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Seven additional schools to receive hydroponic farm classrooms thanks to SPARK funding

Seven additional Kansas schools will receive hydroponic farm classrooms thanks to a two-year, $1,052,000 Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Community Capacity Grant that Gov. Laura Kelly announced earlier this week. 

Kelly announced Monday, Sept. 11, that the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) awarded the final round of SPARK Community Capacity Grant – nearly $10 million to five organizations focused on coordinating services to meet essential health, housing, educational and nutrition needs; expanding educational, health and financial empowerment programs; increasing training for Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers; and expanding services for children and families. 

Community Green Farms, a not-for-profit headquartered in Pittsburg, was the recipient of $1,052,000 to help complete phase one of the organization’s Farm to School initiative. 

The first phase of the initiative includes providing 10 school districts in southeast Kansas with a hydroponic farm similar to the ones in operation at Leafy Green Farms in Pittsburg. Leafy Green Farms is the first vertical hydroponic farm in Kansas.   

Eventually, the goal is to provide one hydroponic farm to a school in all 105 counties in Kansas, according to Community Green Farms.  

“Phase one is 30% complete with farm classrooms already placed in Crawford, Neosho and Cherokee counties,” a news release from Community Green Farms said. “Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Labette, Linn, Montgomery and Wilson counties remain in phase one.” 

The first school to receive one of the hydroponic farms was Pittsburg High School, Pittsburg Unified School District 250, in the summer of 2022. Chanute High School, Chanute USD 413, was the second school to receive a hydroponic farm, and the third hydroponic farm was given to Columbus USD 493. 

The Farm to School initiative includes constructing a vertical hydroponic farm classroom to grow hyper-organic produce that can be consumed in school cafeterias and provided to hunger relief programs. The farms also will be used in a variety of curriculum, such as health and nutrition, culinary arts, marketing and business, agriculture and botany. 

“It is vital that Kansas children and their families receive essential physical and mental health services, housing, nutrition, educational and advocacy services throughout the state,” Gov. Kelly said. “These grants will ensure that children and families have access to the supports necessary for success.” 

DCF Secretary Laura Howard added: “At DCF, we believe that communities bring strength through relationships and resources. These organizations are doing just that by offering children and families opportunities to learn and coordinate health, housing and nutritional services through state and local resources.” 

The grants are effective Oct. 1, 2023. 

Other SPARK Community Capacity Grant recipients are: 

  • Unite Us. The organization received $7.7 million in funding to provide software and implementation services for three years to provide DCF users and users from other Kansas agencies, county government and health care providers with closed-loop referrals to community-based organizations to help address a client’s social care needs. 
  • Children’s First. The organization received a $600,000, one-year grant to renovate and convert the Woodland United Methodist Church in Wichita into a community center. Children’s First and the church will create a multipurpose community center using currently under-utilized rooms at the church to provide workspace and services Monday through Friday and special events on weekends. 
  • Kansas CASA Association. The association received more than $375,000 in funding to increase statewide knowledge of the CASA mission, attract potential CASA volunteers, staff and board members, reach those in need of advocacy services and streamline access to advocacy services. This is a two-year grant. 
  • CASA of Johnson and Wyandotte counties. They received a two-year grant of $125,000 to support an improved volunteer experience by renovating their training spaces to allow for improved and expanded training capacity, including both in-person and virtual training options. 

The initiative of donating hydroponic vertical farm classrooms came on the heels of Leafy Green Farms receiving a Regional Agribusiness award (southeast) at the To the Stars: Kansas Business Awards Banquet on Oct. 20, 2022.  

Community Green Farms is dedicated to its mission of improving the health of communities, a news release from the not-for-profit said. 

“We are honored to have been selected as one of the recipients,” said Matt O’Malley, executive director of Community Green Farms. “This is an incredibly exciting time for us. By the end of this grant, there will be 10 schools in southeast Kansas using innovative farm classrooms to teach students about agriculture and nutrition while providing significant amounts of fresh produce for their food service programs. Now that we have secured funding for phase one, we will begin seeking partnerships to fund these innovative agriculture projects in 10 more Kansas counties for phase two.” 

Posted: Sep 14, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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