USDA gives Minnesota nearly $3.5 million, connecting schools to farmers

For the first time, the United States Department of Agriculture is giving Minnesota money to put towards connecting local farmers with schools.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will receive around $3.46 million dollars to help schools include local produce, meat and dairy in their school lunches through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program. Minnesota is the first state in the nation to take part in the new initiative.

The state will put the money towards their Farm to School grant program. School districts can apply for these funds to get reimbursed for buying food from local farmers.

MDA Commissioner Thom Petersen hopes this will encourage students to look for fresh, healthy foods.

“Some of the schools might start with apples or squash. They might buy turkey from a local producer or butter. COVID taught us that we need to diversify our food system. And the better we can localize it, the better we’re going to be off as a state, and a country, and a local community,” Petersen said.

Petersen also sees this as a solution to supply chain issues by encouraging school districts to rely less on products from outside of the state.

The Department of Agriculture says the money will be available to the state in September.