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Auburn School Department Receives USDA Farm to School Grant - Press Release!

posted Mar 3, 2016, 7:08 AM by Roz Walton
The Auburn School Department 

The Auburn School Department is pleased to announce that they are one of 74 projects spanning 39 states awarded support this year 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 producers.  The Auburn School Department joined with the Lewiston School Department and St. Mary’s Nutrition Center to prepare and design a grant application to benefit students in both school districts.  The $45,000 planning grant started December 1, 2015, and will run until September 30, 2017.

 “Farm to school programs work—for schools, for producers, and for communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. “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. With early results from our Farm to School Census indicating schools across the nation invested nearly $600 million in local products, farm to school also provides a significant and reliable market for local farmers and ranchers.”

  “Farm to School initiatives encourage our children to try new foods, learn about locally grown produce and the importance of healthy food choices,” said Katy Grondin, Auburn Superintendent.  “The Auburn School Department is proud to be part of this growing movement and excited to collaborate with our friends across the river.  By exploring procurement of more fresh and local foods and more garden-based nutrition education, we hope to uncover new opportunities that will help our students learn, succeed, and maintain good health.” 

 St. Mary’s Nutrition Center is under contract with the Auburn School Department to coordinate and perform the grant activities in conjunction with Paula Rouillard, Auburn Nutrition Director, and Alisa Roman, Lewiston Nutrition Director, and other community partners.  The team will work to broaden and strengthen the Androscoggin Farm to School Network as a shared learning community; conduct research and analysis to identify current initiatives, best practices, needs, challenges, and strategies to alleviate or reduce barriers to farm to school activities in Lewiston/Auburn; foster local procurement relationships between school personnel, and farmers and producers; and continue the operation of pilot school garden programs to develop models for sustainability.  This grant-funded research and planning process will culminate in the drafting of a comprehensive Farm to School Implementation Plan that may be submitted to the USDA for further grant funding in future years, potentially bringing more resources into the schools and community.

 In recognition of National Nutrition Month in March, several Farm to School activities are planned by grant partners.  For example, the Nutrition Center’s Youth Campaign Crew will conduct student taste tests at the Lewiston High School cafeteria, and the Androscoggin Farm to School Network will hold its quarterly meeting on March 29th from 3:30-5pm at Montello Elementary in Lewiston, which will focus primarily on helpful resources for teachers as spring approaches.  Teachers, school personnel, parents, and other interested residents are welcome to attend.

Farm to School programs are one of the many tools and resources USDA offers to help schools successfully serve healthier meals. In the past three years since the bipartisan passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, kids have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school. For more information about the USDA’s food and nutrition programs, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

For more information about Lewiston/Auburn area Farm to School activities and resources, connect with the Androscoggin Farm to School Network on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/AndroscogginFarmToSchoolNetwork

Roz Walton,
Mar 3, 2016, 7:08 AM