(09/27/23) BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana K-12 school district child nutrition directors and purchasing agents were invited to the LSU Hilltop Arboretum on Wednesday, Sept. 20 for “Meet the Buyer,” a networking event where they connected face-to-face with Louisiana farmers and other food vendors.
This year, child nutrition programs in Louisiana have unprecedented access to funding that is earmarked for local, minimally processed agricultural items through the Local Food for Schools (LFS) Cooperative Agreement. The LFS Funds are part of a USDA relief package to aid schools in dealing with supply chain challenges while supporting and growing local food systems.
Farm to School encompasses three pillars: education, school gardens and procurement. With LFS funds totaling 3.3 million in the Bayou State, school districts can now make purchases of local foods a reality.
To name a few, farmers specializing in beef, hydroponic lettuce, rice, crawfish, seasonal vegetables and honey joined the event and were eager to start building relationships with potential new customers.
Personnel from LSU AgCenter’s Seeds to Success: The Louisiana Farm to School Program and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry were also available during the event to offer support and technical assistance as new procurement pathways were forged.
Talking points such as available products, product availability and seasonality and safety certifications are examples of the bulleted questions laid out for conversations as potential vendors and buyers rotated through the event in a “speed matchmaking” style process.
James McCready, co-owner of H2Greaux Farms, participated in the day's event and came prepared with business information as well as samples.
"It was a great opportunity to meet school contacts and get in front of actual decision makers. The event also allowed a space to meet other growers and distributors and to see what everyone else is doing,” McCready said. “What an amazing group of visionaries and hardworking farmers doing what they love.”
Producers and buyers from across the state met and discussed new purchasing opportunities for the school year at “Meet the Buyer,” a networking event. Photo provided by Jacey Wesley/LSU AgCenter
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture