamon (You can add other spices like ginger or cardamom if you like). Cover the pan and simmer over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the apples soften fully. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher. Add sugar to taste, but often none is needed.

Share your applesauce stories with us on facebook by tagging @NWTNLFN #APPLESAUCEDAY!!

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL.  Happy Applesauce Day!

Can you Dig it?

Steele Plant Company Sweet Potato Farm Tour

Join the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network on Tuesday, September 26th from 10am – 12 noon at the Steele Plant Company’s Sweet Potato farm out of Gleason, TN. Participants will meet at the Steele Plant Company’s main office at 10am on 202 Collins Street, Gleason, TN 38229. From there, participants will travel out to the fields to see how sweet potatoes are harvested from the field to the warehouse (digging is optional). Can you dig it?

This is a FREE meet-up event hosted by the NWTN Local Food Network and Steele Plant Company. Minors are welcome and encouraged to attend, but must be accompanied by an adult.

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a non-profit organization based out of Martin, TN with a mission to serve as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to all in our region.

NWTN Farm to School Partnerships win $1 Million through Action for Healthy Kids & Local Foods in Schools Grants

As part of a cooperative agreement to develop and implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative, Action for Healthy Kids today announced that it is awarding nearly $30 million in subgrants to 264 school districts across 44 states and the District of Columbia, reaching students in some of our nation’s highest need schools. These funds are being provided by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.

Out of nine (9) grants awarded throughout the state of Tennessee, four (4) of these grants were awarded to the following Northwest Tennessee Schools: Bradford Special School District – $144,086; Milan Special School District – $144,086; Trenton Special School District – $144, 086; and Weakley County School District – $150,000 totaling $582,258 for Northwest Tennessee School Districts.

“We are so grateful to be a recipient of the Healthy Meals Incentive Grant.  This $150,000 grant will be a tremendous asset and will enable us to replace some antiquated equipment,” stated Trista Snider, Director of Weakley County Schools Nutrition Department.  “We will also consult with a chef that specializes in K-12 operations to assist us in learning how to prepare even more delicious, scratch meals, incorporate efficiency hacks, and assist in learning how to incorporate more locally grown produce and locally raised meat.”

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, a local nonprofit based out of Martin, TN, was a fundamental partner in helping facilitate the formation of the Healthy Meals Incentive projects. 

“Our mission is to catalyze actions that are increasing access to a thriving and equitable local food system for all in our region,” stated Caroline Ideus, Outreach Director and Farm to School Consultant of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network (LFN). “Access to healthy food is vital for our growing children. Our school nutrition programs have proven to be a vital asset and the largest classroom in every school. Through our established Farm to School partnerships in Bradford, Milan, Trenton and Weakley School Districts, we are helping advance their farm to school initiatives through increased access to healthy and nutritious meals, nutrition education, and fortifying school nutrition programs across our region.”

Earlier this year, the LFN facilitated additional grant applications with four additional school districts (Crockett County Schools, Trenton Special Schools, Weakley County Schools and Cheatham County Schools) to receive a grant for TN school districts called “Local Foods for Schools” grant through the TN Department of Education. This grant aims to help offset costs for local food  purchasing, storing and distributing local foods from local farms.

Each small and/or rural school district will receive up to $150,000 to support them in improving the nutritional quality of their meals and modernizing their operations, through efforts which could include:

  • Innovative staff training programs;
  • Redesigning food preparation and service spaces;
  • Kitchen updates and renovations;
  • Other school-district led efforts to support school meals and school nutrition professionals.

“When we strengthen school meal quality, we strengthen child health,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “These grants are the largest targeted investment USDA has ever made for school meal programs in small and rural communities. We want to ensure every child in America has the opportunity to attend a school with high quality, nutritious meals, and this support is a step in that direction.”

An online map features the selected school districts and their grant amounts. The map will be updated on a rolling basis as schools formalize their grant agreements.

“Offering healthier school meals is key to helping our nation’s kids get the nutrients they need today and for their long-term development,” said Action for Healthy Kids CEO Rob Bisceglie. “Through this historic investment in school nutrition, we will help school districts across the country overcome challenges and develop solutions to provide nutritious foods for the children they serve.”

USDA and Action for Healthy Kids also recently opened applications for the Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards, which celebrate school districts that have made significant improvements to the nutritional quality of their school meals. All school districts in the United States are invited to apply. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis through June 30, 2025.

School districts that meet Recognition Award criteria will receive benefits such as national and local recognition; travel stipends to attend a national Healthy Meals Summit; access to diverse best practices, training activities; and more.

Action for Healthy Kids will manage the grants to school districts, Recognition Awards, and Healthy Meals Summits with the support of The Chef Ann Foundation and Rocky Mountain Center for Health Promotion and Education.

FNS works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs, the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022, highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.

Action for Healthy Kids is dedicated to improving children’s health and well-being by bringing together and mobilizing educators, families, and other key stakeholders to help children lead healthy lives. Through its core programming and family-school partnerships, AFHK has impacted more than 20 million children in 55,000 schools nationwide to address systemic challenges in underserved communities. To learn more about its growing network of volunteers and champions, visit www.actionforhealthykids.org.

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network envisions a sustainable regional food system that utilizes locally grown and produced foods to promote healthy individuals, equitable communities and thriving local economies. The LFN serves as a consulting partner to growing Farm to School initiatives throughout Northwest Tennessee. Learn more at nwtnlfn.org/programs/farm-to-school.

The Tennessee Department of Education’s School Nutrition program is responsible for providing nutritious meals and snacks for students in public and private schools, as well as residential and child care institutions. TN School Nutrition administers the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program and Afterschool Snack Program across the state. All public schools in Tennessee are on the National School Lunch Program, which provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. Learn more at www.tn.gov/education/health-and-safety/school-nutrition.html

Source: Weakley County School Nutrition Department
This is a snapshot of a school meal provided by Weakley County School District in March 2023, sourcing strawberries from Bell Family Farms out of Gleason, TN, local milk from Prairie Farms, and FFA school grown hydroponic lettuce. The Weakley County Farm to School Initiative plants the seeds for students to learn where their food comes from by growing, observing, and experiencing hands-on opportunities. The growth of the initiative occurs as educators, farmers, and local ag-based entities work together to create a nationally recognized sustainable model. Learn more about NWTN Farm to School Action Plan visions and goals at nwtnlfn.org/programs/farm-to-school