PROVIDENCE – The city of Providence was awarded a $49,766 U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Farm to School program grant Thursday to support the planning and development of initiatives to increase the amount of locally grown food incorporated into city students’ lunches and create new economic opportunities for local farmers.
Rachel Newman Greene, deputy director of the city’s Healthy Communities Office, said in prepared remarks she is “excited” by the opportunity to improve schools and “children’s health and development.”
She added: “Maximizing local procurement benefits the growing food sector of our local economy and connects our 24,000 public school students to high-quality local foods.”
Funds awarded to Providence will be used to implement new initiatives, maximize local purchasing and support the development of school greenhouse and garden curricula.
Some of this work – including the creation of a strategic plan to connect classrooms, cafeterias and local communities – will be done through a partnership with the food-services and facilities-management company Sodexo.
Bobby Gondola Jr., secretary of the Providence School Board and chair of its Health and Wellness Committee, said in a statement the grant goes far and beyond the cafeteria.
“Farm-to-school programs offer a wealth of educational opportunities – from biology to math, nutrition to community development,” Gondola said in a statement. “The USDA grant is a mark of pride for our city’s efforts and will allow Providence Schools to reinforce the value of student health and wellness while supporting meaningful, hands-on learning.”
One of 15 USDA Food and Nutrition Service nutrition assistance programs, $5.2 million in total grants were awarded to more than 6,000 schools in the Farm to School program, which will impact 2.8 million students across the United States. They are available to eligible schools, state and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations, agricultural producers and nonprofits.