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Metro Schools selected for federal Farm to School planning grant

StratfordStemSaladBar Metro Schools will receive a $38,682 planning grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the 2016-2017 school year, federal officials announced Tuesday, Nov. 17.

The grant will help MNPS work with the community's Nutrition Alignment Team to expand its integration of locally grown foods, nutrition education and health awareness at high-needs pilot schools, according to the announcement. MNPS will also use the grant monies to strengthen relationships with local farmers, and enhance its food education partnerships as part of a effort to evaluate best practices that can be developed into a model for districtwide implementation in the future.

"This grant opportunity will give us a greater expansion of the work we've been doing towards developing a farm to school program within the district and helping us to build relationships in the community with farmers and vendors," said Spencer Taylor, executive director of Nutrition Services for the district. "The grant will also help us to bring more healthy, sustainable foods to our students as well as educate them on the importance of a healthy lifestyle."

Metro Schools' grant is one of 74 projects in 39 states that support the federal Farm to School Programs, which connect child nutrition programs to local farmers and ranchers.

The USDA says their Farm to School program has helped schools invest nearly $600 million in local products and provides a significant and reliable market for local farmers and ranchers.

"Farm to school programs work — for schools, for producers, and for communities," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in the announcement. "By serving nutritious and locally grown foods, engaging students in hands-on lessons, and involving parents and community members, these programs provide children with a holistic experience that sets them up for a lifetime of healthy eating.

The federal awards, which ranged from $20,000 to $100,000, are distributed in four categories — Planning, Implementation, Support Service and Training.

To see the full list of grantees and the projects being funded, click here.