While USDA just released the 2018 Farm to School Grant awardees, now is a great time to start thinking about a grant application for next year. Do I sound like a crazy person to suggest that? Maybe. Do I sound like a crazy person and have also helped write two USDA Farm to School Grants that were awarded? Definitely!
First, think about your timeline. The USDA Farm to School Grant application is released in the fall, typically around the beginning of October. Once the application is posted it’s open for 60 days before applications are due. This sounds like a lot of time but it can really fly by if you need to get meetings together with involved stakeholders, school business office or fiscal staff and to allow for plenty of time for distributing drafts for proofreading or outside approvals if needed.
Second, review the types of activities that are typically funded. You can view a list of previous awards and grant reports here. This will give you a good idea of what types of activities are typically funded. You’ll find it’s a pretty wide range but you want to be sure the activities you are looking at to include in the grant are 1) allowable expenses and 2) inline with the types of activities that are funded. Even if you have the greatest idea in the world, if it’s not an allowable item it will not get funded.
Next, think about what kinds of information you can start gathering now and if possible, start to discuss the grant with your leadership and key grant partners. If you can start the discussion of what types of activities to pursue and what kind of costs will go along with that, you’ll be well positioned to have a stellar application ready to go well before the deadline.
Here is a nice cheat sheet on the basic details of the grant if you need something like this to share with your school district leadership, school board or non-profit board of directors:
In general, the USDA Farm to School website is a great starting point for resources. I’m also happy to answer any questions based on my experience, just leave me a comment below!