Graham schools granted $100K to provide education, help with local food access

Graham Middle/High School FLIGHT program students working in the garden. CONTRIBUTED

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Graham Middle/High School FLIGHT program students working in the garden. CONTRIBUTED

Partnership allows district to add more locally grown items to school meals.

Graham Local Schools has been granted $100,000 to provide educational opportunities and help with local food access for the community.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Grant will help eligible schools improve access to local foods, according to a release.

The grant will allow Graham to partner with the local agricultural community, the Champaign County Local Food Council, area culinary arts programs, Champaign County Family YMCA, and the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce to provide education about local products, nutrition, production opportunities in the shared-use commercial kitchen, and gardening skills, according to a release from the district.

This partnership will allow the district to add more locally grown items to school meals.

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“We are very excited to be selected by the USDA for this competitive grant. The Farm to School Grant is about education, and educational opportunities for students,” said Assistant Superintendent Emily Smith. “Graham is excited for this opportunity and we are so appreciative of our local partners that will work with us to grow and develop our Farm to Table initiative.”

Smith said most of the learning opportunities will be accessible to the middle school and high school’s after-school programs. The funds will help improve and expand the outdoor learning space by adding more raised garden beds, planting fruit trees, adding greenhouse supplies, installing an irrigation system for the specialty food plot area, and create a curriculum that focuses on nutrition and the impact of locally grown food, the release stated.

“Graham currently provides outdoor learning opportunities through the middle school greenhouse, raised garden beds, and a specialty crop plot that is student-maintained. The grant will provide additional raised garden beds, garden supplies, greenhouse supplies, worm farms, compost tumblers, and irrigation for the specialty crop plot,” she said.

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The goal of these opportunities will be for students to learn how locally grown foods can impact the community, selling products at local farm markets and providing fresh food to the cafeterias at the schools, Smith said. There will also be opportunities to use the Champaign County Local Food Council’s Commercial Kitchen, which will be housed at Graham, to produce products grown on campus and to provide fresh food to the food service operations across the district.

The grant was announced last week by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). More than $600,000 was awarded to eight communities across Ohio, including Graham, after Brown recently introduced legislation to renew this program, the release stated.

“Children deserve access to nutritious foods in their schools so they can focus on their studies and grow into healthy adults,” Brown said. “The Farm to School program increases the amount of Ohio grown food in school cafeterias and teaches children about how and where our food is grown.”

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