Regional School Unit 18 has been awarded a $44,213 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture so the district’s schools can feature more locally grown food on their cafeteria menus.

The USDA is awarding the grant to Regional School Unit 18, based in Oakland, as part of the department’s Farm to School program.

RSU 18 nutrition director Will Hamilton said the grant is a planning grant, a precursor to the development of a full farm-to-school program for the schools in the district, which includes Oakland, Sidney, Belgrade, China and Rome.

“We do have some small farm-to-school programs, but nothing like what this will give us,” he said.

Schools participating in the programs buy fresh locally grown foods that are featured on their lunchroom menus.

They also incorporate nutrition into the classroom curriculum and provide experiential learning opportunities such as visits to local farms.

U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, and Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, announced the grant award Tuesday afternoon.

“Our students will have access to healthier local foods, and our community farmers will have an opportunity to expand their markets,” Michaud said in a prepared statement.

The National Farm to School Program was authorized in 2004 as part of a wider effort to support community-based food systems, reduce childhood obesity and bolster family-owned farms, according to the USDA.

Michaud said 86 percent of Maine schools participate in farm-to-school activities.

Also on Tuesday, Michaud and Pingree announced that Healthy Acadia in Bar Harbor will receive $100,000 from the program.

Evan Belanger — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @evanbelanger

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