USDA: Funding to Expand School Community Gardens and Garden-Based Learning
Farm Bureau participation in a community garden offers the opportunity to meet new neighbors, students, parents, and local businesses. School gardens promote exercise and better nutrition and actually gets kids to eat more vegetables. Gardening lets children be outside and away from computer screens and significantly increase science achievement scores. Gardening helps develop life skills, including working with groups. Farmers can share their expertise about agriculture, and maybe even offer a piece of equipment that would speed the project along.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced in the press release that “USDA will establish a People’s Garden School Pilot Program to develop and run community gardens at eligible high-poverty schools; teach students involved in the gardens about agriculture production practices, diet, and nutrition; and evaluate the learning outcomes.”
“This $1 million pilot program is authorized under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. A cooperative agreement will be awarded to implement a program in up to five States. To be eligible as project sites, schools must have 50 percent or more students qualifying for free or reduced-price school meals.
“Grass roots community gardens and agriculture programs have great promise for teaching our kids about food production and nutrition at the local level,” said Vilsack. “Learning where food comes from and what fresh foods taste like, and the pride of growing and serving vegetables and fruits that grew through your own effort, are life-changing experiences. All of us at USDA are proud to make this possible.”
“Part of a broad USDA effort to provide children with access to a nutritious and safe diet, this initiative also aims to influence healthier choices for all American households. Produce raised in the gardens can be used in the schools’ meals and by student households, local food banks, or senior center nutrition programs.
“Through this pilot program, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service seeks to identify models of successful school garden initiatives which then can be marketed to the K-12 community for inspiration, ideas, and replication.
“The grant is available to public and not-for-profit organizations. Grant applications may be submitted by email or through www.grants.gov. The Request for Applications is available on-line. The deadline for applications is November 8, 2010.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit FNS and the USDA for information about nutrition assistance programs.”