Last Friday, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) announced $200,000 in grants to three agricultural organizations for projects to enhance regional Buy Local efforts in Western, Central, Northeastern and Southeastern Massachusetts. Of that $200,000, DAR has awarded $12,000 to support efforts to bring more fresh, healthy, locally produced foods to our Island school cafeterias.
"Buy Local" organizations across the Commonwealth aim to support local farmers and promote Massachusetts-grown foods in every region of the state. Through this grant, Island Grown Schools will collaborate with Southeastern Massachusetts Agriculture Producers (SEMAP), Buy Fresh Buy Local Cape Cod, and Sustainable Nantucket to support a vibrant regional food system in Southeastern Massachusetts.
DAR Commissioner Scott J. Soares said, “These groups are in tune with specific regional challenges and opportunities, making these grants an important tool of our joint efforts to bring farm products to tables across Massachusetts.”
“It’s so exciting,” said Noli Taylor, Island Grown Schools Coordinator. “We are thrilled that DAR recognizes the importance of introducing children to eating locally produced foods, and understands the opportunity to create new markets for local farms and support for local economies by building relationships between farms and school cafeterias."
According to Taylor, the money will go towards a variety of things, “We’re working on ways to get more local proteins into school lunches and have met with school cafeteria directors on how to bring in more local dairy, meat and eggs into the lunch program.”
Funds will also be used to pay cafeteria directors to process food from the program in the summer. “So far they have been volunteering their time,” said Taylor, “but it amounts to hours and hours of chopping, bagging and freezing and now we can pay them for those hours.”
Additionally, money will go towards what Taylor called, “from-scratch cooking” in the new meals program planned for Chilmark and West Tisbury schools next year and towards taste tests of locally grown foods in classrooms and cafeterias.
“I am pleased to see the Department of Agricultural Resources and the Patrick-Murray Administration make these funds available,” said Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “These grants will go a long way to help maintain the viability of local agriculture. When we buy locally grown food, we help enhance the diversity of the local economy, maintain jobs, and help to create a sustainable future for everyone."