Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced that the University of Maine has received a total of $224,963 to create a new Maine Farm to School Institute, which will connect schools with locally grown food and educate rural middle and high school students about nutrition. This funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
“Farm-to-school programs have proven to be successful at providing schools with nutritious food, supporting family farms in the community, and teaching students about agriculture and wellness,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “This investment will expand access to this initiative to help more students across our state have access to local, healthy foods while supporting Maine farmers.”
The proposal, “Farm to School THYME: Training for Healthy Youth in Maine,” is supported by five partnering organizations: the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Maine Farm to School Network, Maine Agriculture in the Classroom, ReTreeUs, and the Cumberland County Food Security Council. The Maine Farm to School Institute will train school communities and other stakeholders to establish their own farm-to-school programs and explore approaches to promote student nutrition education programs, including school gardens and local food sourcing. Currently, the nearest farm-to-school training facility is located in Vermont and only has capacity for one Maine school to attend annually.
This project will scale-up existing farm-to-school initiatives and thereby increase knowledge of agriculture and nutritional health, while empowering youth to be leaders in their school communities. The Maine Farm to School Institute will convene 6 school teams for a 3-day in-person intensive workshop, followed by a year-long implementation. The Maine Farm to School Institute is built on a service learning model that trains college students to mentor middle/high school students and assist them with implementing farm-to-school programming in their own schools. By serving rural schools across Maine, thousands of students and families who are currently not reached will be impacted by system and program changes that are proven to improve nutritional health, increase knowledge of agriculture, and build partnerships with rural producers in order to holistically address school food security.