WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2022 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today announced it has signed a cooperative agreement with Oklahoma for more than $3 million to increase their purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.
Through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS), the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry (ODAFF) will purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools to serve children through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. These products will be healthy and unique to their geographic area, with the goal of improving child nutrition and building new relationships between schools and local farmers.
“This cooperative agreement supporting Oklahoma schools is another example of how USDA is working to build a more resilient food system rooted in local and regional production,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program provides an opportunity for states to strengthen ties between local farmers, ranchers, food businesses and schools, and gives students access to nutritious foods unique to the area they live in, building stronger connections across local communities.”
“Strengthening relationships between local producers and schools is a long-term strategy to ensure our children always have access to nutritious foods in school, a win-win for child health and American agriculture,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “Through this program and many other efforts to support the school meal programs, USDA is committed to giving schools the tools they need to set children up to learn, grow, and thrive.”
With the LFS funds, ODAFF will work with Langston University and Oklahoma State University to identify and connect with underserved producers to guide them on how to qualify for this program. The agency will then introduce the local producers of produce, meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, and nuts with schools wishing to add local food to their cafeteria menus through a newly established online portal.
“The Local Food for Schools program will provide tremendous opportunities for Oklahoma schools to increase nutritious local food options for students,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur. “The program not only increases markets for farmers and ranchers across the state it provides for an opportunity for students to learn more about where their food comes from. There is no question that nutritious food options and local food options in our school lunchrooms will benefit both health and educational outcomes.”
The LFS cooperative agreements will allow organizations the flexibility to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers that best suit their local needs, accommodate environmental and climate conditions, account for seasonal harvests, improve supply chain resiliency and meet the needs of schools within their service area. Additionally, the program will provide more opportunities for historically underserved producers and processors to sell their products. Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program is authorized by the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act. AMS looks forward to continuing to sign agreements under this innovative program.
The Local Food for Schools cooperative agreement program is one of many ways USDA is supporting school meal programs this school year and transforming our food system in the long term.
For more information on USDA’s work to support school meal programs, visit USDA Support for School Meals page.
For more information on USDA’s efforts to transform our food system, visit Build Back Better page.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, lowering costs for American families, creating fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.