CT snares only one USDA Farm to School grant

Given Connecticut’s bear-hug embrace of the local food movement, you might have expected the state to have been all over the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s new Farm to School grant program. And you would have especially expected that because: 1. There was some serious money involved, and 2. Much of the grant focus was on distribution and procurement — two areas that have bedeviled the state’s farmers, institutions and the Agriculture Department for years.

But in the end, there were only two grant applicants from Connecticut among the 365 nationwide (that’s an average of about seven per state if your math is rusty). And only one was awarded — to the New Haven nonprofit CitySeed, which runs the farmers’ market there and a number of other food education programs.

CitySeed picked up a cool $98,000 to hire a procurement specialist to get more regionally grown produce into the New Haven public schools. In fact, CitySeed and the New Haven public schools have been early adopters of this sort of thing dating back some years, so it’s no surprise all that expertise and track record would enable them to pick up more money.

But Jane Slupecki, the agriculture marketing representative at the state Department of Agriculture who handles the state’s farm-to-school effort, was not dismayed by the Connecticut’s low application rate (California submitted 49 grant requests), or that communities that could use some serious start-up help on the farm-to-school front were absent.

“I’m kind of excited that Connecticut brought home the federal dollars,” she said. “The way I look at it is that even if it goes to the most seasoned school, we all learn from the CitySeed folks.

“It’s not like it goes into a vacuum and no else benefits from it.”