( USDA )

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will fund a record 126 farm-to-school projects this year, up from the previous high of 74 projects funded in 2016.

Grants totaling more than $9 million will be distributed to projects in 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, according to a news release. The projects, made possible by increased funding by Congress in 2018 and 2019, will help serve more than 3.2 million kids in about 5,400 schools, according to the USDA. 

The USDA has been working to connect schools with local producers of food since 1997, and the farm-to-school grant program started in 2013.

“The farm to school grants announced today connect schools with the farmers, ranchers, and producers in their communities,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release. “USDA is proud to help the next generation better understand where its food comes from, while strengthening local economies.”  

Grants can range from $20,000 to $100,000 and be used to fund equipment purchases and experiential learning activities, offering taste tests to children, and organizing field trips to local farms and food producers, and other projects.

USDA’s 2015 Farm to School Census found that in the 2013-2014 school year, schools purchased more than $789 million in local food.

A full list of 2019 grant awards funded can be found at the USDA website.