The National Farm-to-School Network was awarded a $250,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Agreement Contract to expand farm-to-institution work throughout the six New England states.
Demand for fresh local food has been rising not only from schools but also from colleges and hospitals as people seek healthy foods while supporting local farmers and reducing the environmental impacts of shipping foods long distances.
A Connecticut Department of Agriculture statement published in Connecticutplus.com reports that some of the funding will go to expand processing at the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Greenfield, Mass., where farmers flash-freeze berries and vegetables to sell to schools.
Some will support a new processing project, the Real Food Institute, in Mid-Coast Maine. Project partner Kids First in Rhode Island will work with the vendor that delivers fresh produce to schools in all six New England States through the Department of Defense Fresh Program to develop a model distribution system for local foods in the supply chain from farmer to consumer.
The six New England states currently spend $150 million on school food. If they bought 5% of the foods from local farmers, that would expand the New England agriculture economy by $7.5 million.