KDA awards grants to six Kentucky school districts for Farm to School projects
Funds allow school districts to better grow, store local fresh foods
FRANKFORT (Jan. 24, 2024) - The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) is awarding six Kentucky school districts grants to allow them to increase their abilities to grow and store more locally grown Farm to School products, Agriculture Commissioner Jonathan Shell has announced.
“This project is the next step for growth in our Farm to School Program,” Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Jonathan Shell said. “It gives us the ability to provide education and procurement training opportunities to our young future farmers as well as school food service professionals all to provide a brighter future for Kentucky agriculture.”
The money awarded through the KDA grants was sourced from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Patrick Leahy Farm to School Program for unique food service projects involving high school FFA chapters.
KDA’s Farm to School program is committed to bringing fresh, high-quality Kentucky-grown products to Kentucky’s school systems enabling students to learn about the importance of buying local food products while helping Kentucky farmers find new markets.
The six sub-grants, which were awarded through a competitive process, were given to school districts whose teams consisted of the three “C”s -- classroom, cafeteria, and community. The funds were designated to allow school districts to purchase much needed walk-in coolers and freezers to store locally grown Farm to School products. The grants would also allow FFA chapters to purchase equipment needed to introduce or build upon the districts’ hydroponic systems, plasticulture, and traditional agricultural practices.
The KDA project is one of 103 across the nation awarded a combined $10.7 million by the Food and Nutrition Service under the Patrick Leahy Farm to School Grant Program.
Grant awardees include:
- Barren County -- $46,206 for a hydroponic container farm and a walk-in refrigerator to store Farm to School products;
- Crittenden County -- $10,298 for two hydroponic tower systems;
- Graves County -- $49,588 for five hydroponic tower systems and four reach-in coolers for storage;
- Marion County -- $50,000 for three Flex Farm hydroponics systems, one pass-through refrigerator, and one display case for grab and go;
- Taylor County -- $22,075 to establish a new 1-acre on-campus garden, install one hydroponics tower, and purchase one walk-in cooler for storage; and
- Union County -- $50,000 for a new hydroponics system for greens, and a refrigerated trailer for storage and transport.
“The GCHS Plant Science Students and FFA Chapter are extremely excited about this new venture to learn and serve in our community,” said Grace Perdue, a plant science and agribusiness teacher at Graves County High School. “In our program, agriculture education comes first as the foundation of all student's FFA experience. The goal is to introduce new ideas and new opportunities for students to become strong leaders in the local agriculture community and to be good stewards through serving others. This grant will allow us to continue bringing these opportunities to our students and community.”
Marion County High School’s School Nutrition Director Jennifer Wheeler also sees how the grant will be a large benefit to her school and students.
“I am super excited for this opportunity for the School Nutrition Department and the Ag Department to collaborate in order to give our students hands-on learning experiences focused on next generation alternative agriculture production and at the same time be able to add, not only locally grown, but Marion County High grown greens to our existing selection of locally sourced foods,” she said. “Not only is this an amazing educational opportunity for our students but it will also help to give them a greater connection to the foods they eat in our cafeteria and promote a since of ‘Knight Pride.’”
"This grant empowers our team to cultivate a holistic approach to nutrition, education, and community engagement,” said Shane Bosaw, Director of Food Services at Union County High School. “With the support of this grant, we look forward to nurturing a sustainable and integrated Farm to School Program that not only enriches the quality of our cafeteria offerings, but also fosters a deeper connection between our students, the classroom, and the local community including a deeper understanding of the quality and nutrient content of locally sourced food."
Farm to School opens opportunities for students to learn about nutrition and agriculture through hands-on experiences, such as planting, watering, and harvesting fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Since the grant program’s inception in 2013, USDA has awarded $75 million through Farm to School Grants in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico, which have reached more than 25 million students in more than 59,000 schools.