The USDA Food and Nutrition Service Office of Community Food Systems has awarded $98,952 to Appalachian Sustainable Development to expand current school garden programming and to create a regional Farm-to-School Coalition.

The project will provide low-income children with fresh, healthy food, the skills to grow food, and the community support needed for a widespread culture change.

In collaboration with several partners, ASD plans to: offer digital training materials to provide agriculture education; create a replicable model to establish and maintain sustainable gardening programs; provide access to a network of stakeholders for support and expertise; offer aggregation and distribution services; facilitate bulk supply purchases; and increase access to the local food supply chain for procurement.

“We are so grateful for this opportunity to bring together our community partners in support of creating a sustainable school gardening program in the region. In addition to supporting the expansion of gardens in the area, this grant will enable ASD and all of our wonderful partners to build a sustainable future for these programs through the new coalition,” said Kathlyn Terry Baker, Appalachian Sustainable Development’s CEO.

For the 2021-2022 school year, the USDA Farm-to-School Grant Program will provide $12 million in grants to 176 farm-to-school projects spanning 45 states, the District of Columbia and four Tribal organizations. Another record year for the program, this is the most projects funded since the program began in 2013. Awards range in size from $6,000 to $100,000. Grants will serve over 6,800 schools and 1.4 million students.

The 2021 Farm-to-School Grant awardees represent the resiliency and commitment to local food systems of partners involved in farm-to-school efforts, including agricultural producers, tribal nations, nonprofit organizations, state agencies, and schools serving both rural and urban areas.

“Helping schools expand access to healthy, locally grown produce through these grants is just one of the many ways USDA is transforming America’s food system,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Not only will this give children more nutritious food options in school, it supports local agriculture economies, while connecting them to the farms and farmers that grow the food we all depend on.”

USDA Farm-to-School Grants are awarded annually to help fund projects that increase the amount of local foods served through child nutrition programs, teach children about food and agriculture through garden and classroom education, and develop schools’ and farmers’ capacities to buy and sell local foods.

Since 1995, ASD has been working in Central Appalachia, providing hope and making a difference for the people who call the region home.

What began as opportunities for struggling tobacco farmers to grow fruits and vegetables has turned into lasting solutions to regional challenges that impact economic development, workforce development, food access, health and wellness.

Over the years, ASD has expanded its reach from Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to include partners in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Visit https://asdevelop.org to learn more.

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