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Oklahoma Agriculture Department dishes out farm to table grants to dozens of school lunchrooms

Cooking for Kids school lunch enrichment program in Lomega Oklahoma. participating schools are working with OSU nutrition experts, local chefs, and producers to improve the taste, appearance, quality and nutritional value of food served in school lunch programs across the state.
Todd Johnson
OSU Agricultural Communication Services
The Local Food for Schools Program is created to help states address the supply chain challenges from the pandemic.

The Local Food for Schools Program began in 2023 and as of January, almost 250 Oklahoma school districts have received grants through the project. Officials say because of its success, there is no more available funding.

In the program, school districts work with local producers to bring food — everything from watermelons to hamburger patties — to students during breakfast and lunch.

The program is funded through a $3 million cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry (ODAFF).

The program is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry. Oklahoma is the fifth-hungriest state in the country and according to Hunger Free Oklahoma, more than one in five children in the state do not get the food they need.

The program’s purpose is to not only boost the nutrients in the food served, but also local farmers and ranchers’ businesses.

So far, nearly 150 local producers from across the state have made connections with districts.

The food bought must be either unprocessed or minimally processed, which means it can be refrigerated, pasteurized or ground. It also must be raised within 400 miles of the school. Districts can choose from a local producer off an ODAFF list or submit a request to the department to buy from another farmer or meat processor.

Schools in the program are encouraged to buy food from producers who qualify as socially disadvantaged.

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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