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Schools receive USDA grant to up local foods in Park Rapids, Laporte cafeterias

 Park Rapids Area and Laporte Schools announced they are one of 74 projects spanning 39 states receiving support this year through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program, an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers.  The joint project of the Hubbard County schools received a $45,000 planning grant to impact approximately 1,750 students across the two districts.  

“Farm to school programs work - for schools, for producers, and for communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “By serving nutritious and locally grown foods, engaging students in hands-on lessons, and involving parents and community members, these programs provide children with a holistic experience that sets them up for a lifetime of healthy eating. With early results from our Farm to School Census indicating schools across the nation invested nearly $600 million in local products, farm to school also provides a significant and reliable market for local farmers and ranchers.”  Park Rapids Area Schools Superintendent Lance Bagstad commented, “As we continue to explore outdoor classrooms and partnerships with our local businesses and agriculture producers, this grant is also a critical piece to bring student learning of healthy eating and locally grown foods into their daily lives.”  

Representatives from Park Rapids Area and Laporte schools worked collaboratively with community businesses, industry and legislative leaders to complete the grant. Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission, CHI-St. Joseph’s Health of Park Rapids, University of Minnesota Extension, RD Offutt Company, Lamb Weston, Congressman Rick Nolan and Senator Al Franken’s offices and others were instrumental in assisting in the development of the grant program and award.  Farm to school programs are one of the many tools and resources USDA offers to help schools successfully serve healthier meals. In the past three years since the bipartisan passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, kids have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school. Over 97 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards.  In addition to school meals, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers several other nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (Commonly known as WIC), and the Summer Food Service Program. Together, these programs comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

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