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TUSD applies for USDA Farm to School grant

POSTED February 8, 2013 10:15 p.m.

The Turlock Unified School District is looking to bring even more fresh fruits and vegetables to its students through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School grant.

The district is applying for funds from the federal program, that, if granted, will help buy seed and supplies for a new farm being constructed at Turlock High School.

Once fully implemented, the THS farm could potentially supply 10 to 20 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables served at the district's campuses, said TUSD Director of Child Nutrition Scott Soiseth.

"The ag farm will encompass everything from being a teaching tool for the younger kids to a training ground for ag students," he said.

The ag farm is just the newest way for TUSD to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into its school breakfasts and lunches.

Since 2007 TUSD school meals have included no trans fats, and there is increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the district's Real Fresh menu.

In January 2012 First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled new national standards for school meals this week to improve health amongst our nation’s youth. The new requirements include mandates for more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and less sodium, saturated fat, trans fats along with calorie limits.

To better implement the nutrition mandates, TUSD joined California-based Ag Link. Ag Link helps school districts to communicate with nearby farmers and buy their produce. The food services staff at TUSD also visit school sites during the year to educate students about the importance of fruits and vegetables.

Soiseth said the new THS ag farm will supplement the fruits and vegetables the district gets through Ag Link.

"We're going through 10,000 pieces of fruit a day," he said.

The district must submit its Farm to School grant proposal by April 24. Grants are expected to be awarded in August or September.

The Farm to School Grant Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which authorized and funded USDA to assist eligible entities, through grants and technical assistance, in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. The Act provides $5 million annually to support grants, technical assistance, and the federal administrative costs related to USDA's Farm to School Program. In this funding cycle, USDA anticipates awarding up to $5 million in grants.

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