Working collaboratively with Ohio State University Extension educators, the Stark County Educational Service Center, on behalf of twelve Stark County school districts (Alliance City, Canton Local, Fairless Local, Lake Local, Louisville City, Marlington Local, Massillon City, Minerva Local, North Canton City, Northwest Local, Plain Local, Sandy Valley Local) and 36,554 students, received a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant for $48,831 in December 2014. Stark County’s grant is one of 82 projects spanning 42 states and the Virgin Islands through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program, an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers.
“USDA is proud to support communities across the country as they plan and implement innovative farm to school projects,” said USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “These inspiring collaborations create long-term benefits for students, as they develop a meaningful understanding of where food comes from, and support our farmers and ranchers by expanding market opportunities for local and regional foods.”
The Stark County Farm to School Connecting Food, Farms, Schools and Community Coalition Project embodies the vision of working with twelve participating districts to connect food, farms, schools and communities in a collaborative effort that establishes a consistent and sustainable plan for local foods procurement, nutrition, wellness, healthy choices, food system, education and community food literacy and service.
As part of the national Farm to School program, the work will help students understand the source of their food and the effect their food choices have on their health, environment and community.
Goals for the grant include developing an implementation template for the twelve districts, expanding school menus to include 25% of locally grown food, and provide students and families with education regarding food systems.
The grant will fund training programs for key staff members from the participating districts, menu audits, the purchase of some kitchen supply items, taste testing events, and educational events for adults and children in the community.
USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food. USDA’s Farm to School Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.