The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) announced last week it will award Farm to School grants to four of the state’s FFA chapters. 

The English Valley, Vinton-Shellsburg, Waukee and Wayne FFA chapters will each receive $2,000 grants to grow specialty crops, like fruits and vegetables, which will be served to their classmates through the schools’ food service programs.

“This program is a great way to get kids excited about and involved in agriculture,” Iowa Ag­­riculture Secretary Mike Naig said. 

Participating FFA members choose which crops they want to grow and are tasked with tending to the fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Students collaborate with their school’s foodservice staff to establish a price for their produce and determine how to integrate it into meals.

The objective is to expose students to new foods and introduce at least three FFA-grown fruits or vegetables to the schools’ food service menus.

“The Farm to School grant program gives the opportunity for FFA chapters to expand career development experiences for students,” said Scott Johnson, Iowa FFA executive director. “It also provides opportunities for students to improve their agricultural literacy, which will become increasingly important as they prepare for a lifetime of informed choices in a global agricultural industry.”

This program is funded through the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and administered by IDALS.