Three Erie County programs receive grants for agricultural education

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(AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File )

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced $500,000 in Farm to School Grants for better nutrition and to educate the youth of the commonwealth about agriculture.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bill Farm to School Grant Program will fund 47 projects across Pennsylvania, including three programs in Erie County, that will focus on teaching children pre-kindergarten through fifth grade about the importance of local farming.

“Agriculture and nutrition are essential elements for children to learn, grow and succeed,” said Secretary Redding. “Farm to School increases healthy, local food offerings in schools while supporting Pennsylvania farmers. It also facilitates experiential learning opportunities that are growing future generations of agriculturalists and consumers. Investing in Farm to School is investing in the future.”

Locally, the three projects include:

  • $11,876.13 to Early Connections, Inc. (Erie) to purchase agricultural-focused children’s books and agriculture classroom curriculum. Food will be bought from the Edinboro Farmers Market and a field trip to a local maple syrup producer will be included.
  • $15,000 to the Girard School District to build raised beds for a school garden and implement a second-grade agriculture education curriculum.  
  • $14,876.13 to the YMCA of Corry to provide a hydroponic garden at Corry Area High School, nutritional education and a field trip to local farmers markets.  

“This is one of the reasons I voted for the Pennsylvania Farm Bill,” said Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie). “Connecting kids with where their food comes from locally, while helping them grow up to be healthy eaters is a win-win.”

Fellow state representatives Pat Harkins (D-Erie) said the funding can help the center shape healthy habits and stimulate interest in farming.

“With so much cleverly advertised junk food around, it’s critical to make kids understand that there are healthy alternatives out there and that they have the power to make smarter choices,” Rep. Harkins said. “By providing access to local foods from Edinboro Farmers Market, this funding is going to help expose kids to those more nutritious options.”

Rep. Bob Merski (D-Erie) believes helping these programs can increase children’s interest in farming, no matter where they live.

“By stimulating kids’ curiosity and teaching them that it can be empowering to grow their own food,” Merski said, “we’re helping ensure a fresh crop of young minds dedicated to keeping urban agriculture thriving here in the region.”

The full list of approved projects can be found HERE.

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