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Wellmark Foundation grant funds farm to school program in South Dakota

Grant, chosen from 150 requests, aims to improve the quality of school food

January 24, 2011

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(Des Moines, Iowa) – Dakota Rural Action in Brookings will use a $115,110 two-year grant from The Wellmark Foundation to develop the framework for a Farm to School Program in South Dakota designed to improve nutritional quality of school food and teach children the importance of improved nutrition as a strategies to help prevent childhood obesity.

The Wellmark Foundation is a non-profit foundation that seeks to improve the health of Iowans, South Dakotans, and their communities. The Foundation provides support to non-profit and public entities to help local communities establish or expand health initiatives. Through its 2010 Healthy Communities Grant Program, the Foundation received nearly 150 grant requests. This grant award to Dakota Rural Action represents one of the 17 grants competitively awarded to support projects throughout Iowa and South Dakota. Cumulatively, The Wellmark Foundation is proud to award $1,334,817 to these 17 grants to serve as catalyst funding for local health projects.

“The Wellmark Foundation selected the Farm to School Program because Dakota Rural Action is a leader in developing the farm-to-school framework,” says Matt McGarvey, the Foundation’s director. “This program will improve student nutrition and advance the promise of locally sourced foods in our schools and communities.”

The goal of the project is to increase consumption of fresh, healthy, locally produced foods in South Dakota schools and to increase connections between schools and local food producers. The project, which will be piloted in two school districts, will increase the quality of children’s school lunches, educate students about health and agriculture, and support local farmers.

Goals include increasing school children’s knowledge of gardening, agriculture, healthy eating, locally grown foods and seasonality, increasing their willingness to try new foods and healthy options, and increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables. The program will also strive to increase school nutrition providers’ capacity to incorporate local foods into their school lunch programs, and increase producers’ capacity to address food safety and liability issues in marketing locally grown foods to schools.

The program will be expanded into additional school districts throughout South Dakota following successful completion of the two pilots. Dakota Rural Action will partner with the National Farm to School Network, South Dakota Local Foods Co-op, local producers and local school districts, which will be selected early in 2011.

About Dakota Rural Action
Dakota Rural Action is a grassroots, family agriculture, and conservation group. Dakota Rural Action members come from all walks of life and serve as spokespeople who guide the decisions of the organization through local chapters and statewide committees. Dakota Rural Action works to advance family agriculture and conserve and protect South Dakota's environment.

For more information on Dakota Rural Action and the Farm to School Program, contact Frank James, (605) 697-5204 / For more information regarding the Wellmark Foundation and its grant programs, visit



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