USDA Expands Local Foods in School Meals through Cooperative Agreement with Arkansas

Oct 04, 2022

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today announced it has signed a cooperative agreement with Arkansas for more than $2.2 million to increase their purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.

Through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS), the Arkansas Department of Human Services will purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools to serve children through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). These products will be healthy and unique to their geographic area, with the goal of improving child nutrition and building new relationships between schools and local farmers.

“This cooperative agreement supporting Arkansas 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.”

“Strengthening relationships between local producers and schools is a long-term strategy to ensure our children always have access to nutritious foods in school, a win-win for child health and American agriculture,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “Through this program and many other efforts to support the school meal programs, USDA is committed to giving schools the tools they need to set children up to learn, grow, and thrive.”

The Arkansas Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (ARLFS), funded through USDA’s LFS program, will establish cooperative agreements between Arkansas schools, local and underserved farmers/producers, and small businesses to provide local food to schools. ARLFS will broaden partnerships to ensure food distribution to schools in Arkansas’s 75 counties extends beyond the life of the grant.

“This cooperative agreement will enhance our schools’ opportunities to purchase local products from local producers,” said Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward. “This will bring us closer to our goal of creating, strengthening, and expanding local farm and food economies throughout Arkansas while also connecting our children to agriculture, our state’s largest industry.”

The LFS cooperative agreements will allow organizations the flexibility to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers that best suit their local needs, accommodate environmental and climate conditions, account for seasonal harvests, improve supply chain resiliency and meet the needs of schools within their service area. Additionally, the program will provide more opportunities for historically underserved producers and processors to sell their products. The Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program is authorized by the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act. AMS looks forward to continuing to sign agreements under this innovative program.

The Local Food for Schools cooperative agreement program is one of many ways USDA is supporting school meal programs this school year and transforming our food system in the long term.

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