USDA Expands Local Foods in School Meals

The agency signed a $3.5 million agreement with Minnesota.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service on Tuesday announced it has signed a $3.46 million cooperative agreement with Minnesota to increase purchases of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.

Minnesota is the first state to enter into a cooperative agreement under the program.

Through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools to serve children through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. These products will be healthy and unique to their geographic area, with the goal of improving child nutrition and building new relationships between schools and local farmers.

“This cooperative agreement supporting Minnesota’s schools is another example of how USDA is working to build a more resilient food system rooted in local and regional production,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program provides an opportunity for states to strengthen ties between local farmers, ranchers, food businesses and schools, and gives students access to nutritious foods unique to the area they live in, building stronger connections across local communities.”

“Strengthening relationships between local producers and schools is a long-term strategy to ensure our children always have access to nutritious foods in school, a win-win for child health and American agriculture,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “Through this program and many other efforts to support the school meal programs, USDA is committed to giving schools the tools they need to set children up to learn, grown, and thrive.

With this funding, MDA expects to increase the number of Minnesota schools engaging in local food procurement; increase the amount of local food purchased by schools; and create new partnerships between schools and Minnesota food producers, specifically underserved farms and small businesses. Funds will be sub-awarded to schools through a competitive Farm to School grant program that will reimburse schools for local food purchases.

“This cooperative agreement will build on the strong foundation we’ve laid in Minnesota with a growing network of partners in our Farm to School efforts,” Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Petersen said. “More Minnesota schools will have access to reimbursement grants to support local purchasing, which will strengthen our state’s local and regional markets, support small and emerging farmers, and ensure our kids are eating the freshest, most nutritious food our state can offer.”

The LFS cooperative agreements will allow organizations the flexibility to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers that best suit their local needs, accommodate environmental and climate conditions, account for seasonal harvests, improve supply chain resiliency and meet the needs of schools within their service area. Additionally, the program will provide more opportunities for historically underserved producers and processors to sell their products. Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program is authorized by the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act. AMS looks forward to continuing to sign agreements under this innovative program.

The Local Food for Schools cooperative agreement program is one of many ways USDA is supporting school meal programs this school year and transforming our food system in the long term.

For more information on USDA’s work to support school meal programs, visit the USDA Support for School Meals page.

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