Seven Generations Ahead is one of 74 projects in 39 states that received support through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program, in an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers.

The Aurora, Ill.-area Kane County Health Department and SGA received a $85,767 implementation grant that will impact 48,387 students total across three school districts: West Aurora School District 129, East Aurora School District 131, and Carpentersville School District 300 (29 schools).

“SGA is thrilled to receive this USDA Farm to School Program grant and to be a part of the USDA’s efforts nationally to increase local, healthy food access and education in our nation’s schools,” SGA Executive Director Gary Cuneen said. “This project builds upon SGA’s 11-year farm to school program track record, and the Kane County Health Department’s leading-edge work to build a local food hub that will link schools and institutions serving low-income children to Kane County and local area farmers.”

SGA and Kane County will use the implementation funds to build upon their track records and partnership to increase fresh, local food distribution, access and education within Kane County schools while building a sub-regional Kane County farm to school network as part of the Illinois Farm to School Network (IFSN). SGA is the convening organization for IFSN.

The project will incorporate training and technical assistance targeting Illinois’ second largest city — Aurora — and a broader group of Kane County schools, which will focus on local food procurement, SGA’s curriculum modules and program activities, and school garden planning.

The project will support school districts with classroom and cafeteria promotions of healthy eating and locally grown food, and will coordinate with the Great Lakes Farm to School Network to implement fruit and vegetable promotional events that coincide with National Farm to School Month in October.

“Farm to school programs work-for schools, for producers, and for communities,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By serving nutritious and locally grown foods, engaging students in hands-on lessons, and involving parents and community members, these programs provide children with a holistic experience that sets them up for a lifetime of healthy eating. With early results from our Farm to School Census indicating schools across the nation invested nearly $600 million in local products, farm to school also provides a significant and reliable market for local farmers and ranchers.”

Farm to school programs are one of the many tools and resources USDA offers to help schools successfully serve healthier meals. In the past three years since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, children have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school. More than 97 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards.