On June 29th, the USDA announced grant awardees for their Farm to School grant program. Two grants were awarded for Rhode Island - one for $96,236 for the RI Department of Education and another for $65,530 for Smithfield Public Schools. Through the Farm to School Grant we will be improving access to local foods and improving students’ and parents’ knowledge of the importance of healthy food choices by implementing a comprehensive farm to school program that includes local procurement and nutritional education efforts.
Smithfield is in a prime location for this opportunity with an abundance of farms within the area. However, students exhibit limited knowledge of and exposure to local foods. While many students eat a healthy lunch each day, a significant number of students bring lunches and snacks to school that are processed. Entering the cafeteria, one would see jelly beans, processed meats, cookies, and salty snacks more often than seeing nutrition-rich, fresh foods that are grown only a few miles away.
Smithfield Public Schools has an active Wellness Committee that works with community partners and stakeholders to improve the nutrition of our students and families. This past year, the membership expanded to include local farmers. As a part of this work, Smithfield hosted Apple Crunch Day in October 2019 in conjunction with Chartwells, FarmFresh RI, Jaswell’s Farm, and Steere Orchard to provide apples and additional cafeteria menu items featuring apple as the main ingredient. In addition, the district has participated in the Harvest of the Month and RI Healthy Schools Coalition’s Local Food Ambassador Program. Through this grant, the district will be able to continue the momentum that has been built through these early efforts to offer a comprehensive and sustainable farm-to-school program that affects all students and serve as a model to other Rhode Island districts.
At the onset of the grant period, the district will purchase new refrigeration units for schools in need which will allow for storage and display of local foods. At this time, two of our schools are in need of additional units. In addition, we will purchase wide format printed permanent signage depicting local farms and farm produce for each of our cafeterias to promote farm to school and healthy eating. The remaining grant activities focus on agricultural education utilizing local foods.