Funding farm-to-school programs

In the 2021-2023 state budget, Washington set aside money specifically for the farm-to-school program for the first time in hopes of expanding it.

The state allocated $5 million from the American Rescue Plan — the pandemic relief package President Joe Biden signed in January that year.

There’s a 2026 deadline for states to spend money from that law.

Washington’s 2023-2025 budget provides another $5 million – about a quarter is from the state and the rest is federal.

Since the budget proviso is written to be ongoing, WSDA expects lawmakers will include $5 million in state funding for the program in the next budget cycle.

Some schools also support their programs using local dollars.

For instance, Port Townsend’s program is largely propped up by a local property tax levy.

Last year was the first time the district was awarded WSDA funds, which amounted to a small part of its funding: $20,000.

The biggest grant for farm-to-school that Port Townsend received this year was $150,000 from USDA’s Healthy Meals Incentive Initiatives, said Shannon Gray, the district’s food services director.

The money covered some staffing and equipment costs. Gray likened keeping the program going to a puzzle of different funding sources.

“We get lots of volunteers, lots of donations. I can’t do this without donations — and just as many grants,” Gray said.

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