The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is one of 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia receiving support this year through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm to School Program, an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers.

The Tribe received a $43,339 planning grant to impact 2194 students across eight tribal schools.

The tribe will use these funds to determine ways to incorporate locally produced foods into menus at tribal school cafeterias.

USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors.

"Using more local fresh fruits and vegetables in menus at our tribal school cafeterias will teach students about healthy diets. They will find out how good fresh vegetables grown around here taste," said Tribal Chief Phyliss J. Anderson.

The Choctaw Fresh Produce Initiative began earlier this year which produces fruits and vegetables for use in the Pearl River Resort food service operations.

High tunnel greenhouses have been constructed in Tucker and Conehatta this year, with more expected to be built in 2014 and 2015 in other Tribal communities.

These greenhouses extend the growing season for tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other vegetables normally grown in central Mississippi. Produce from these greenhouses as well as from local farms will soon be on the Choctaw schools' menus.