Alabama students and farmers will benefit from efforts to double the Alabama-grown produce served in cafeterias through the state’s Farm-To-School Program. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is partnering with Alabama Farmers Federation, Food Bank of North Alabama, Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) and local schools to fulfill that goal.
“We look forward to working with these groups to help identify Alabama farmers who want to be a part of the Farm-To-School Program,” said Federation Horticulture Division Director Mac Higginbotham. “Getting more fresh, locally grown produce in schools will be a great thing.”
Alabama Farmers Market Authority Director and Pike County Farmers Federation Board member Don Wambles will coordinate the increased effort.
In the 2013-2014 school year, the Farm-To-School Program spent a record $1.3 million on Alabama-grown fresh produce served in public school cafeterias. ALSDE has allocated $3 million annually for the purchase of fresh, locally grown produce, and schools may use their own funds to purchase food from local farmers.
“It is our goal to ultimately utilize the entire $3 million allocation so we can provide the best and freshest food to the students of Alabama,” Wambles said. The partnership identified a three-step plan to expand the program, he said.
Farmers seeking to participate in the program must be identified through an online producer survey at alabamafresh.org/survey.html. Participating farms must be GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified or pursuing the certification.
The second step is identifying schools interested in participation by working with child nutrition directors. The final step is to match farmers’ products with the schools’ needs.
The Farm-To-School Program is authorized under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and funded in part by a $100,000-grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded in 2014. For more information on Alabama’s Farm-To-School Program, visit AlabamaFresh.org.