Grant Funding in Action: USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

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Here are three varieties of a fruit or vegetable: Belle of Georgia, Desert Gold, and Empress. Do you know what fruit or vegetable this is? If you guessed peaches, you are correct. I have enjoyed some tasty peaches this summer.

Last year was the first time I wrote a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) grant. I also handled all the grant management for this $14,529.74 funding: grant revisions, reimbursement requests, and completion reports. The FFVP “promotes fresh fruits and vegetables in high need elementary schools throughout the United States” (https://www.fns.usda.gov/ffvp/fresh-fruit-and-vegetable-program).    

This funding helps in the fight against childhood obesity, provides healthy snacks for children during the school day, encourages trying new fruits and vegetables, and teaches students lessons about healthy nutrition practices. It’s also a creative opportunity to blend other lessons such as gardening, language arts, science, technology, engineering, and math. Unfortunately, there are strict rules about throwing unused food away. The purchased fruits and vegetables not consumed on campus cannot be sent home with students nor be donated to a local food bank. That’s the only factor I don’t like about this program.

The FFVP provides monthly webinars which grantees are required to attend. These webinars are provided by a state program specialist, and are chock full of helpful information about nutrition, best practices, lesson resources, and program management. For example, a best practice is to “serve cut melon within seven days if held at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below” (Jessa Zuck, March 2019 Arizona FFVP monthly webinar). 

The FFVP is an important part of battling childhood hunger. For example, in Arizona, one in four children are impacted by food insecurity. The effects of childhood hunger are (Arizona Department of Education Allies for Childhood Hunger Solutions):

  • Socioemotional, cognitive, and motor development delays
  • Poor academic performance
  • Stronger risk of obesity and chronic illness
  • Higher chance of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression for mothers of food insecure children
  • More incidents of suicidal ideation and depression for teenagers

Lastly, since one year’s FFVP funds cannot be carried over to the next year, here are some tips from Jessa Zuck to ensure all funds are expended.

  • Purchase more expensive produce such as organic, local, or exotic varieties. 
  • Remember to purchase small non-food supplies such as napkins, knives, plastic serving cups, cleaning supplies, garbage bags, insulated tote bags for delivery of produce to classrooms, and delivery charges from companies such as Amazon/Whole Foods.  
  • Buy equipment like refrigerators, coolers, portable kiosks, carts, and portable food bars. 

Hope you are enjoying peaches and other healthy, fresh food items this summer!  

 

 

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