Pa. agriculture secretary awards $400k for early childhood nutrition programs

Regional News

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding Friday announced the approval of nearly $400,000 in Farm to School Grants to fund 39 projects that will improve access to healthy, local foods and increase agricultural awareness opportunities for children pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

“The children of today are the future of Pennsylvania agriculture,” said Redding. “Reviewing these 39 projects and their goals to invest in programming that not only improves childhood nutrition but gives them opportunities for first-hand agricultural experiences to grow their knowledge and awareness, I see a bright future for the industry that feeds Pennsylvania.”

The Pennsylvania Farm Bill Farm to School Grant Program aims to enrich the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early childhood education sites. Any school district, charter school, or private school with pre-kindergarten classes, kindergarten, or elementary through fifth grade – regardless of offering in-person, virtual, or hybrid instruction models – was eligible to apply for the program.

Every one of the 39 projects approved has identified local farmers who will supply fresh, in-season products to support their programming or have plans to initiate their own garden or school farm to produce hyper-local products. In addition to providing students with access to local, nutritious food, the approved projects provide a variety of agriculture education experiences.

Rachel Whitley of Zhang Sah Martial Arts, a grant recipient in Street’s district of Philadelphia, joined the event to discuss their $15,000 project to support a garden they built in 2020. With their Farm to School funds, Zhang Sah aims to immediately address food access for their student body and local community.

Whitley outlined their plans to provide hands-on opportunities for 42 students through the end of June and also provide every staff member with 10 hours of agricultural professional development to support the students working in the community garden.

A full list of approved projects can be found at agriculture.pa.gov.

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