The University of Maine plans to create a new institute to connect schools in the state with locally grown food and help educate rural students about nutrition.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding the university nearly $225,000 to fund the Maine Farm to School Institute, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said Wednesday.

Farm-to-school programs can help schools provide nutritious food, support family farms and teach students about agriculture, the two senators said in a news release announcing the funding.

The institute, they said, will provide training to school officials and help set up farm-to-school programs, along with other nutrition education initiatives, such as school gardens and local food sourcing. Collins and King said the nearest farm-to-school training facility is in Vermont and only has the capacity for one Maine school to attend each year.

The Maine Farm to School Institute will draw officials from schools for three-day, in-person workshops and a year-long implementation effort, according to the release. College students will also mentor middle and high school students and assist them in setting up farm-to-school programs within their schools.

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