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Brookings Farm to Early Care and Learning Initiative Receives a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant

August 15, 2019

BROOKINGS, S.D. - The Brookings School District has been awarded a 2019 Farm to School grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This planning grant, developed in partnership with SDSU Extension, the SDSU Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education and the SDSU Local Foods Education Center, will create the Brookings Farm to Early Care and Learning Initiative.

The Brookings Farm to Early Care and Learning Initiative will convene and connect stakeholders, increase local food procurement, and create and test tools and educational resources for an early care and learning setting.

“We know that the earlier we expose and encourage healthy foods to children, the easier to develop healthy habits that last into adulthood,” said Kay Cutler, director of the SDSU Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education.

USDA’s Farm to School grants are awarded yearly and fund projects that help school districts and communities in their efforts to increase local foods served through child nutrition programs, teach children about food and agriculture through garden and classroom education, and develop schools’ and farmers’ capacities to participate in farm to school.

“We are excited to help pilot this program that will bring partners together to support our local producers and enhance the lives of families and children at the Fishback Center and Hillcrest Elementary School through fresh, local foods and garden-based education,” said Brad Olinger, Hillcrest Elementary School Principal.

Jennifer Folliard, SDSU Extension Family and Community Health Field Specialist explained, “Over the next two years, this planning grant and pilot project will help bridge and build sustainable networks between producers and early learning centers in Brookings County. While the focus of this grant is Brookings County, there is interest throughout the state. Through SDSU Extension’s state-wide network, tools and resources created through this grant will be disseminated and publicized throughout the state.”

SDSU Extension and Dakota Rural Action, with support from the South Dakota Department of Education, recently released the South Dakota Farm to School Handbook, which includes useful information specific to South Dakota producers and schools. This handbook will provide guidance on how to implement and ultimately expand the Farm to School movement in South Dakota.

“This is going to be an exciting year for Farm to School in Brookings. This community has a lot of momentum and appetite for local foods, and we will continue to build partnerships and support local producers with this initiative,” said Brett Owens, Director of the SDSU Local Foods Education Center.

SDSU Extension specialists are collecting a list of all interested individuals, producers and organizations in the Brookings community as they begin planning. Even if you are not in the Brookings community, SDSU Extension specialists would love to stay in touch with interested individuals as this grant unfolds.

To learn more about Farm to School, or the Brookings Farm to Early Care and Learning Initiative, contact Jennifer Folliard, SDSU Extension Family and Community Health Field Specialist, by email or at 605.782.3290.