Grant applications help bring fresh food to Missouri schools

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COLUMBIA - Applications for grants, that the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) said aim to help small businesses provide locally grown agricultural products to Missouri schools, are now available to small businesses.

The Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) is accepting applications for "farm-to-school value-added grants." The grants are part of a farm-to-school program Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law in July. $200,000 is the most any individual grant can be.

"We're thrilled that we can offer this program to incentivize Missouri businesses, which will in turn increase the amount of nutritious and delicious Missouri-made food served to students and benefit Missouri farmers," Director of Agriculture Richard Fordyce said in a news release.

Laina Fullum, director of Nutrition Services for Columbia Public Schools (CPS), said this is not a new concept for the district, but she said it will still benefit.

She said since 2009, CPS has had a vendor deliver locally grown food to its schools. 

Fullum said CPS would definitely benefit from the grants and she said CPS currently has an application in for another grant to help expand farm-for-school.

"One of the barriers is access to the local goods," Fullum said.

A Boonville farmer for The Veggie Patch, Jim Thies, said the grants would also help benefit small and large local farmers. He said he would not directly benefit from the grants because he does not produce enough product. However, he said the exposure the grants would give to fresh produce would help him and other small, local farmers.

"Hopefully the end result is that the whole family will be striving for a fresher produce, fresher product and there could be some side benefits," Thies said.

He said one problem with the grants could be finding the supply of both local and fresh food to feed an entire school.

Eligible applicants must include:

  • A small business that purchases/processes locally grown products for a small farmer or a small business that produces that product itself
  • Its primary market must be schools in Missouri

Applications are due Oct. 31.