“I’m proud that Maine schools have been such a leader in using locally produced food to help local economies, offer healthier options, and connect students to their communities,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “Who would have thought that kids would to choose to eat chard? But Maine schools have shown that it can happen with some innovative changes. We can help schools do even better by offering them some key investments and flexibility. I look forward to more Maine schools accessing these kinds of funds in the future.”
Pingree, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, announced that Portland Public Schools would receive a $100,000 grant from the USDA to support and expand its farm-to-school programs.
“Even with a tight budget, Portland has demonstrated an incredible commitment to feeding students healthy, locally produced food whenever possible,” said Pingree. “This Farm-to-School grant will help them build on that success to further increase their purchasing from local growers and producers. It’s an investment with great returns for our students and local economy, but won’t have to come out of local property taxes.”
In September, Pingree hosted a visit by USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan to the Reiche School in Portland. They had lunch with students, toured the school garden, and talked to officials about their farm-to-school programs.
With the grant funding, Portland Schools plans to increase student consumption of local food and increase public awareness and community engagement in its efforts.
· Updating kitchen equipment, certifications, and training to handle more processing of local ingredients;
· Experiential learning activities, including school gardens, agriculture clubs, curriculum, taste testing, andchef-to-school programs; and
· Holding an annual “Local Food Show” for the public to exhibit farms, recipes and student projects related to farm-to-school programs.
MSAD 12 in Jackman is also receiving a Farm-to-School grant for $44,000 to expand its local food programs.
Reforms in legislation Pingree has introduced—the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act—include allowing schools to use a portion of their commodity funding to purchase locally produced food and expanding farm-to-school programs. More information is available at http://pingree.house.gov/localfood.