A new cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture will serve more locally sourced, nutritious foods to Alabama school students.
Through the USDA’s $3.1 million Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries will purchase food directly from farmers. In addition, the agency will work with the Alabama State Department of Education to coordinate the distribution of the items to schools that are in most need of them, according to a written statement from the USDA.
“We are pleased to participate with USDA on the Local Food for Schools initiative,” Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate said. “Our first priority is to purchase produce from a variety of farmers and serve these fresh, local foods to Alabama school children. We will then target almost 60 school systems in Alabama who have a 50 percent or higher of their students who qualify for free and reduced meals.”
According to the USDA, cooperative agreements like the one launching in Alabama allow flexibility to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers that best suit local needs, accommodate environmental and climate conditions, account for seasonal harvests, improve supply chain resiliency and meet the needs of schools.
The agreements are part of the USDA’s Build Back Better framework, funded with American Rescue Plan Act money.
“This cooperative agreement supporting Alabama schools is another example of how USDA is working to build a more resilient food system rooted in local and regional production,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt.
“The Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program provides an opportunity for states to strengthen ties between local farmers, ranchers, food businesses and schools, and gives students access to nutritious foods unique to the area they live in, building stronger connections across local communities.”