Central Indiana farmers will soon have thousands of new hungry customers: local public school students.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Indiana a $100,000 grant this week to establish a program that gets more local food in public schools.
The program will connect Indiana farmers and school corporations through an Indiana food hub called the Hoosier Harvest Network, an aggregate of 27 producers from as far north as Fort Wayne, to as far south as Batesville.
Laura Hormuth is the Nutrition Coordinator at the State Department of Health, and the Indiana state lead for the Indiana Farm to School Network. She says the network came together about a year ago.
“We are very excited because up until now farm-to-school has not been funded in Indiana,” Hormuth says. “And when you think about the Midwest, a lot of our other states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Illinois, they’re really further ahead of us in farm-to-school but they’ve all had federal funding to support farm-to-school programs.”
Hormuth says schools aren’t used to buying from local farmers, so the grant will be used to build infrastructure and capacity.
“Schools don’t know how to purchase from farmers, and farmers don’t know how to sell to schools. So, we are going to be working at both ends of that problem.”
Grants will be given to school Food Service Directors to purchase local produce from a food hub. Money will also be used to train food service kitchen staff in local food handling and preparation.
Hoosier Harvest Market marketing manager Mike Murrow says schools won’t be the only ones to benefit.
“Being connected with schools through this type of introduction where you have the decision makers in the room, without having to do it one by one, I think will help us increase our sales for next year.”
Only Greenfield Central Community School Corporation will actually receive money this year, but the group is reaching out to 38 other school districts to see if they are interested in participating in the future.