ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has pledged up to $400,000 to school systems across Minnesota in an effort to get them to use more locally sourced foods in their meals for kids.
Grants will range from $1,000 to $30,000 for planning grants, which can cover up to 75 percent of those total costs. Equipment purchasing grants can cover up to 50 percent of the total expenses, with a maximum grant of $50,000. The AGRI Farm to School grants and the AGRI Farm to Early Care and Education grants will be administering both planning and equipment purchasing grants.
In total, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture plans to hand out up to $400,000 in grant money.
“Our goal is to invest in schools and early care and education organizations so they can buy and serve more Minnesota grown foods,” Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said in a press release. “When kids have an opportunity to eat healthy, high-quality local foods at a young age, they are more likely to become lifelong consumers of those foods, which benefits Minnesota’s farmers.”
Equipment purchased with money from these grants in previous years includes multi-functional combi ovens, rotisserie racks, and food processors. According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, this new equipment supposedly enabled districts like the Sartell-St. Stephen School District to purchase a larger portion of their students’ food from in-state farms.
Schools are not the only organizations eligible for these grants however. While public and private schools and school districts are listed first among eligible entities, economic development organizations, non-profit organizations, and educational service cooperatives may also receive funding via this program.
In addition, the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota has pledged up to $125,000 in an effort to help applicants meet the matching thresholds for the planning and equipment purchasing grants. This will eliminate or at least reduce the skin in the game applicants have for the Department of Agriculture’s grants.
Blue Cross Blue Shield currently is also calling for a nine percent increase in health insurance premiums for its 89,000 enrollees covered in the small group market by small businesses.