MIAMI — The Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma and Miami Public Schools will develop a partnership to facilitate planning the introduction and regular consumption of locally raised bison meat into the student lunch program.

It’s part of $9 million in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Program grants that were announced Tuesday, July 16.

Program grants are designed to increase the amount of healthy, local foods served in schools and create economic opportunities for nearby farmers.

“We are excited about that and the opportunity that it presents itself here,” said Miami Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Hogan. “We’re still in the infancy stages trying to figure out how it’s all going to work and how to best implement it.”

The meat will be produced locally thanks to the tribe’s herd of buffalo.

Chief Bill Follis said it’s just an extension of the tribe’s efforts to work with various communities and counties in various programs.

“We do that quite a bit,” Follis said.

“I give a lot of credit to the tribe,” Hogan said. “They spearheaded it and brought it to us. We have a great relationship with our tribes and we hope to continue to strengthen those, partner with them to continue to meet the needs of the community and most importantly, our students.

This year marks an all-time high of funding and projects in the program, with grants supporting 126 selected projects across 42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

These projects are expected to serve more than 3.2 million students in more than 5,400 schools.

“The farm to school grants announced today connect schools with the farmers, ranchers, and producers in their communities,” Department of Agriculture Secretary Perdue said in a release. “Everybody wins with Farm to School. USDA is proud to help the next generation better understand where its food comes from, while strengthening local economies.”

According to the release, this record-breaking year for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program was made possible by increased funding from Congress for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which enabled the USDA to award 52 more grants than the previous highest year of 2016 when 74 were granted. Grants range from $20,000 to $100,000 and fund equipment purchases and experiential learning activities, including planting school gardens, offering taste tests to children, and organizing field trips to local farms and food producers.