York City schools receive federal grant to provide fresh fruit and vegetables

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Girls Scout event consultant Marie Conley talks with Ferguson K-8 kindergartner and girl scout Alayna Price as she works during a STEAM after-school program at the school Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania partnered with Martin LibraryÊto offer York City students access to its STEAM mobile programming through the district's after-school programs. Bill Kalina photo

Eight York City schools will receive funding to provide students with fresh fruit and vegetable snacks through a federal grant. 

Through the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, 288 elementary schools across Pennsylvania will receive grant funding totaling $7 million, according to the state Department of Agriculture. Eight of the schools come from the York City School District, although it wasn't yet clear how much money each school would receive. 

Funding priority is given to the schools with the highest rates of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Grant recipients are required to spend most of their grant on the purchase of fresh fruit and vegetables, and must develop a plan to establish partnerships to reduce other costs.

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Schools are also required to provide nutrition education to students, but cannot use the funding to purchase nutrition education materials.

“Healthy, nutritious meals are essential to a child’s growth and success,” Education Secretary Noe Ortega said in the news release. “These fresh food grants will help ensure students have access to fresh produce that they may not be introduced to otherwise, while also supporting their physical and academic growth."

More:K-12 schools can continue offering free school meals for 2021-2022 school year

Food insecurity rates rose across Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 pandemic, elevating the need for such programs. According to the nonprofit Communities In Schools of Pennsylvania, food insecurity for children in the state rose from 15% to 35% during the pandemic, partially because of the increase in at-home learning limiting food access in some households.

In July, the state announced that K-12 schools would have the option of offering free school meals during the 2021-2022 school year, which was also an option during the previous school year.

The York City School District has also received other funding to combat food insecurity. In June, the district received $16,000 in a grant from national campaign No Kid Hungry to support its summer meal program. 

More:York City School District receives grant funding for summer meal program