University of Vermont,The University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies (CRS) has awarded funds to three university/community food system projects in Vermont. The funding was made available in a USDA grant secured with the help of Senator Patrick Leahy.The funds awarded include $11,332 for a project led by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, $12,000 for a project led by VT FEED, and $12,000 for a project led by the Center for Sustainable Agriculture”These partnership grants are important for the future of Vermont as a leader in the development of a vibrant, economically sustainable regional food system,” says CRS Director Jane Kolodinsky. “The community partners will implement the projects and UVM researchers will evaluation their impact. Together, we can help move Vermont agriculture forward.””Each of these projects will add to knowledge and practical experience of our food systems in Vermont with benefits to producers, consumers and Vermont’s economy,” adds Senator Patrick Leahy. ‘Great work by the Center for Rural Studies is making it possible to have a real impact with the leverage of these investments.”The project led by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund will test a method for determining how much of Vermont’s current food consumption is actually produced locally. It will build on Vermont’s Farm to Plate strategic planning process as well as efforts throughout the nation to measure the economic impact of increased local food consumption and the capacity of the land base to support local diets. The outcome of the project will be a set of pilot data and a method that can be used to conduct a full study in Vermont as part of implementing the Farm to Plate strategic plan. The benefit of this project to the broader food systems community is to create a credible means of measuring current local food consumption and tracking progress toward stated goals over the next 10 years.This project led by VT FEED (Food Education Every Day), a collaborative partnership of Shelburne Farms, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont and Food Works at Two Rivers Center, will work with PEER Associates and members of the growing Vermont Farm to School Network to develop a web-based “Farm to School Evaluation Toolkit.” The toolkit will include a Needs Assessment Rubric and surveys to assist schools and Farm to School practitioners throughout Vermont to collect data to support increased understanding of the impact of Farm to School activities. Broadly defined, Farm to School programming connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. The evaluation toolkit will benefit the growing Farm to School movement in Vermont and throughout the country by increasing the information collected and shared about practices from existing programs and research activities.The project coordinated by the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture will include the Windham Farm and Food Network, the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, the Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. This project will explore the feasibility and logistics of creating a food safety certification program that could serve as an alternative to GAPs certification for small, diversified produce farms. Complying with the current USDA GAPs food safety certification can be very challenging for smaller growers, who often lack the staff and additional capacity required. This project will determine whether creating an alternative food safety certification process for small produce farms would be a viable option for Vermont.
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