198 Grants Awarded to Schools, Local Farmers to Help Serve More Iowa-Grown Produce, Protein to Students

Grants help schools purchase fresh, locally-grown foods for student meal programs

DES MOINES, Iowa (Dec. 8, 2020) – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced the recipients of the CARES Act Local Produce and Protein Program grants today. The program helps schools, colleges and universities, and early child care centers purchase more locally-grown fruits, vegetables and proteins for student meal programs. The grant program, which benefits both farmers impacted by COVID-19 supply chain disruptions and Iowa students, was funded by $750,000 of CARES Act money allocated by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the critical role Iowa farmers play in the local food chain and beyond, as well as the important role of schools in providing nutritious meals to our students,” said Secretary Naig. “The Iowa Department of Agriculture will continue to support local producers and schools as they navigate the ongoing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The funding was divided into three sub-grants to support Iowa’s Farm to School programs, which makes fresh food more accessible to students. Thirty-six K-12 schools were awarded grants to purchase kitchen equipment and supplies that allow the food service program to serve more fresh produce and protein to students. More than 100 K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and early care centers were awarded grants to buy produce, protein, liquid and shelled eggs, and dairy products directly from local producers, food hubs or food auctions.

Iowa’s specialty crop producers and food hubs were also eligible for a portion of the Local Produce and Protein Program funding. Fifty-four producers and distributors were awarded grants to purchase supplies and equipment needed to serve their protein and produce in schools, colleges and universities, and early care centers. Eligible purchases included refrigerated trucks, cold storage units, and boxes and packaging equipment.

A comprehensive list of Local Produce and Protein Program grant recipients is available at iowaagriculture.gov/grants.

FreshConnect Database

The Local Produce and Protein grant program is one of several initiatives the Iowa Department of Agriculture has offered to help local specialty crop producers during the pandemic. The Department, in collaboration with the Iowa Valley RC&D and the Food Hub Managers Working Group, has also launched the FreshConnect online food database. The database connects local farmers, food hubs, school districts, restaurants, universities, childcare centers, hospitals, chefs and consumers. Farmers can list the fresh protein and produce products they have available now, find transportation service providers to deliver shipments, and identify customers who want to procure fresh, locally-grown foods. The FreshConnect Database was funded in part by an Iowa Specialty Crop Block Grant administered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

In addition to the FreshConnect database, the Department awarded grants to the Decorah and Iowa City Farmers Markets, Iowa Food Cooperative, and Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach in Wapello County in August to support their efforts to connect Iowa consumers to more locally-grown food options.

In November, Secretary Naig announced that the Department awarded over $220,000 in grants to help grow demand for Iowa’s specialty crops. The money was distributed to ten partners to support programs that raise awareness about, drive demand or create new markets for Iowa’s specialty crops.

To learn more about the Department’s efforts to support Iowa’s specialty crop growers, visit iowaagriculture.gov/agricultural-diversification-market-development-bureau.

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About the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Led by Secretary Mike Naig, the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship serves the rural and urban residents that call Iowa home. Through its 12 diverse bureaus, the Department ensures animal health, food safety and consumer protection. It also promotes conservation efforts to preserve our land for the next generation. Learn more at iowaagriculture.gov.

Media Contact:
Keely Coppess
Communications Director
(515) 326-1616           
Keely.Coppess@IowaAgriculture.gov