UNDATED (WJON News) - Minnesota schools are looking to increase their local food purchases.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will grant almost $3.5 million to school districts to purchase Minnesota-grown foods for breakfast and lunch. Applications are also being accepted for equipment purchases to help school districts store and prepare locally-grown fresh foods.

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The Farm-To-School First Bite mini-grant is intended for schools with little experience buying locally. The grant has a one-time maximum payment of $10,000

The Farm-To-School Full Tray grant will help schools expand their local buying programs. The grant will award up to $100,000, depending on the size of the district.

Sarah Motl is the Nutrition Services Supervisor at St. Cloud Area School District. She says they’ve been buying locally for a few years.

This year, we have a relationship with a local potato farm; we're going to be getting in some local potatoes at the end of October. And then we work with Sysco as our prime vendor for our food. And they bring in local cucumbers, some of our lettuce, additional potatoes, as well as bell peppers, local apples, fresh fruit, and vegetables.

Motl says finding area producers willing to sell to a school district involves reaching out either by the district or by a local grower.

Sometimes we have farmers that reached out to us saying, ‘Hey, we provide food to these other school districts, would you be interested?’, and then other times we get information from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Department of Education. They can give us a list of farmers that have worked with other schools in the past or that have reached out through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture looking to expand into school.

This year, applicants can also apply for up to $35,000 for equipment purchases. Applications are due by November 17th.

For more information, click here.

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