Funding Alert! FY 2022 Farm to School Grants

United States Department of Agriculture – Food and Nutrition Services

Attention schools, nonprofits, and state agencies working to improve student nutrition programs! The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently opened its annual Farm to School funding opportunity through the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) office. This grant program, in alignment with the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, provides funding and technical assistance for creating and implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods. Eligible activities include training, supporting operations, planning, equipment purchases, developing school gardens, building partnerships, and implementation activities. Proposals for this program are due January 10, 2022.

Who is eligible to apply?

Potential applicants include schools, agricultural producers, Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs), nonprofit entities, and state agencies. However, 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 match is required for all tracks.

What are the program details?

Farm to School grants are available within three different tracks:

  1. Turnkey Grant: this track is intended to streamline and simplify the application process. Applicants can choose to complete the required activities of a pre-designed work plan for one of four replicable model projects:
    1. Farm to School Action Plan Development: designed to lay a solid foundation for launching or growing a farm to school program. Awards of up to $50,000 are available for 12-month projects. 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; ITOs; agricultural producers; and nonprofit entities.
    2. Agricultural Education Curriculum Development and Delivery: provides students with thoughtful, relevant agriculture education. Awards of up to $50,000 are available for either a 12- or 24-month project period. Eligible applicants are the same as the previous project.
    3. Edible Garden Projects: assists grantees with the development or enhancement of a food-producing garden based at an eligible school. Awards of up to $50,000 are available for 12-month projects. Eligible applicants are the same as the previous two projects.
    4. USDA Farm to School Producer Training: provides training and technical assistance through state agencies that are developing a farm to school market. Awards of up to $50,000 are available for either a 12- or 24-month project period. Eligible applicants include state agencies (Departments of Education, Agriculture, Health, etc.).

To view the lists of required activities for each of these projects, please see the request for applications (RFA) pages 8-11, 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. While most Farm to School Grant awards are limited to $100,000, state agencies or nonprofits proposing multi-state or national projects may request up to $500,000. These proposals should request support for a 24-month project period with comprehensive programming that includes local procurement and agricultural education in schools. The RFA includes examples of eligible activities on page 12.

For all other applicants, Implementation Track grants will range from $50,000 to $100,000 for either a 12- or 24-month project period. Like most of the turnkey tracks, eligible applicants include 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 eligible facilities participating in Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs). State agencies may apply for funding through this track to support and grow CNP efforts in their states. Applicants may design any project or program with the objective of making local food products available on the menus of eligible CNP facilities, as well as to provide children with experiential agricultural education activities.

Again, some state agencies pursuing larger-scale 24-month projects in this track may be eligible to request up to $500,000; however, most projects will range from $50,000 to $100,000 for either a 12- or 24-month project period. The RFA includes examples of eligible activities on pages 13-14.

What makes a project a good fit?

The funder will prioritize projects that make local food products available on the menu of the eligible school; serve a high proportion of free or reduced lunch-eligible students; incorporate experiential nutrition and agricultural education activities into curriculum planning; demonstrate multisector collaboration; utilize adequate, participatory evaluation plans; and demonstrate long-term sustainability.

The USDA will also emphasize the following priorities: applications that serve at least 40% of children eligible for free or reduced lunches; applications from Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) and entities serving tribal communities; applications from entities led by and serving Black, Indigenous, or other communities of color; applications from agricultural producers (or groups of producers); and projects located in or targeting Opportunity Zones or rural areas.

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

  • Review the applicant resource page on the USDA Farm to School Grant Program website for factsheets, information on past projects, sample application materials, program contact information, and tips and tools for preparing your application.
  • While you’re there, you can also download the USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit, which answers FAQs and provides resources for designing your local program.
  • Mark your calendar for two upcoming webinars with information for applicants. USDA will host a general information webinar on Monday, November 8 and a deeper discussion of how to complete a competitive application on Tuesday, November 9.
  • Make sure your System for Award Management (SAM) registration is active and be sure you have agov profile. You can check your SAM status here: https://sam.gov/content/status-tracker.

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 proposal writing, so my application is more likely to be successful?

AGS is excited to offer a new Federal Grants Training Series throughout 2021! The series is designed to support nonprofit and community leaders before and during the application process. 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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