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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the state of Alabama and local farmers have reached an agreement to provide fresh produce to schools where the majority of students receive free and reduced-cost lunches.

The USDA is giving Alabama $3 million to fund this “farm-to-table” school lunch initiative. 

According to reports, farmers and state officials signed an agreement in Millbrook on Tuesday to set the Farm to School program in motion.

The farmers will receive a portion of the grant money in exchange for providing food directly to the school for school lunches.

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) director of agriculture promotions and farmers market authority Don Wambles told the media that the agency would be working with around 40 producers. He said 75% of the producers are “disadvantaged farmers.”

1819 News asked ADAI for a list of the farmers participating in the program but was told the agency could not disclose that information for “confidentiality reasons.”

ADAI communications specialist Laura Jean McCurdy did say the ADAI held several meetings in the spring to provide information about the program to farmers. Through those meetings, ADAI officials got a good idea of what kind of produce the farmers could grow and how much. From there, they selected the farmers for the program.

McCurdy specified that the Farm to School program is ongoing. Though they’ve already selected the farmers they need at this time, they will be looking for new farmers in the future.

The USDA-funded farm-to-school program will only provide fruits and vegetables.

However, a farm-to-school incentive program enacted during the 2020 Alabama state legislative session allows schools to be reimbursed $0.20 for any meal component, including meat, that was sourced in Alabama.

The producers are required to grow in accordance with a food safety plan and must use an approved “integrated pest management” plan developed by Auburn and Tuskegee universities.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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