Funding Alert! FY 2021 Farm to School Grants

United States Department of Agriculture – Food and Nutrition Services

Is your organization, local school district, or state agency interested in student nutrition and agricultural education? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently opened its annual Farm to School funding opportunity through its Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) office. This grant program, in alignment with the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, aims to create farm to school programs that provide eligible schools with access to local foods. Let’s take a closer look at this opportunity.

Who is eligible to apply?

Potential applicants include schools, agricultural producers, nonprofit entities, and state departments (among others), but eligibility varies based on the type of project for which the applicant is applying. See the program track details below for more information.

Applicant entities may only submit one application and must choose between the project tracks discussed below. Note that a 25% cash or in-kind funding match is required for all tracks.

What are the program details?

The overall goal of the Farm to School program is to implement or expand efforts to increase the availability of local foods in schools. These grants are meant to serve as a one-time boost for grantees to accomplish the program objectives, with the intention to sustain them in the long term. Farm to School supports a wide range of activities categorized in three primary tracks:

  1. Turnkey Track: this is a new track that is intended to streamline and simplify the application process. To do so, grantees must choose between one of four model projects and complete each of the prescribed activities for that project. These projects include the following:
    1. Farm to School Action Plan Development: up to $50,000 for a 12-month project period. Eligible applicants include schools or institutions that participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and/or the National School Breakfast Program; local agencies; Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs); agricultural producers; and nonprofit entities.
    2. Agricultural Education Curriculum Development and Delivery: up to $50,000 for either a 12- or 24-month project period. Eligible applicants are the same as the previous project.
    3. Edible Garden Projects: up to $50,000 for a 12-month project period. Eligible applicants are the same as the previous two projects.
    4. USDA Farm to School Producer Training: up to $25,000 for either a 12- or 24-month project period. State agencies (Departments of Education, Agriculture, Health, etc.) are eligible for this project.

To view the lists of required activities for each of these projects, please see the request for applications (RFA) pages 11-13, available for download here.

  1. Implementation Track: Along with the State Agency Track, applicants to the Implementation Track can propose projects that support innovative, original ideas or that address a broader scope of activities than those suggested under the Turnkey Track. These proposals should request support for comprehensive programming that includes local procurement and agricultural education in schools. The RFA includes examples of eligible activities on pages 14-15.

Implementation Track grants range from $50,000 and $100,000 for either a 12- or 24-month project period for eligible applicants, including schools or institutions that participate in CACFP, SFSP, NLSP, and/or the National School Breakfast Program; local agencies; ITOs; agricultural producers; and nonprofits.

  1. State Agency Track: These grants are intended to increase the amount of local food served in schools or institutions participating in Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs) by funding state agencies to support and grow Farm to School efforts in their states.

Applicants may design any project or program with the objective of providing local food products to eligible CNP facilities, as well as to provide experiential activities that promote student participation in in farm and garden-based agricultural and nutrition education activities. See the RFA page 16 for examples of eligible activities.

What makes a project a good fit?

Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements listed for the track to which they apply, and they should be prepared to work closely with the USDA through meetings, potential site visits, and thorough reporting throughout the project period and beyond.

The USDA will also emphasize the following priorities: applications that serve at least 40% of children eligible for free or reduced lunches; applications from ITOs and entities serving tribal communities; applications from small- to medium-sized agricultural producers (or groups of producers); and projects located in or targeting Opportunity Zones.

What if I am ready to apply? To move your project forward, take the following action steps as soon as possible:

What if I need help with this application?

Contact Assel Grant Services today! Our team can help with all aspects of preparing the application and managing the grant if you are awarded. If you would like to discuss this possibility, please contact AGS as soon as possible. Rosie Brennan, Community Engagement Specialist, will be happy to talk with you about this opportunity and provide you a quote for grant services.

What if I am not ready to apply this year?

This is an annual opportunity, so keep an eye on the USDA’s FNS Office of Community Food Systems webpage for information about upcoming grant cycles and programs. You can also find a list of other USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities and links to additional resources.

How do I learn more about federal grant opportunities?

AGS is excited to offer a new Federal Grants Training Series coming in 2021! The series is designed to support nonprofit professionals before and during their first federal grant. AGS also offers several on demand webinars on a variety of topics to support the full grant cycle. Check out our website to learn more and sign up for our training newsletter.

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