Tri-Valley Child Nutrition Services Manager, Jami Rokala, served as the testifier for Rep. Lippert’s HF 4120 Farm to School & Early Care bill and testified virtually in front of the House Agriculture Committee on March 21. The bill had tremendous support and was referred to the Early Childhood Committee where Rokala also testified on March 29.
The bill would increase the amount of funding for the MDA Farm to School grants from $800,000 to $1.6 million in response to the demand that far exceeded available funding for the last round of grants and get closer to fully funding all schools to buy local if they choose, AND it would expand eligibility to include early care providers, making fresh healthy foods available to our littlest eaters as they develop their taste preferences and eating habits. This would be the first-time early care providers could have access to this funding!
Some background on the bill:
- MDA currently administers a Farm to School grant that reimburses K12 schools for their purchases from local farmers (up to a certain amount, depending on how many meals they serve). This grant was established at a pilot level after stakeholder advocacy to pass a bill in 2019, and there have been two application periods so far, with the second cohort of grantees just getting contracts signed for 2022. There were $1.3 million in requests for the ~$800,000 of available funding in the last cycle of applications.
- The Farm to School bill for this session is requesting to double the amount of funding for the MDA Farm to School grant to more adequately meet the growing demand for this support, increasing from $800,000 to $1.6 million/year.
- Ultimate goal for the path of this funding long term would be to replicate what other states have done–eventually funding to a level where it’s no longer a competitive grant, but is funded so that all schools can take advantage if they choose to (or opt out).
- The bill would also open the grant eligibility to include early care environments in addition to the K-12 schools that are currently eligible. Reaching our youngest kiddos during this critical window of development has a great potential positive health impact and expands the markets for MN farmers to sell to.
(Rokala testifies at the 4 min mark)