WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced it is accepting applications for the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS), which will provide up to $200 million for states to purchase local food for school meal programs.
“This program is another example of how USDA is working to build a more resilient food system rooted in local and regional production where small can compete against big because a greater share of the profit will go to those growing, harvesting, and preparing our food,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “As we build more and better markets, the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program will provide an opportunity for states to strengthen local and regional food system by increasing links between local farmers, ranchers, and food businesses with schools. This program also gives students access to the local, nutritious foods unique to the area they live in, building stronger connections across local communities.”
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will award cooperative agreements to state governments for the purchase of domestic foods from local, regional, small, and underserved farmers and ranchers. Local and regional farmers and ranchers are those within the state or 400 miles of delivery destination. USDA will engage with state governments, who may also partner with local organizations including non-profits, through these non-competitive cooperative agreements.
The cooperative agreements will allow states to buy and distribute local and regional foods and beverages that are healthy, nutritious, and unique to their geographic area. In addition to increasing local food consumption, funds will help build and expand economic opportunity for local, small, and underserved producers and will support schools as they transition away from pandemic operations and develop solutions to the continuing economic impacts of the pandemic.
The cooperative agreements will allow organizations the flexibility to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers that best suit their local needs, accommodate environmental and climate conditions, account for seasonal harvests, improve supply chain resiliency and meet the needs of schools within their service area. The LFS program is authorized by the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act.
We know that schools and other child nutrition program operators are facing challenges, including supply chain disruptions and other economic disruptions from the pandemic. USDA is committed to offering resources and flexibilities where we can to help them provide critical nutrition to millions of children every day.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.