Grow Food Northampton, South Shore YMCA Get USDA Grants

September 8, 2019 — Two Massachusetts nonprofits, Grow Food Northampton, based in Florence, and the South Shore YMCA in Norwell, recently received grants totaling nearly $150,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advance farm-to-school programs in their service areas.

Grow Food Northampton, which promotes food security by advancing sustainable agriculture in the Northampton area, was awarded a $56,660 to work with the Northampton Public Schools to develop a model farm-to-school program that integrates all key aspects of farm-to-school in a unified partnership.

Building on existing strengths in school gardens, farm-based education, and nutrition education, Grow Food Northampton will enhance current programming, expand local procurement, and integrate and promote all efforts to strengthen their impact.

Elementary students will receive farm-to-school content through school gardens, farm visits, and classroom nutrition and cooking workshops for a combined 12 experiences per year for K-3 and 7 experiences per year for grades 4-5.

All students will be exposed to vastly increased menu items prepared from scratch using local foods, with cross-promotion of ingredients and recipes between cafeteria and classroom.

Michael Skillicorn, the organization's director of programs, quoted in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, said, farm-to-school encompasses “anything that is happening in schools that connects kids to healthy food and farms.”

The South Shore YMCA (SSYMCA), which aims to improve the quality of life through programs that support youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, was granted $92,778 to work with Friends of Holly Hill Farm to design and execute year-round farm-to-school programming.

The funds will support the “Digging In Together” program that will include construction of garden beds at eight Weymouth public elementary schools and one middle school during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, as well as state STE (science, technology, and engineering) curriculum-connected school garden education classes, teacher trainings, afterschool programs, summer programs and a farmer’s market program.

The goal is to improve the student knowledge and attitudes of toward eating fresh, healthy, locally grown vegetables.

“Positive behavior changes around eating habits cannot happen overnight,” said Paul Gorman, president & CEO of the South Shore YMCA, “but they are absolutely crucial to living a long, healthy life. Our collaborating team’s thoughtful, long-term approach to affect change in this sphere with local children reflects this knowledge.

"We are deeply grateful to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service for this precedent setting grant, and for the ability to collaborate with our partners to bring this important education to the kids of Weymouth.”